In India, people have traditionally consumed a good amount of fermented foods.
Growing up, my family would make fermented drinks, pickles, achar, even meat. We never used the word “fermented” to describe these things, but that’s what they were. During the fall and winter seasons, my mom would make Kanji, a salty and sour probiotic drink that grew on me as I grew older.
Kanji is a traditional fermented Punjabi drink, only slightly similar to Beet Kvass.
I like to call it “Indian Kombucha.” It’s certainly an acquired taste, but I think true ferment enthusiasts will appreciate the unique flavor. This drink is traditionally used to help aid digestion (and it works, so drink in moderation).
Kanji and Thandai (a delicious creamy beverage) are often the drinks of choice during Holi, an Indian festival of colors.
My mom tells me that in India, her family would make Kanji using black (dark purple) carrots. If these carrots were unavailable, they’d add beetroot to help darken the color of the drink. This recipe uses both carrots and beets. In addition to these two vegetables, you’ll also need black/brown mustard seeds, fine sea salt and filtered water. These simple ingredients make for a unique and complex flavor.
Once you combine all of the ingredients together for this drink, put it in a glass container (I use a half-gallon mason jar) and keep it in a sunny spot inside the house. The amount of time required to create a ferment will depend on the temperature in your home, but this typically takes anywhere from 3 days to 1 week. If it’s colder, it’ll likely take an extra few days.
Taste the drink periodically to see if it’s done.
Once it’s nice and sour, strain it and put it in the fridge to chill. Make sure to save the carrots and beets, they’ll make for tasty pickles!
- Crush the mustard seeds in a mortar pestle or a coffee grinder (it’s okay if they’re coarsely ground).
- Chop the carrots and beet into long pieces.
- Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar (I use a half-gallon mason jar) and cover with a lid or cheesecloth.
- Let the jar sit in a sunny spot for at least one week - stirring with a wooden spoon daily.
- Once the kanji develops a tangy flavor, that means the drink is fermented.
- Strain the drink, save the pickles to enjoy later.
- Put the drink in the refrigerator to chill.