Traditional Russian drinks

Russian kvas – one of the best non-alcoholic beverages. By the taste and nutritional qualities it is unmatched. Invented more than a thousand years ago, kvas still be popular at this time.

In Russia, the first written mention of kvas refers to the year 989, when Prince Vladimir of Kiev drew his subjects to Christianity. In the annals on this occasion it was written – “distribute food, honey and kvass to the people.”

The word “kvas” is certainly of Russian origin and means “sour drink.” However, for the sake of objectivity, we note that even eight thousand years ago, something similar to the brew – drink made from barley, something between modern kvass and beer – were prepared by the ancient Egyptians. Fruit kvas was known in ancient Babylon, but it have not received spreading in Mesopotamia.

Such famous historical figures like Herodotus, Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates, who became famous in antiquity, left the description of the drinks that are very close to the kvas. Moreover, Hippocrates pointed to their healing properties.

The first kinds of kvas were made from different types of grain: rye, barley, oats, millet. Recipes at that time was about a thousand. Old Kvas with mint and raisins, Russian kvas made from the rye and crushed barley malt, northern kvas made from rye flour, meal, flour from Icelandic moss and black currant leaves, kvas white, red, made from rusks, strong, okroshka kvas, ginger, viburnum kvas, made from magenta, strawberries, cherries, pears … Kvas was made different, depending on terrain, climate, time of year, the family’s tastes and hosts.

It was need to have a brew in every home all time. From the literature it is known that the skill of cooking delicious, spicy, strong kvas Eastern Slavs possessed long before the formation of Kievan Rus. Craftsmen created many varieties of kvas. Even the major ones is difficult to enumerate. The presence of kvass at home showed the strength and sustainability of life and housing.

In the XIX century, the Russian people could not do anything without kvas. It was used during work, after work, before and after meals. Kvas was a drink of every day.

How widely was spread kvasovarenie in Russia, shows the work of the doctor L.I. Simonov, published in 1898, in which the author wrote: “… The production of Kvas is common here just like baking: it is cooked in a peasant, bourgeois, merchants and gentry farms, in the monasteries and the military barracks, hospitals, in cities exist the kvas facilities and kvas masters for sale of this drink. Doctors believe our kvas is hygienic beverage and beneficial not only for healthy people, but also for patients. In recent years doctors are beginning to pay attention to Russian kvass and recommend it to Western Europe. ”

Advantages of kvas are related with the presence of extractives and aromatic substances formed in the kvass in various stages of preparation – insisting, fermentation, etc. The beneficial effects of kvass in the process of digestion in humans are explained by the presence of lactic acid bacteria, due to which the fermentation of lactic acid is formed. Therefore kvas causes the same effect as milk products: yogurt, kefir, fermented baked milk, varenets  etc. Bread kvass шы nutritious, it contains digestible sugars, vitamins and other substances. Kvas improves the appetite, has a high calorific value.

Taste of kvas influenced an indelible impression on foreigners who visited Russia. Here’s how he wrote about the famous Casanova, kvas, “They have a delicious drink … it is far superior to Constantinople sherbet. This is an easy, pleasant-tasting and nutritious beverage, which, moreover, very cheap.” Kvas keeps its qualities to the present day. At the international competition held in 1975 in Yugoslavia, the Russian kvas (from Moscow) was rated 18 points, the famous Coca-Cola got only 9.8 points.

The yeast and lactic acid bacteria enrich this drink with vitamins B, B2, PP, B, and lactic acid. So brew perfect thirst quencher, invigorates, refreshes, it is tasty and aromatic. These qualities define kvass and diverse nature of its use. Kvas quenches thirst during the exhausting heat, restores strength and improves performance for large workloads and when working in the field. Kvas like a very tasty and refreshing the Russian national dish – okroshka, often used it in another dish of Russian cuisine – botvinya. It’s used as a good dessert drink too. It is able to replace the beer and other strong drinks.

The value of kvas was said by Russian proverbs and sayings. Here are some of them:

“Квас, как хлеб, никогда не надоедает”
“Русский квас много народу спас”
“И худой квас лучше хорошей воды”
“Щи с мясом, а нет – так хлеб с квасом”
“Кабы хлеб да квас, так и все у нас”

Today you can prepare the kvas from concentrates – dry kvas and liquid wort. To speed up the fermentation, the kvas should be preparing with addition of raisins.

Petrovskiy kvas.
Rye crackers – 500g. Yeast – 40g. Sugar – 200g. Raisins – 50g. Stems of fresh mint – 5.10 pc. Leaves of black currant – 3 pcs. Water – four liters.

You should to cut the bread into slices and dry them in the oven until dark brown colour. Rusk pour boiling water and let them stand in warm for 3-4 hours. Then strain it  through several layers of cheesecloth, add sugar, yeast diluted in a glass, mint, currant leaves, cover the dish with a cloth,and keep kvas in a warm place for 10-12 hours. Then again, you must to filter the liquid, pour the liquid into bottles and refrigerate. After three days, the kvas will be ready.

The magic of of kvass

On the one hand, the kvas in the pre-revolutionary Russia was a drink for each day. Kvass was used during, before and after work. On the other, with the kvass in Russia has always been associated various beliefs, superstitions. Kvass featured in many folk magical rituals. That suggests that the kvass in Russia has always had a special appointment.

Kvas was prepared in memorial celebrations, a wedding, the birth of a child. In Polesie during the Radunitsa holyday, kvas in the other foods were on the graves of loved ones. In the Smolensk region on the fortieth day after death,  kvas and braga were prepared for the “transition” of the soul to “the next world.”

In Russia the eve of the wedding ceremony in the bath girl poured on the stove kvass with hops. After the wedding, the groom’s parents met with bread and kvas young people (salt appeared in a ceremony much later).

Treats with a kvas was associated with fertility magic among Slavs. In the Smolensk region on the first day before the wedding, the bride and groom first kvas poured from one bucket, delivered in the middle of the room to another one. Then, young people keeping hands and lead them three times around the bucket of kvas, and went to the table.

Kvas had the same value of a talisman. In Russia believed that the fire caused by lightning, you can only put out with milk or kvas, but not by using water. And to stop spreading of fire further into the flames threw a hoop of kvas vessel.

As magical and therapeutic tools were used the kvas with a salt or kvas dregs remaining after preparing the drink. Also it was given for women during the difficult childbirth.

In Byelorussia the newborn before the first swim was poured into his mouth a little bit of kvass, that’s why he was not afraid of cold. Applying a thick salt kvas was used in treating of fingers disease, popularly called “nogtoeda.”

In Siberia, to increase the amount of cream in a milk, a pot of milk was washed with salt kvas and placed in the oven.


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