Do you have trouble keeping your husband out of the dog treats? No? Well, I do! Now, mind you, he doesn’t ever touch the commercial dog treats we buy at the store, but when I make jerky for the dogs, I’ll catch him sneaking in the bag.
A few years ago, one of our dogs was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have long to live. She wasn’t eating well, and I was desperate to get her to eat. I bought her a bag of beef jerky, which she readily ate. It was $28 for a 10 oz. bag. Now mind you, I would not spend that much normally, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and for my Darla, I would’ve mortgaged the house if I’d had to to help her. Since she was eating only the jerky, I knew I needed ample quantities of it and didn’t want to run out, and figured I could make jerky myself and save money. So I went to Whole Foods and bought ten bounds of beef liver. It was surprisingly cheap (I hear that liver’s not a hot commodity and is hard to move!), and although it wasn’t from grass-fed cows, it at least was from cows never given hormones or antibiotics. I came home and froze it all on sheet trays because freezing makes it much easier to cut into thin slivers. It wasn’t a pretty job, I’ll tell you, and I was starting to see why 10 ounces cost $28. But that was liver, and you know what a bloody mess it is, and I mean that literally, not in the British sense! I put the liver slivers (HA – that cracks me up – liver slivers; look for my poetry book coming soon ) in my dehydrator, and hours later, I had perfectly dried strips of beef liver jerky for my Darla. My family was not crazy about the smell of the liver permeating the house, particularly my husband, who had to actually exit the house one time when I was making liver brownies for the dogs. It’s not a warm, fuzzy smell from his childhood, to say the least.
Now of course you don’t have to make these treats for just your dog. They’re a wonderful human snack as well, as my husband can attest. Most dog treats, and people treats, for that matter, are full of sugar, artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, and those aren’t good for canines or humans. I love giving my family, human and canine, treats that are good to them and for them. These jerky treats fit the bill. For people treats, there are all kinds of marinades and seasonings you can put on the meat, but for my dogs, they seem to be pretty satisfied customers with plain old chicken, and of course it’s easiest not to have to do a marinade. These are super easy to make, but there are a few keys to making it easier. You should definitely freeze the meat, not until it’s frozen completely through, but freeze for about 30 minutes or so until it’s just firm. My second tip is to use a really good knife. As I’ve mentioned, I’m slightly obsessed with finding the perfect kitchen tools and equipment. I read about, and subsequently purchased, the top-rated slicing knife in an America’s Test Kitchen magazine. It’s the Victorinox 12 inch slicing knife. Man that thing’s the real deal. I never seemed to be able to get perfectly thin slices of brisket or roast until I got this knife. You can also use it to pretend you’re a kitchen ninja warrior. You feel really formidable just holding it! It slices everything as if it’s butter. It’s almost as good as a mandoline, in my opinion, because you can truly slice things ultra thin without it tearing up your meat.
OK, so back to the jerky. This is really too simple to be a recipe. It’s more about the method. So choose the meat you want to turn into jerky. Keep in mind you’ll want a few pounds, at least, as once the meat is dehydrated, it will shrink and you won’t end up with as much meat, in weight, at the end. I used four pounds of chicken and ended up with exactly one pound of jerky. Line baking sheets with parchment and lay meat in a single layer on baking sheets. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, a few pieces at a time, and slice thinly. Place slices on dehydrator sheets. Set dehydrator to 155 and dry for 4-5 hours, checking for doneness at about 4 hours. The jerky should be completely dry and have a bend or snap to it. The dehydration time will vary, depending on the meat you are using, how thin the slices are, and your dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator, this could also be done in the oven. I would set the oven to 200 degrees and bake for about 2 hours and then check for doneness. To make extra sure the chicken is thoroughly dessicated, you could leave it in the turned-off oven for a few more hours. The oven time would vary as again, the thickness of the meat and oven temperatures are variable.
My dogs are ecstatic about this jerky. When I’m dishing out these treats, my husband will sometimes get down with the dogs and pretend he’s wagging so that he can get some, too. (He’ll kill me if he reads this!) He’s questioned why he never gets as much as they do, and I tell him it’s because he doesn’t have fur. . .there’s nothing cuter than fur!
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lay chicken breasts in a single layer on baking sheets.
Place in freezer for 30 minutes, or until firm
Remove from freezer and thinly slice chicken breasts.
Place chicken slices on dehydrator trays.
Dehydrate at 155 degrees for approximately 4-5 hours.
Jerky is done when all moisture is gone and can be snapped easily.
Give to salivating puppies!