Buy chicken hearts at your grocer. You may have to talk to the butcher and he may have to order them. Put the chicken hearts in a pan–preferably nonstick–spread fairly thickly over the bottom of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for half an hour. Chicken hearts are very fatty and you will have a lot of lovely juices and fats in the pan. Drain that off (I save it and pour it over the dogs’ kibble as a special treat). Put the chicken hearts back in the oven for another half hour, with the temperature lowered to 250 degrees (F).
The chicken hearts will be dry and chewy. You can freeze them whole (in which case they make very special treats), or you can slice them into tiny pieces and then freeze the pieces. When I use them for training, I mix them about half-and-half with kibble. The kibble picks up the fat and flavors of the chicken hearts and apparently this is a good thing, if you’re a dog.
Shameless product plug: I bought a small (7-cup) Cuisinart (this one: Cuisinart 7-Cup Food Processor) specifically for making dog treats. I use it to slice the chicken hearts. It’s great. I also use it to puree the chicken livers (for the chicken liver treats).
Shameless product plug 2: I also consider Silpat to be essential to making dog treats. I’ve tried some of the knockoffs and haven’t been happy with them. The Silpat really doesn’t stick to anything, so you can use it to line a nice heavy cookie sheet (the heavier the better) and everything is pretty easy to clean up when you’re done.
Thoroughly mix any ground meat (turkey, beef, chicken) with an equal VOLUME (not weight) of oatmeal. Pinch into meatballs of the desired size, smaller for small dogs, bigger for big dogs, and place on a non-stick sheet, preferably a “jelly roll pan” (as linked above, in the shameless product plug #2) which means it has raised edges. You need the edges because otherwise the fat will run off the pan and burn on the bottom of the oven.
Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) until they’re done, which is about 30 minutes for 1-inch diameter meatballs, less for smaller ones. Drain off the fat and let them cool a few minutes. Store in the freezer in a ziplock bag and only take out what you need.
Turkey Heart Treats
I bought twenty pounds of ground turkey hearts at Whole Foods. They divided them into nice two-pound tubs. I froze the tubs and use them one at a time.
Two pounds ground turkey hearts
Equal volume oatmeal (I fill the container with oatmeal after dumping the turkey hearts in a big bowl).
Stir them together, until thoroughly mixed, in a large bowl.
Spread the mixture on a Silpat on am 11×17 (or thereabouts) cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, until the slab is easy to handle.
Cut into bite-sized treats (which is about 1/2″ square for my dogs).
Pile the cut-up treats back onto the cookie sheet and put them back into the oven, but reduce the temperature to 175 degrees F or so. This will dry the treats out and make them easier to handle. Dry them out for at least an hour or so (stirring once or twice), then turn off the oven and leave them to cool for another hour. Store in the freezer.
(This recipe will fill a one-gallon zip-lock bag.)
Chicken Liver Treats
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
There are two versions of this recipe. The first one makes crispy treats but is a lot easier than the second one. It does assume, however, that you have a Silpat sheet AND a food processor (see shameless product plugs in the Chicken Hearts recipe). The second one can be done with any pans but is a lot easier with a food processor than with knives.
Chicken Liver Crisps
1 lb. chicken liver
1/4 lb. flax seeds (optional)
3 cups oatmeal–use “old-fashioned” rolled oats, not instant or quick. It makes the treats crunchier, which the dogs seem to prefer. You can use more oatmeal if you want, up to about 5 cups–it just gets thicker and crunchier. I recently tried making this recipes with less oatmeal, however–that didn’t work as well. It came out like pate. The dogs still like it, but just not as crunchy.
You can easily double this recipe. Two pounds of chicken liver will make two Silpat sheets worth of treats, which ends up at about a gallon (I put them all in a one-gallon ziplock bag in the freezer and just take out what I need).
Put the chicken liver and the oatmeal in the food processor. Process until it is smooth and creamy. Then process some more. It should be a thick paste. If you like, you can add in some oatmeal and stir after you’re done processing–makes the treats crunchier and chewier. (Good for dogs who need a little roughage to keep things working smoothly.) I stir in flax seeds at this point if I’m adding them.
Spread the paste out thinly on a Silpat sheet using a spatula. It will be about one-quarter to one-half inch thick. Aim more towards one-quarter inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for long enough that you can handle the sheet. (Leave the oven on for now.)
Slide it off the Silpat onto a cutting board and cut into small squares (about 1/2-inch square is ideal) with a pizza cutter or a heavy knife. The heavy knife turns out to be easier.
After you cut it into small squares, put all the pieces in a pan–just pile them up–and put it back in the oven, turn off the oven, and leave them in there for at least a few hours. That dries them out and makes them less likely to fall apart in your pocket. Take them out and let them cool (or just leave them in the oven overnight).
Then put the treats in a ziplock bag in the freezer and take out what you need on any given day.
Chicken Liver Brownies (thicker and chewier)
2 lbs chicken livers
6 1/2 cups oatmeal (not the instant variety) divided into 3 c, 2 c., 1 1/2 c) (about one pound)
large roasting pan or two 9×13 pans, nonstick is easier but it doesn’t matter much.
Using a food processor or food mill or blender, puree the chicken livers.
Add 3 cups oatmeal and stir it in thoroughly (or just add it to the food processor if you want). If you use a food processor, process some extra and you’ll make the mixture kind of fluffy, which makes the finished biscuits lighter and easier to break.
Sprinkle 2 cups of oatmeal onto the bottom of the pans to make an even, thick oatmeal layer. Shaking the pan back and forth gently helps to spread it evenly.
Using a large spoon, place glops of the oatmeal/chicken liver mixture on top of the oatmeal layer until you’ve distributed it fairly evenly. Do NOT press the mixture out to the edges, do not try to spread it evenly with the spoon. When you do that, it breaks the oatmeal layer and gets crusty and gross.
Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups oatmeal on the top of the mixture until you have a fairly thick layer. Pat it in gently with your hands, trying not to get the glop on your fingers.
The top and bottom oatmeal layers will create a surface you don’t mind touching and that doesn’t stink up your hands.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees F. Take the pan out of the oven AND LEAVE THE OVEN ON. Use a knife or spatula to cut the biscuits into one-inch squares. Use a spatula to loosen them from the bottom and break them apart. Leave them in the pan, even if they’re kind of layered on top of each other now, and put the pan back in the oven and TURN IT OFF NOW. Leave the biscuits in the cooling oven for about 2 hours. This time dries them out nicely. If they still aren’t as dry as you’d like, turn the oven back to 300, bring it to temperature with the biscuits in there, then turn off again and leave for two more hours.
Store them in small quantities in ziplock bags in the freezer, however much you think you’ll use in a day or two. Since they have no preservatives and aren’t dried to completion, you don’t want leave them at room temp for too long. You can feed them as dried biscuits or add to broth to make it taste more appealing.