Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Taste of Russian Summer

Summer is a wonderful time to be in Moscow. The pace of life slows down, everyone is a little happier, and the city is far less busy as everyone spends the weekends at their “dachas” or summer cottages. The other advantage of summer in Moscow is getting to drink kvas. Kvas is a lightly fermented, carbonated drink made from black bread. It's very very slightly alcoholic because of the fermenting sugars, but not much. In the summer you can often see stands set up around the city offering the refreshing drink to anyone who has 30 rubles in their pocket. Although Rachel proclaims kvas “the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth” and descibes it as tasting like “a glass of bread,” I happen to think it's a refreshing and unique drink. And so I decided I would learn how to brew my own.

There are two ways to brew kvas, the completely homemade method and the store-bought extract method. So first I tried the real way. First I boiled slices of stale black bread, then I strained the bread out, added some sugar, and after it cooled I added yeast. Then I let it sit for a couple days. The result was a very unique tasting, very fizzy kvas. I wasn't completely satisfied and so I tried the simpler option.

This method gives you the extract all ready to go and so relieves you from the burden of boiling and straining the bread. You just throw the extract, yeast, and sugar in a 5 liter bottle of water and let it go to work for a couple days. After a couple tries I perfected my recipe and ended up with a really great tasting kvas. I had some friends try it and they thought it tasted better than the stuff you can buy in the store. Rachel's comment was “it's still the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth.”