Make your own pet food 101
Ever thought it was about time you took on some kitchen detail that didn’t include human-only fare? I know lots of you have. But taking it to the next level is the hard part.
Where to start? Here’s where. But first, make sure you have...
1. ...a recipe.
Check. (Ask your veterinarian or consult with a veterinary nutritionist.)
2. ...a workable kitchen.
Check. (Mine’s small, but it’s well-equipped.)
3. ...lots of pots and bowls.
Check. (Mis-matched though they may be.)
4. ...some space in your fridge/freezer.
Check. (OK, so I did have to empty the meat drawer, but what the heck, right?)
5. ...a free afternoon
Check. (A rainy Sunday is best, IMO.)
6. ...a good friend, cool tunes and maybe a bottle of wine.
Great. Now it’s time to get started.
First up: That morning (or the day before) round up all your fridge and pantry must-go’s. That box of quinua you were hoping to use for a salad (last month)? The bag of multigrain cereal you found you were too busy to cook up in the morning? Small amounts of brown rice or bulgur too insignificant to prepare independently? Softening (but perfectly stew-able) potatoes? Scratch and dent apples in the crisper? Less-than-perfect leftover berries?
Put it all out on your countertop and figure out what you can use to help substitute for some of the scripted ingredients in your recipe.
Next: Make a shopping list and get cracking. Shop smart by sharing the expenses of in-bulk purchasing with the designated friend. Divvy up the list and conquer the market. Hit a farm stand on the way home for the veggies (and share a strawberry shake while you’re at it).
And now for the real work/fun:
1. Boil the meats (if you don’t do raw). Occupy the pets with any raw tidbits they can eat (chicken necks or fish skin, for example). btw, cooked meats last longer in the fridge once incorporated into the rest of the ingredients. A raw prep means you need to freeze the final product into defrostable portions.
FYI: I always make a serious stock with the meats so I can have use of the leftovers for more fancy fare. That means I’ll usually throw in some celery, a few peppercorns, a head of garlic, yesterday’s herbs, a couple of carrots and yes (gasp!), an onion.
(Though, strictly speaking, pets shouldn’t get onions, a well-cooked one is perfectly fine as long as its anemia-causing toxins get diluted by the rest of the ingredients––it’s just for flavor, really.)
2. Roast the tubers (potatoes and/or yams). Foil-wrap for easy clean-up.
3. Put the legumes on (beans and/or lentils). Soaking them overnight gives you a tremendous boost in boiling-to-soften speed (most efficient), but you can always pressure-cook ‘em, too.
4. Chop the raw veggies. First coarsely, then process to fine bits (so pets can’t pick out their faves). Keeping them raw means pets get the best boost from their vits and mins––despite the cooked-ness of the rest.
5. Drain the meat and cook the grains. Using most of the stock to cook the grains adds flavor to the lowliest ingredients in this bunch––without wasting any of the meat’s goodness.
6. Cool and debone the meats (if necessary).
7. Drain the legumes.
8. Chop the tubers (once fork-tender).
9. Add the “additives.” Olive oil, salt, dicalcium phosphate for extra calcium if you need it. That’s about it.
(The multivitamins, glucosamine, fatty acids and any other supplements are administered independently so there’s little risk of oxidation while the stuff sits in the fridge for a week––or in the freezer for up to a couple of months.)
10. Mix it all together. Here’s the fun part: Let your hands do the work as you break down the bigger bits and bring it all together for maximum uniformity without excessive mushiness.
Along the way you can snack on the fixin’s––and save a few choice tidbits for a vegetarian stock, a hearty chicken salad, a broccoli dish or a sweet potato purée. And floor cleanup's a breeze with the help of a few friendly snouts.
I thought you’d think so––especially when you consider that this stuff makes a great, family-friendly “breakfast sausage” when hand-pattied and sautéed in olive oil over medium-high heat. Yum!