Easy Homemade Probiotics (no starter culture or special equipment required!)

December 4, 2013

How to make probiotic-rich fruit kvassDepending who you talk to, the best diet is a raw food diet. Or a grain-free diet. Or a low-fat diet.

How the heck are we supposed to make decisions about food and get on with our lives? It’s so confusing.

But in between the fads and hype and extreme views, there are some areas of truth that overlap.

One of those truths? Fermented foods are excellent for your health. They populate your gut with health bacteria, building your immunity and helping your overall physical (and even mental/emotional!) health.

Some dietary theories don’t mention fermented food, but I’ve never found one that actively recommends against it. And although growing bacteria on food seems counter-intuitive, this is a practice that has been done for centuries.

I first learned all this while studying Macrobiotics. Then fermented food came up when I learned about the Weston A. Price Traditions. Then the Paleo diet hit the scene and reminded me yet again that huh…I should really learn how to make my own sauerkraut and kombucha and whatever!

At one point I tried. I bought some books. They made it all so complicated! I even bought some water kefir grains and tried my hand at making different fizzy beverages – sort of like kombucha. It was great at first. But the sugar content of the kefir was too much for me, as was the obligation I now had to keep those kefir grains alive and well.

I gave up.

Four years later, I felt ready to try again. If you’re following me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve spent the past few months with different types of ferments. But this time I’m sticking to stuff that doesn’t require any grains or starter cultures.

After all, I’ve got one toddler and a baby on the way. I’ve got enough to worry about keeping alive!

Actually, my kids are giving me good reason to work on my home fermentation. I want them to be healthy! I’ve taken too many antibiotics in my life…I know my microbiome is dented and scratched to begin with. Mothers can only pass on the healthy flora they possess. My son, born via C-section, gives me even more reason to worry. (Did you know babies born by C-section miss out on tons of healthy bacteria they would have received from the birth canal?)

So, here we are folks. I promised you easy. I promised you no starter culture to worry about. No special equipment, even!

But did I mention this stuff is tasty??

I call it juice and my son drinks a few ounces per day, which is really all you need. Wild fermented foods have trillions of healthy bacteria – exponentially more in number and variety than probiotic pills or even industrially produced yogurt.

FYI, kvass is traditionally made from beets. It is healthy, but not particularly delicious.

What I’ve discovered is that you can make kvass from fruit instead, or a blend of vegetables and fruit. First, I’ll give you the general instructions. Then, I’ll give you ideas for flavors!

Wild Fermented Fruity Kvass
Makes: 2-3 cups

You will need:
1 quart-sized glass jar with lid (You can use any sized jar, but the honey measurement is based on a quart jar.)
Chopped veggies/fruit
1 Tbsp. raw honey or 1/8 tsp. sea salt
Filtered water (I use this filter)

1. Fill your empty jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with roughly chopped veggies and fruit. Make sure they are washed, but peeling is not necessary.

2. Add 1 Tbsp. raw honey. This contributes to the sweetness but I’m pretty sure the antibacterial nature of real, raw honey helps keep “bad” bacteria from growing in your kvass. Another option is to ditch the honey and add 1/8 tsp. sea salt instead (which performs the same function of keeping “bad” bacteria away). Personally, I like honey and it’s been working well for me!

3. Fill jar with filtered water, leaving 1/2″ to 1″ of headroom at the top. This allows for the gas of fermentation to build up without exploding your jar. Note that filtered water is recommended because tap water has chlorine in it for the purpose of killing bacteria. Since we are trying to grow healthy bacteria, unfiltered tap water may or may not allow for fermentation to occur. Try it with the water you have though – it’s an inexpensive test!

4. Tighten the lid of the jar and set it aside at room temperature. It will take about 3 days to ferment, but this depends largely on the temperature of your house and the type of vegetables and fruit you used. Give it a good shake every day.

5. After 1-2 days, check the lid of the jar every day. When there is pressure (you can’t push the center of the lid down) that’s a good sign. Also check for bubbles in the liquid.

6. At this point you can open the lid and give it a smell or pour out a small amount to taste. It should have a tang but not smell foul or rancid. As with any fermenting, trust your nose to tell you when food is spoiled and do not consume it! Personally, I have not had a single batch of this kvass go bad.

7. Transfer to your fridge. It will continue to ferment in the cold, but at a much slower rate. I like to drink it within a week.

Now, some ideas for the veggie/fruit combos that have worked well for me (or I imagine would work well)

  • Just pear
  • Just apple
  • Apple, pear and orange
  • Beet and apple
  • Beet and orange
  • Carrot, pear and ginger
  • Carrot and apple
  • Carrot and pear
  • Apple and fresh cranberries

If you’re loving this idea, you might want to invest in a bunch of mason jars like I did! And you may also be interested in the other home fermentation projects I’ve been enjoying in this book.

You may also be interested in:

World’s Easiest Sauerkraut Recipe
Fight back by fixing your digestion, naturally
8 natural ways to boost your energy all day long