Fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics (good bacteria) and vegetables are one of the easiest foods to ferment!
You probably already know about probiotics and why they are so important to your health. Just how important are they? There is growing evidence that the health of your gut influences the overall health of your body and can be key in preventing or treating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease as well as some cancers. Gut health can also affect mental health; in fact, the gut has been called the body’s second brain. Improving the health of your gut can go a long way in improving and maintaining your overall health and well being. This is true for your dog as well.
Fermented Vegetables as Probiotic
You will learn, if you follow our blog, that Deb and I are strong advocates of feeding a variety of real foods and not relying so much on supplements for our dogs’ nutrition. One way to add probiotics or good bacteria to your dog’s diet is by adding fermented vegetables. Purchasing ferments from your local grocer or health food store can be expensive. The packaging is most often plastic which is undesirable from a health standpoint, and is environmentally unfriendly. Also, by making your own fermented vegetables, you have control over the ingredients you use and can experiment with a variety of fun and nutritious combinations. You can also accommodate individual dietary needs and tastes. So let’s get started!
What You Will Need to Make Your Own Fermented Vegetables
- clean wide mouthed glass mason jars with lids (32 oz jars work well)
- your choice of organic vegetables (no onions for dogs)
- organic cabbage heads (cabbage should comprise 80 % of the vegetable mixture)
- food processor with shredding disc (I use my Vitamix)
- cutting board
- large bowl
- wooden cabbage pounder
- sea salt
Preparing the Vegetables
- Pull off outer leaves of the cabbage heads. Wash and save for later
- Cut or shred the remaining cabbage and set aside
- Shred any other vegetables you are adding, mix together and set aside
note: do not process vegetables too much or they will become mushy
- You can make a brine by massaging sea salt into the shredded cabbage and then letting it sit for 30 – 60 minutes until the mixture creates a brine liquid.
- Separate the brine liquid from the shredded cabbage and add the cabbage to the other vegetables so that the cabbage to vegetable ratio is 80/20.
- If you prefer, you can just use cabbage and omit the other vegetables the first time you ferment just to get a feel for the process.
Putting It All Together
Very Important! You will want your vegetable mixture to be fully covered with the brine liquid, so divide out your brine according to the number of jars you plan to fill.
Filling the Jars
Start by adding some of your vegetable mixture; approximately 1/4 of the jar. Press down on the vegetable layer with your cabbage pounder to remove any air pockets. Add some brine liquid, then more of the vegetable mixture and pack down well. Keep alternating brine and vegetables until you near the top of the jar. Leave approximately one inch of space at the top of each jar. Make one last check to be sure the vegetables are covered in brine and packed solid!
Take one of the cabbage leaves you set aside earlier; roll it up and push it into the one inch space on top of the vegetables. There should be no space between the rolled cabbage leaf and the lid of the jar. The cabbage leaf will keep the vegetable mixture submerged in the brine during fermentation. Place the lids on loosely. Now you are ready to let them ferment!
Place the jars in a warm (at least 72 degrees F) place where they will not be disturbed. I use a cooler. Fermentation can take anywhere from 3 – 7 days to reach desired fermentation depending on temperature and microbial activity. It is a good idea to check the jars daily to make sure that they are not building up too much pressure. Do this by slowly unscrewing each lid and then loosely screwing them back on.
At day 3 or 4, taste your ferment. Be careful not to introduce contaminants! Do not reuse utensils once you have tasted from them. If you like a tangier ferment go ahead and let your jars ferment longer; you can go up to 14 days but I advise tasting along the way!
Once you have reached a tanginess you like, place your jars in the refrigerator. They should be good for up to a year but don’t let them sit! Use them in good health!
Introduce Fermented Vegetables Gradually
You’d be surprised, but most dogs love fermented vegetables! Introduce them slowly though because they can cause a detox reaction. Start with a tsp for a medium size dog. Half a tsp for a small dog. Work up to a tablespoon or two per serving for medium and large dogs and no more than a tablespoon for small dogs. What a great way to add good living bacteria as well as other nutrients to your dog’s diet! And don’t forget about yourself! Some cultures (pun intended?) eat a small amount of fermented or pickled foods with each meal. I’m not there yet for myself but I am working toward that.
Have fun experimenting with different combinations and adding herbs, ginger, garlic.