Dehydrating food is all the rage these days — great for summer’s fruit, berry and vegetable bounty, and for making sumptuous, healthy treats for your dogs (not to mention yourself). While it’s possible to dehydrate food in an oven, it’s much more efficient and convenient to use a dehydrator. And making it in your own home means you don’t have to worry about contaminants or adulterated ingredients. (We hear you can also make yogurt in a dehydrator — wouldn’t your dog love that!)
Here’s a recipe for every dog’s favorite: chicken jerky. Before you start, make sure you have a very sharp knife. Also, partially frozen meat is easier to slice, and the thinner the slices, the less time they take to dry.
• 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• Your choice of dog-friendly seasonings: parsley, rosemary, sage (preferably fresh and chopped very fine)
• Rinse the chicken breasts and remove any fat, which slows down the dehydrating process and will shorten the jerky’s shelf life.
• Slice the chicken into strips about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick; slicing with the grain will make the jerky even chewier.
• Coat the strips with oil and seasonings.
• Place the strips on the dehydrator tray, spacing them evenly; make sure they do not touch. The drying process depends on adequate airflow between the strips.
• Put the tray in the dehydrator, turn it on and set the temperature for 140 degrees.
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It will probably take between 3 and 12 hours for the strips to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut them and the exact temperature of your dehydrator. After the first hour, start checking the strips on an hourly basis. To determine the dryness level, remove one strip from the dehydrator, cut into it with a sharp knife and examine the inside. When the meat is completely dried, you won’t see any moisture and it will be the same color throughout. If it needs more time, put it back in for another hour. As it gets closer to being finished, check every half hour.
When your chicken jerky is done, store it in air-tight containers; zip-lock bags work great for this. Refrigerate the containers for an even longer shelf life.
Sweet Potato Chews
Thoroughly wash sweet potatoes, peeling them is an option. Slice the sweet potato into 1/4- inch slices by cutting down the middle lengthwise. If you have a mandolin this is easy, or a food processor with a slicing blade.
Soak the slices in water for 2 hours, drain, and dry. Spray the slices lightly with olive oil, this can increase absorption of beneficial beta-carotene.
Dehydrate at the highest setting 145-155 until done. Drying approximately 6-8 hours (or longer) will leave them with a chewy texture. For crunchier treats dehydrate longer until the desired consistency.
You can also use a stove with its door opened, set at the lowest temperature, 115 degrees, and place the slices on a rack that will allow air to circulate underneath the sweet potato pieces. Drying can take 20 hours. If set to 145 degrees, it take 12 hours. Be sure to check often. Store in an air tight container.