Humans are home to trillions of bacteria. From the superficial skin bacteria to those deep in the gut, these microscopic organisms form our army against the microbes (germs) that we are exposed to on a daily basis. But modern day lifestyle jeopardises these defence line workers in many ways. While antibiotic use has the ability to completely wipe out our ‘good’ gut bacteria, consumption of refined and processed foods inhibits their regrowth once they are destroyed. To add fuel to fire, the COVID-19 induced ‘sanitiser era’ makes exposure to bacteria even more difficult.
The result is an imbalance of the bacteria that colonise our intestines (gut dysbiosis). This has been linked to various medical conditions from obesity to heart disease, cancer and depression. One way of reversing this dysbiosis is through the consumption of probiotics - a discovery that led to the origin of probiotic-rich products such as yogurt, kombucha, tempeh at the grocery stores, and probiotic capsules at the pharmacies over the past decade.
It was very recently though that I realised that I grew up having a homemade probiotic drink. Kaanji is a fermented beetroot (+/- carrot) drink that is usually prepared during the winter months in northern India, and is extremely easy to prepare! Here is the recipe that I usually follow:
2 medium size beetroots
1 tablespoon crushed mustard seeds
1 tablespoon salt
Approximately 800-900ml drinking water
1. Wash, peel, and slice the beetroots into approximately 0.5cm * 3cm slices and put them in a transparent glass jar.
2. Add the salt, mustard powder, and water and stir. Leave a 2cm air column above the level of the water.
3. Put the lid on and keep it on your window sill for 3-5 days.
4. Open the lid and stir the contents once a day to ‘burp’ the kaanji (since the bacteria produce carbon dioxide that needs to be released - otherwise your jar may explode!)
5. Refrigerate your kaanji once it is ready.
1. Kaanji can take 3-5 days to ferment depending on the temperature and sunlight exposure. Three days are usually enough for warmer and sunnier weather, but you may need 5 days or longer in cooler temperatures.
2. You may hear a slight fizz when you open the jar. It’s just a byproduct of these little organisms.
3. Taste the kaanji from the third day onwards - it's usually sour and salty.
4. Don't forget to eat the beetroot in the kaanji!
5. Start probiotics in small amounts, gradually increasing in volume in order to prevent the feeling of bloatedness.
6. If you've got a layer of fungus on the rim - your kaanji has gone wrong:(