Although my mother never made this fermented beet juice, my grandmother always did for Passover when it became the basis of the most piquant, winey beet borschts of the year. It was used in place of the water or beet liquid called for in the recipes for clear beet borscht with beef and cold beet borscht. It is so good that it seems a shame to relegate it to the short Passover week; I make it many times during the year because of the superior borscht it results in. Russell is a first cousin to Polish and Russian kvass, the fermented bread and fruit juice that is the basis for authentic borscht.

5 quarts of liquid, plus beets



Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

One Pot MealYes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, healthy, kosher, lactose-free, low calorie, low carb, low cholesterol, low saturated fat, low sodium, low-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Taste and Texturelight, savory, sweet


  • About 10 pounds of beets, weighed after leaves and stems are removed
  • Water


  1. Scrub the beets and peel thinly. Cut into vertical quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the beets. The pieces should be about 1 to 1 ½ inches wide at the widest point.

  2. Place in a thoroughly cleaned crock and pour in enough cold water to come within 2 inches of the top rim. Cover partially, setting the lid somewhat askew, then lay several layers of cheesecloth over the lid to keep dust out. Keep at room temperature for 1 week.

  3. Skim off all scum on the surface. Stir well and skim again if more scum rises. By this time the liquid should begin to take on a faint pink color, and it will probably be cloudy.

  4. Again, partially cover with a lid that in turn is covered with cheesecloth. Let stand in a cool but not cold corner for 2 to 3 weeks. The Russell is done when it is a clear, deep ruby-red color. Refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep for several weeks.

  5. Use for borscht as indicated, or as a coloring and flavoring for grated horseradish when needed.


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I would love to be able to buy russel to make my Passover borscht. Years ago, My late Mother-in-law, taught me how to make this delicious borscht using russel as a base. We haven't been able to find this product anywhere. A deli used to prepare it homemade for sale, but most people do not know about fermented beets. My husband and I are in our 70 and 80's so fermenting beets is too difficult. If you decide to sell some, please let me know. at Thank you, Benita Mandel


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