Venison Liver Dog Chews
Burns Night is over and having made haggis for the year, I didn't have much use for the leftover deer liver in the freezer. Deer liver is strong-tasting, and unfortunately, there are few ways we enjoy eating it. By making dog treats, it doesn't go to waste. Dogs are notorious for loving stinky, smelly food– even non-food– and we know that your dog will love these chews. You could also use them for training: cut them into smaller pieces to offer as a high-value reward.
Organ meat is densely packed with nutrients, including heavy doses of B and A vitamins, folic acid, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, iodine and more. When dehydrated, the liver pieces turn black and chewy like licorice. They almost look good, but making them certainly won't make your house smell good– at least not to human nostrils anyway.
We are welcoming a four-legged family into our home in 12 days, so we've been busy making room in our freezer. Turning freezer burned and/or undesirable wild game and fish into dog treats is a great way to cut down on waste. Now there's even more reason not to leave the liver in the gut pile. Look for more wild dog treat recipes from us soon!
Important note: Remember that these are treats and not a meal replacement. Do not free feed to your dog, as too much of a good thing can cause gastric upset in both animals and people. Consult your veterinarian before feeding if your dog is the sensitive type.
1. Soak deer liver in water for 30 minutes to leech out blood. Afterward, give the liver a good squeeze under running water. Slice off any hard valves/connective tissues. Cut the liver into 3/4-inch- thick, bite-size pieces. Pat them dry with paper towels.
2. Lightly grease dehydrator trays with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Spread out the liver pieces so that they don't touch each other for best air flow. Turn on the dehydrator to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and dry for about 5 hours.
3. After five hours, increase the dehydrator temperature to 160 degrees and dry the liver the rest of the way. We dehydrated ours for a total of 8 hours, but that may be different for you. Dehydrator efficiency will vary. Check on the chews periodically, and rotate the trays halfway through.
*Watch for case hardening, when the outside of the chews become so hard that moisture on the inside can't escape. This will cause spoilage. If you suspect case hardening, cut the chews in half and continue to dry at 160 degrees until the texture reaches your liking.
The longer the dry time, the harder the chews will become, the longer they will last. The shorter the dry time, the softer the chews will be, but shelf life will suffer. We dehydrated ours until they felt like the texture of licorice.
Allow chews to cool completely before storing in an airtight container, refrigerated. We did not want to introduce more sodium into our dog's diet, so these chews don't have the preservative benefits of salt. Stored this way, use them within 2 weeks.
For longer shelf life, vacuum seal the chews and store refrigerated. I would use them within a month, although I'm not sure how long they will actually last; it's mold that you want to keep away. If you make a large batch, freeze them.