High quality commercial dog food is expensive. A 35 pound bag of Science Diet, for example, is close to $50. And for your money you get such tasty ingredients as Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Chicken Liver Flavor, and Caramel Color. Yum Yum. It tastes so good that the dogs will almost eat it....sometimes. And we get the added benefit of that pleasant odor emitted by the dogs as they digest this concoction. Um....yeah.
This Instructable will show you how to make your own shelf-stable, high quality, wet dog food that is good enough to eat! Plus, it's gluten free, so no more itchy skin and ear infections for our Labrador.
Note: This is an all-day project and requires a pressure canner. Using the hot water bath canning method WILL NOT result in a shelf stable product. If you ignore this warning, you will kill your dog and feel guilty for the rest of your life. Why put yourself through that? Follow the directions and use a pressure canner.
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Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
I have big dogs so I make a lot of food. This recipe will feed my three dogs (corgi, lab, and shepard: combined weight of 230 pounds) for about 5 weeks. Total food weight is about 50 pounds and it makes about 30 quarts of food. Scale your recipe to suit your needs.
• 25 pounds cheap meat (I used a beef brisket or chuck with fat removed: $2.29 per pound)
• 8 cups brown rice
• 5 pounds Sweet potatoes
• 5 pounds Carrots
• 3 bunches Celery
• #10 can (6 pounds) Green beans
Basically, the ratio is 5 meat: 5 vegetable: 1 rice. But let's face it: this is for the dogs, and they are perfectly happy eating cat poop! They probably aren't going to be too particular about the ratios!
• large pressure canner: I use two sixteen quart canners.
• at least 2 large stock pots: one for the rice and the other for the meat. A third will help facilitate mixing.
• sauce pan to heat lids and bands
• Mason jars, lids, and bands. I needed 30 for my recipe.
• funnel to help with filling jars
• heavy duty stirring device. You will be moving a lot of food around and a wimpy spoon ain't gonna' cut it.
• various kitchen utensils to help prepare and process food.
• jar lifter to move the hot jars around
• time and patience
I forgot to take a picture of all the equipment and I have no desire to drag it all back out so you're just going to have to trust me on this one.
Step 2: Prepare the Ingredients
- Meat: Trim fat from meat. All of it! Really well! Seriously, Very little fat should remain. Cook meat thoroughly. When the meat is finished cooking, only the smallest layer of fat should be present. Skim this off. We are trying to make this food as lean as possible!
- Our inherited Corgi went from a plump 28 pounds to just under 20 pounds on this diet in about 6 months!
- We use beef brisket or chuck and cook it in a stock pot for about 6 hours. We have an older dog that chokes on chunky food so we cook it until stringy. You may not need to cook as long.
- We render the trimmed fat and use the resulting tallow for cooking and candles.
Step 3: Prepare Jars
When your ingredients are prepared and you are about ready to move forward, it's time to prepare your jars.
To prevent the jars from breaking when they are filled and processed, they must be preheated. This can be done in one of three ways.
Place in dishwasher on the sanitize setting.
Place in oven heated to 200 degrees.
Place in water and .....surprise, surprise.....boil the water.
I use option number 3.
Put the jars in the pressure canner (without lid) and fill with water to about 2 inches deep. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. This will take a long time because of the large volume of water.
Place the lids and bands in a separate sauce pan and cover with water. Place on stove and heat water, but do not boil. Somewhere around 180 degrees F is perfect.
Step 4: Combine
Remove about 4 cups of liquid from the meat. This will be added, as needed, to the jars.
I have two pressure canners that can handle seven 1-quart jars each. Based on experience, I know that the amount of food I am preparing can fill about 30 1-quart jars. Therefore, I separate the ingredients into two equal batches and process 14 jars for the first batch and whatever is leftover for the second batch. Your setup may differ. Adjust accordingly.
Measure out the ingredients to make one batch according to your setup. I separated out half of each of the ingredients for the first batch. Combine into a large stock pot and mix thoroughly. Heat mixture until hot. Add water as necessary to prevent scalding.
Step 5: Fill Jars
Fill each of the jars leaving about 1 inch of headspace. Make sure you pack the food tightly, eliminating as much air space as possible.
Add a small amount of meat-juice to each jar for flavor and to facilitate packing.
Step 6: Place Lids
Wipe lip of jar to provide a clean surface for lid.
Remove lid from hot water and place on jar.
Remove band from hot water. Place on jar and tighten snugly.
Step 7: Process Jars
I have a Presto canner and I use the following steps. Your directions will likely be similar.
- Fill empty canner with approximately 2 inches of water.
- Heat to boiling
- Add filled jars
- Secure canner lid but do NOT put weight on vent.
- Heat until steam consistently emanates from vent. About 10 minutes.
- Place weight on vent and pressurize to 10 psi.
- Once pressure reaches 10 psi, process for 90 minutes at 10 psi.
Step 8: Lather. Rince. Repeat.
Repeat steps 4 through 7 until all of your food is processed.
Keep in mind that If you have a few jars left over, instead of pressure canning them, they can be stored in the refrigerator for about one week. Just use these jars first.
Step 9: Conclusion
As stated previously, this recipe will feed my three dogs for about 5 weeks, though admittedly, we also give them a small amount of kibble to help keep their teeth clean. To ensure they have all the necessary vitamins, we add a generic multi-vitamin to their bowls once a day along with a pro-biotic. Mix it in with the rest of the food and they don't even know it is there.
Prior to switching to this gluten free diet, our Labrador had a very severe skin problem and constant ear infections. This diet has eliminated those problems completely. As an extra benefit, the dogs are much less "gassy" and the consistency of their poop makes cleaning up after them much easier.
I joke with my kids that, in an emergency, this is safe for human consumption. In fact, our finished jars are labeled "beef stew" instead of "dog food."
As for cost, each batch costs about $90. This is on par with the monthly cost of high quality commercial dog food. However, this food has eliminated the health problems in our Labrador and the associate medication and vet bills. Overall, it saves us money and the dogs look forward to dinner instead of simply tolerating it!
This food, properly processed, is shelf stable and needs no refrigeration if unopened. If stored at room temperature or below, it should maintain its quality for at least one year. Refrigerate the unused portion of any opened jars and use within one week.
I hope your dogs enjoy this recipe.