Kvass – Traditional Russian drink

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Kvass is a traditional Slavic sour drink, which is prepared from the fermentation of flour and malt or from dry rye bread. Today we will tell you about the benefits of kvass, as well as a short history of this wonderful Russian drink.

Kvass – Traditional Russian drink
Source: Wikipedia

History of kvass in Russia

In the early Middle Ages the kvass was popular throughout the whole of Europe. But then its place in Europe was outweighed by beer. Meanwhile in Russia, kvass remained very popular.

It was made in homes, monasteries, hospitals and in the army. Many public institutions had their own breweries making kvass. The living, and therefore hasty, kvass was made for sale almost in every village. Foreigners who visited Russia during the last millennium often recalled in their memoirs refreshing kvass, long forgotten by their country.

In Russia, kvass was more often made from bread and grain raw materials like fruit, flour or cereals. But sometimes, to the recipe were added fresh or dry berries and fruits, and even some vegetables, for example, beets.

With the advent of Soviet power, the good traditions of preparing Russian kvass began to be forgotten and replaced with industrial recipes. The quality of such kvass was not always ideal, but it was still an active drink.

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In the 1960-1970s kvass started being produced in bottles, and since then it did not really have the right to carry the name “kvass”. That drink was not a product of fermentation, but was made from kvass wort, sugar, lemon and milk acids. All this was mixed and saturated with gas. It was called “blended kvass”, but consumers took it for a real traditional drink.

In USSR, kvass was often sold directly from the barrels like on this picture. Although the picture is from the modern times
In USSR, kvass was often sold directly from the barrels like on this picture. Although the picture is from the modern times. Source: Flickr.

But the most difficult years for the traditional Russian kvass were the 1990s and almost the first decade of the 21st century, when the kvass practically stopped being produced, and under its name a soda with the taste a-la kvass was sold. Its typical composition was water, sugar or artificial sweeteners, acidulates, dyes and preservatives with some producers adding kvass wort to it. Despite being far from original recipe, it was still sold under the name “kvass”.

Today, some producers are trying to make this natural and healthy active brew again. But still, when buying kvass in stores, you must read the labels to make sure that you are buying a quality drink.

To be sure of the quality of kvass you might want to try to make it at home.

The benefits of the Russian kvass

The traditional Russian kvass is a unique product made of a double fermentation – alcoholic and lactic. In principle, these same processes occur in the production of beer and wine. But to make those, the lactic acid production is slowed down so it produces more alcohol. When making kvass, on the contrary, the process emphasizes lactic acid resulting in very little alcohol being produced.

Kvass still contains a small amount (from 0.7 to 2.6%) of alcohol, depending on the raw materials and recipe. Children before 3 years old are not recommended to drink kvass, besides kvass is not good for people with liver diseases, in particular, cirrhosis, hypertension and gastritis. But all others can considerably benefit from drinking it.

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Kvass, by its effects on the body is similar to kefir and cultured active yogurt. The centuries-old experience has shown that kvass contributes to the preservation of health and increases efficiency, prevents the reproduction of harmful and pathogenic microbes and tones the body. These healing properties are due to the presence of lactic acid, vitamins, various sugars and trace elements. Kvass was used against scurvy, it healed wounds, it was used to create a fragrant steam in the baths. Sometimes people simply poured the kvass all over themselves, just “for health”.

Kvass increases appetite. When carrying out heavy work like mowing, plowing, harvesting firewood, the Russian peasants used to take with them not milk but kvass, believing that it relieves fatigue and restores strength. This property of kvass was confirmed by scientists.

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