Considering I bit off more than I could chew during last weekend’s adventure with homemade dog food, I thought I’d start small. The obvious differences between “cooking for your dogs” and “canning food” finally occurred to me. It seems that building a solid recipe that my boxer can keep down, fills him up, and provides enough nutrients, is step 1. Actually canning the food is step 2. If I can get step 1 down, step 2 should be a no-brainer since I already have the materials and a tad bit of experience.
My first attempt at cooking and long-term canning of dog food resulted in a mixture that my boxer was unable to keep down. It’s anyone’s guess what ingredient didn’t agree with his fat-intolerant condition, but I suspect it was a combination of chicken skin, pulverized bones, or the inseparable chicken fat that comes from not draining the chicken after cooking.
So… I’m not using any specific recipe found in some corner of the Internet or buried in a book. Instead I’m taking a common sense approach to feeding my boxer (and eventually both of my dogs) food that caters to his fat-intolerant condition. You don’t necessarily have to prepare it in the same order I did, but here’s today’s recipe…
1 can white beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can spinach
2 cups of instant oatmeal
3 cups of water
5 thawed medium-size boneless / skinless chicken breasts
Makes 5, 1-pint mason jars.
2 large pots would be ideal, but here’s what I did with just 1.
Boil the chicken breasts in ample water for about 45 minutes. Drain, put breasts aside, and clean the cooking pot for the next step.
Rince each can of beans very thoroughly to eliminate any pre-packaged syrup. I did this by opening the cans but leaving the lid attached, then filling the cans with water and shaking them upside down in the sink until all liquid was drained. I did this probably 4 or 5 times per can. Dump the canned beans into the pot when you are sure the only thing you’re dumping into it is clean, wet beans. Add the full can of spinach (no need to drain).
Add ample water, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer on the lowest setting for about 45 minutes.
While the beans and spinach are cooking, shred the chicken into thin fibers as much as possible. This didn’t take long using an upside down knife to hold the breast and “scraping” a fork against the chicken grain. If I end up doing this again, a food processor will make quick work of the chicken.
When the beans and spinach are done, drain the water using a colander and return the mix back to the pot.
Now, using a standard kitchen food masher (not a potato masher) mash all the beans and the spinach into a thick slurry. You know you’re done mashing when you can’t find a single identifiable bean.
Now add 2 level cups of instant oatmeal (not the kind that comes in pre-portioned envelopes, the kind the comes in a big round tub like Quaker Oats) and 3 cups of water. Mix everything together and turn on the stove again for just a few minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from burning to the pan.
Now… this part of my recipe probably needs some work. Since instant oatmeal is a dehydrated product, it’s going to absorb water. Since I intend on freezing / refrigerating this particular batch, I won’t have any trouble. But, when I want to pressure can this mixture, the “expandable” oatmeal might cause my jars to lose their seal. I’ll evaluate whether or not to fully cook the oatmeal before adding it to the batch the next time I cook.
The boxer will get this mixture starting tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how it goes and whether or not I end up being gassed out by his already paralyzing flatulence.
I can tell you right off the bat that this mix has a much better texture, better color, and more reasonably-priced ingredients. Also, by “slamming” the jars on top of a thick book many many times, I was able to force out most of the air pockets that developed from my first batch last weekend. Finally, this batch took a fraction of the time to prepare and mix, partly because I was cooking less of it, partly because the ingredients were infinitely more “mashable”, but mostly by heeding lessons learned last week about the food funnel. Damned if this isn’t a brilliant little tool.