From borscht to kefir, fermented foods are packed with nutritional benefits you can share with your dog.
Fermented foods are nutritional powerhouses for both people and dogs. Fermentation preserves food and provides a variety of taste sensations. Best of all, fermented foods provide our dogs (and ourselves) with many health benefits. They support the gastrointestinal tract by improving the absorption of nutrients, and enhance the entire immune system. In addition, the probiotics produced by fermentation help replenish healthy bacteria in both the canine and human gastrointestinal tract.
A short history of fermentation
Long before probiotics lined the shelves of health food stores, cultures around the world were fermenting foods. Fermentation dates back as far as 7000 to 8000 BC, and touches international cuisines in many forms, from chutneys and sauerkraut to kombucha and even pickles, which are lacto-fermented in saltwater brine.
Louis Pasteur was the one who discovered the science behind fermentation. The process brings about changes in yeast and microorganisms, in the absence of air. The food therefore retains its enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which are usually destroyed by processing..
Here’s a smorgasbord of fermented food recipes for your dog – you and your human family can also enjoy these healthy, wholesome foods!
Suzi Sunshine Beet Borscht
Beet borscht is a unique source of betain, a nutrient that helps fight inflammation. It also offers a complement of other valuable nutrients, including vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese and folate. It supports liver health as well.
2 pounds beets, peeled
6 cups filtered water, bone broth or chicken stock
19 ounces tomato juice
¾ cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Start by grating the beets; this is easily done in a food processor. Combine with remaining ingredients in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for at least one hour. Test to see that the beets are tender.
Serve at room temperature to your dog. A little goes a long way, so begin with ½ to 1 teaspoon per meal for small dogs, 2 teaspoons for medium dogs, and 1 tablespoon for large dogs, along with a dollop of yogurt or a drizzle of kefir.
For the human members of your family, borscht can be served chilled with a scoop of yogurt or sour cream, or served hot with boiled potatoes.
Borscht keeps two to three weeks in the refrigerator, when stored in tightly sealed jars. It can also be frozen in yogurt containers.
Cabbage and Bone Broth Borscht
2 beef marrow or knuckle bones
2 garlic cloves (optional)
12 cups cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
Choose organic ingredients if you can. In a large stockpot, cover bones with filtered water and bring to a boil. As soon as bubbles appear on the surface, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim the top. Add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer for two hours.
Remove the bones and simmer for another half hour. Cool and serve. This make the perfect topper for your dog’s meals. Store the borscht in the refrigerator or freezer.
Cultured Cabbage Juice
Fill your blender to the 2/3 mark with chopped, green, fresh organic cabbage and distilled water. Turn the blender on to high speed for one minute. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and repeat the process two more times. Then cover the bowl with Saran wrap and let the cabbage mixture sit at room temperature for three days. Now strain the cabbage out, so you are left with only the juice.
This juice is loaded with friendly lactobacteria (13 strains), and its lactic acid will help kill many strains of fungi, parasites and other pathogens. Store your cultured cabbage juice in the refrigerator.
Again, a little goes a long way, so for your dog, mix 1 teaspoon of cabbage juice with 1 teaspoon of filtered water. If you want to try it yourself, use 1/4 cup of the cultured cabbage juice with 1/4 cup water; you can add carrots to the mix to add some sweet to the sour.
Kefir is a fermented milk made with kefir grains (a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter). It has a very long history dating all the way back to the nomads of the Caucasus Mountains. Kefir grains consist of casein (protein) and gelatinous colonies of microorganisms that have grown together. One absolutely amazing thing about kefir grains is that the culture is a living organism with an indefinite lifespan, so you can use the grains over and over again. Packed with probiotics, this whole food has antifungal properties, helps relieve flatulence, and can even kill yeast. You may be surprised to learn that kefir contains ten strains of bacteria!
- Place 1 to 2 tablespoons kefir grains in a sterilized glass jar. Large Mason jars work well.
- Add 2 cups fresh milk. Try goat or sheep milk; you can even use almond or coconut milk. Room temperature milk works best.
- Gently stir the contents with a wooden spoon.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth or tea towel, and place the jar somewhere out of direct sunlight, or in a cupboard.
- Leave the kefir grains and milk to ferment for at least 24 hours, but no more than 48 hours.
- Strain out the grains and preserve them for re-use by putting them into another sterilized glass jar. These grains can be rested in the refrigerator for up to seven days when covered in milk or yogurt. If you want to wait longer before making a new batch of kefir, add fresh milk or yogurt to your kefir grains.
- Now your kefir milk is ready to serve, to your dogs and yourself.
Kefir milk is a great topper for any meal. It provides the gastrointestinal tract with beneficial bacteria, and it’s nutritious, containing not only probiotics but also vitamins, amino acids and natural enzymes. It may even help with severe allergies.
Begin with 1 teaspoon for small dogs, 2 teaspoons for medium dogs, and 1 tablespoon for large dogs.