What's kefir, you ask?
I've actually been wanting to write a post about kefir for quite awhile now! I've been making milk kefir for Kitsune for just over a year. Milk kefir is a probiodic packed drink that is made from cultured/fermented milk. Think yogurt, only with even more probiodic goodness, and a thinner consistency.
Since I started making homemade kefir, I've also been noticing kefir smoothies sold in stores. I haven't looked too closely into store bought kefir to be honest. I assume they probably have added sugars etc that wouldn't be the best ingredients for dogs.
Homemade kefir is really easy to make! You can purchase kefir kits that allow you to make usually a couple batches of kefir. Alternatively, I purchased kefir grains which, if cared for properly, have a pretty much unlimited lifespan. I bought my kefir grains in March of 2015 and they are still going strong!
I'm not an all knowing kefir guru - I'm sure you can do research and learn a lot more about kefir than what I'm going to share here. But I'll tell you a little bit about my experience with it. Basically kefir grains (I'm including a picture of mine so you can see what they look like) are weird little clumps of bacteria and yeasts. Sounds lovely right? When you put them in milk, the grains basically digest sugars/lactose in the milk, and in turn culture the milk.
What are the Benefits of Kefir?
Think of kefir like you would yogurt - only it's better! Kefir contains more live strains of beneficial bacteria/yeasts than yogurt does. The strains of bacteria/yeast found in kefir can actually colonize the digestive tract. This isn't the case with most yogurts and probiotic supplements.
So, if you haven't figured it out yet, the main benefit of homemade kefir is its probiotic properties! Kitsune has always had a really sensitive stomach. Before discovering kefir, I used to give him probiotic supplements daily to help with his digestion. Since the addition of kefir to his diet I've been able to stop purchasing commercial probiotic supplements.
Because it helps maintain a healthy digestive tract, kefir is great for the immune system! It also contains calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B2, B12, D, and K. When I bring up kefir dog owners often point out that many dogs don't handle milk well. The bacteria/yeasts in kefir solve that problem! They digest the milk sugars/lactose, making kefir well tolerated even by people/pets who are lactose intolerant.
Is it Gross?
It sounds gross right? I wasn't crazy about the idea of fermenting milk in my kitchen when I first started our kefir journey. It doesn't smell bad, which is one thing I was concerned about. Both my dogs will readily drink it - Fenrir especially enjoys it. The longer you leave it to ferment the stronger the flavor. I've found that my dogs personally seem to enjoy lightly fermented kefir. If I forget about it and accidentally over ferment it, they usually don't like it as much.
After feeding kefir to Kitsune for awhile I got brave and tried it myself. It has a flavor similar to plain yogurt, but to me tasted more tart. I don't really like it plain, but often drink it now as part of my morning smoothies, and sometimes add it to my cooking as well.
You can find lots of recipes for foods to make using kefir online - including things like kefir cheese, sour cream, etc. I usually just give my dogs a teaspoon or two plain with their breakfast, but I do occasionally make them kefir cheese treats as well. If you end up with too much kefir, you can freeze it. When your kefir grains reproduce you can feed the excess to your pets, or dehydrate them. I usually feed my excess grains to the dogs, but do have some that I dehydrated in case something happens to my culture and I have to start over.
I could probably write a lot more about kefir, how exactly to make it, share recipes, etc but this post would get way too long! If learning about kefir and what I do with it is something my readers are interested in I'd definitely be willing to write more about it in the future.
This post is a part of the 2016 Blogging from A to Z challenge! You can learn more about our challenge theme here.