Spent Grain & Turkey Heart and Gizzard Dog Treats
In all my years of cooking for others, one year of caring for dogs, and several months of experimenting with edible uses for the biggest byproduct of beer production, spent grain, I finally figured out a way to serve all three at the same time. I don’t know why it took this long to get here. But one day, thinking that it might be good to do something useful with the turkey heart and gizzards leftover from Thanksgiving’s bird, it occurred to me to make something for the two brewery dogs, Barley and Chinook. Because they need lunchtime snacks, too!
A couple strokes of lightning later — the hens love spent grain, so won’t the dogs? There’s grain mixed with meat in dogfood anyway, and the latter is probably unwanted offal, too! — I came up with the basic plan for these dog treats. One key element was missing, and that was a bone-shaped cookie cutter. Next time I swing by the Brooklyn Kitchen, I’ll have to pick one up.
The breadth and diversity of dog treat and biscuit recipes online is pretty astounding. Some sound more or less like cookies, with the likes of peanut butter or molasses. Some incorporate a yeast-risen dough to produce what sounds like a more chewy snack. Some have cheese and bacon. I’m not an expert on canine health, but something tells me that dogs really need some meat, and wholesome grains. This recipe is essentially a bound mixture of those two things, using the leftover grains from a batch of Bengali Tiger IPA at the brewery.
I started out by putting the turkey offal through a food processor. It actually wasn’t just from the Thanksgiving turkey. Since I seem to have a genetic disposition against throwing out anything that could be food, I had amassed a small collection of gizzards, hearts, and liver from other birds in my freezer over time. Many of these were actually ducks (there was a massive duck cook-a-thon at my apartment a while back), maybe a couple were chicken. I’m not sure. I separated the livers and used them already to make a pate, but I was anxious to use these less crowd-pleasing parts up.
Two cups of the spent grain were mixed with the mashed meat, an egg to bind it all, and about one cup of flour to create a loose dough. For lack of a cookie cutter to shape them, I patted out small rectangular bars for bite-sized treats. I’ll admit this part was a little gross, handling all that sticky, gooey ground meat. But hey, someone’s got to make dog food. And I don’t mind it being me for a change rather than some big machine. Once placed on a baking sheet, these went into the oven until the outsides were crisp, sort of like cookies.
No salt, sugar or flavorings were added to these dog treats, since I suspected my two beneficiaries would like them enough au naturel. Dogs don’t send food back to the kitchen if they’re under-seasoned.
So, it’s time to meet the judges:
As soon as I took the treats out of their plastic container, the dogs scrambled before me and sat, poised to receive the mysterious gifts. They began sniffing frantically, and squirmed to get a better peek at the treats, which I had clenched in my hands. They did have a profound meaty odor that wasn’t half bad to my nose. Finally, the treats were released and the dogs chomped them up in ten seconds. But instead of running back to their beds with the treats, they ate them all on the spot, then turned to me to beg for more.
This entire batch of dog treats has been gobbled up by now, with much the same enthusiasm from Barley and Chinook as their first taste. I like to think it’s a fairly healthy treat to give them, made with very few ingredients that are totally natural and known. Moreover, that these ingredients were mostly unwanted byproducts of producing other things. Try it out for your dogs (or cats?) sometime, especially if you have a cache of hearts and gizzards like me.
Spent Grain & Turkey Heart & Gizzard Dog Treats
(makes about 25 treats)
2 cups spent grain (from homebrewing, or a brewery — note, it will be already wet)
about 1 lb turkey, chicken or duck hearts and gizzards
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse hearts and gizzards through a food processor a few times until a sticky paste is formed (it doesn’t have to be completely smooth). Combine with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Using a spoon and your hands, shape dough into bite-sized treats that are about 1″ x 3″ and 1/4″ tall. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tops are crisp. Remove, let cool, and make a dog’s day.