DIY: Canning Homemade Dog Food

During the winter holidays, I started a small project: canning my own dog food. A few months ago I started to make dog food myself. Once a month I would make a huge badge and store it in the freezer. A few weeks ago I decided to make dog food twice a week which I very much enjoy. We have a big fridge and freezer at home so it is easy for me to store veggies and meat. However, when visiting family I don’t want and can occupy their freezer with Bobby’s food which is how I stumbled upon canning dog food. It takes some time but in the end, you can be proud of yourself. You don’t even need any professional cooking utensils so everyone can do it!

My first experience was great but I stayed so nervous until the end…what if I did something wrong? I would have to throw away all the food…such a waste. In the end, everything went well, except that I could have added a bit more liquid to the jars (reminder for the next time!) So, if you planning to go away for a few days and you don’t want to give your dog commercial canned food or kibble and you have the time and patience to cook the dog food yourself I highly recommend it. Bobby loved it and I felt super proud :)

Preparing the jars

I bought some jars at IKEA because this was the most convenient way for me. Of course, you can use any jar you like. Have a look on the internet and you will find jars in different shapes, sizes and with different closing mechanisms. Keep in mind that the size of the jar is suitable for your dog’s daily portion. For instance, our dog Bobby eats twice a day a portion of about 450-gram food. Therefore, I chose to use two jars a day (one in the morning and one in the evening). You can, of course, choose one bigger jar a day…choose something that is convenient for you!
First of all you want to make sure that the jars are clean and sterilized. If that’s not the case your food can easily get spoiled due to germs. There are different ways to do so and this is how I did it:

  • remove the rubber rings from the jar, put them in a pan with boiling water and a bit of vinegar and cook them for about 5 minutes. Leave the rings in the water until you want to close the jar, later on. Check the rubber rings on a regular basis. If they look damaged don’t use them because they will not be able to close the jar properly
  • preheat your oven to 150 degrees and put the jars for 10 minutes on a baking tray (with the lid open) in the oven. When removing the jars from the tray be careful that the opening of the jar stays clean.
  • if you will need a funnel hopper to fill the jars without spilling food on the edges you will have to sterilize it too (depending on the material you either use boiling water and vinegar of the oven as described above)

jars

Preparing the ingredients

Now that your jars are ready you can start making the food. Choose a recipe your dog likes and calculate the portions. This time I used:

Animal protein: beef meat, liver, and hart
Carbohydrates: rice
Veggies & fruit: fennel, parsley, carrot, peas, apple, and broccoli

I cook the meat in a pan until it is still a tiny bit red inside. When making dog food I never throw away the fat and blood that comes out of the meat. Instead, I mix it with the other ingredients. The veggies and fruit get chopped, shortly cooked and blended. You really don’t need to cook the ingredients until they are well done since they will get some additional cooking time in the jar later on. If you want you can grind the meat but this really depends on how much time you want to spend on it.
ingredients

By cooking the rice before filling the jar it will not soak any liquid out of the jar so there will remain enough liquid inside during the cooking process. As you will see in the pictures I didn’t add enough liquid to the jar. Ideally, you want that all the ingredients are covered by liquid. By grinding the meat and blending the veggies you will not have that problem. However, I like to give my dog more chunky food so next time I will have to add more water.

Preparing the canning process

If you like me don’t have any professional cookers a normal cooking pan will do. Fill it up with water and put some (old) kitchen towels on the bottom. That way the jars will not smash against the pan when the water is boiling.
canning
Fill the jars (using a funnel hopper) but leave some space at the top. (about 1-2 cm). Stir well to debubble the jar. If needed, wipe off the lid with a damp clean cloth, otherwise put on the wet clean rubber ring, close the lid and put it in the pan with boiling water.

Do this with all your jars and you are done. From time to time, you will need to refill the water in the pan due to evaporation. I cooked the jars for 40-45 minutes (it depends on the size of your jar I guess). Take the jars out of the pan but be careful they are damn hot!!! Let them cool down and store them in dark, cool place. If you plan on storing the food for a few months it can be wise to label them (ingredients + the date it was made).

After the jar is cooled down it should make a ‘plop’ sound when opening it. I knew that my canning process went well because the lid kept close after I opened the metal clips! I could pick the jar up on the lit whilst the metal clips were open. This shows that the jars did close well during the cooking process (vacuum). Any oils and supplements should always be added right before feeding time to the bowl. Don’t cook them in the jar they will not stay good.

Have you ever canned dog food? Any tips or favourite recipes? I would love to read about it.

Julia & Bobby

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