With the holidays just around the corner, millions of people are busying themselves with preparations for massive meals and the onslaught of relatives. For Thanksgiving, most people will be preparing the traditional turkey feast we all know and love. A lot of people enjoy it so much they carry the tradition over to Christmas as well.
Either way, a whole lot of turkeys are going to be cooked over the holidays. But along with the annual basting of the birds comes the dilemma of what to do with all the leftovers. This year, consider getting creative and treating your pets to some homemade turkey jerky made from unused portions. All you need is turkey and an oven.
Turkey Jerky Dog Treats
Making jerky at home from leftovers is a lot easier than you probably think. The nice thing is you don’t even need an expensive dehydrator to do it. If you’ve got an oven, you’re all set. Also, you can make it from leftover turkey meat or an uncooked breast. Whichever method you choose, you’ll be incorporating leftovers. It only takes about 10 to 20 minutes of prep time and 3 to 4 hours of slow cook time.
Turkey jerky from leftover white or dark turkey meat produces a crispy, crunchy treat, whereas using raw meat will give you more of a traditional chewy jerky. If you’re using raw meat, you’ll want to use white or breast meat for making homemade turkey jerky. That’s because thigh and leg meat are greasier than the rest of the bird, so it doesn’t tend to dehydrate as much as it curls and crisps. It can still be used, if you don’t mind — your dog or cat won’t.
Turkey Jerky Recipes Using Marinade
While you don’t have to make a marinade necessarily for these turkey jerky recipes, they add a lot of flavor and your pets will love you for it. For uncooked turkey meat, all you’ll need is any leftover cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie or the unused canned filling.
By the way, if you’re trying to utilize the last of your pumpkin pie, scrape the filling off the crust. While it won’t hurt your pet, you really only want the filling. Marinade for leftover turkey meat is simpler yet. It consists of olive oil and maybe a little fresh parsley.
Turkey Jerky Recipe Using Raw Meat
First off, if it’s not already frozen, put the turkey breast in the freezer before you begin making your marinade. No, you’re not going to freeze it. It’s just that it slices more easily if it’s slightly frozen. So, pop it in for 20 or 30 minutes beforehand or thaw it a bit, if need be, before you try cutting it. Doing this really does help.
Next, gather the marinade ingredients from your leftover sides and puree them together with enough water to create a soupy sauce. Don’t add salt or anything else your pet doesn’t need in order to remain healthy.
Slicing Turkey Breast
Once the meat is in a semi-thawed state, remove the skin and any fat and then cut with the grain into thin strips or slices. Once you’re done, put the strips in a shallow bowl or baking dish and pour your marinade over the top until the meat is completely covered. Refrigerate for at least an hour. You can leave it longer, if you like.
Dehydrating Raw Meat for Jerky
After the meat’s marinated, preheat the oven to around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people like to set it to 165 degrees for a truly slow cook, but that adds to the cooking time. Place the wet strips about an inch apart on racks on top of a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Brush them with your remaining marinade.
Now, you’re going to dry the strips in the oven for 3 to 4 hours with the door cracked a few inches to let the moisture escape. Once they’re cooked to the desired shoe-leather texture, remove from the oven. Allow to cool and store in airtight containers.
Sweet Potatoes in Recipes
If you want to add a little more flavor and some more texture to the mix, wrap your wet turkey strips around uncooked yam or sweet potato strips cut lengthwise like French fries before drying. You might need to add a little additional cooking time, if you do.
Turkey Jerky from Leftover Turkey
This is another great way to get rid of Thanksgiving leftovers; only this time, you’re using the meat rather than the sides. As in the other recipe, you can skip the marinade if you want, but it helps revive the meat if it’s a bit dried out. It’s up to you.
If you do opt for the seasoned marinade, pour between a quarter to a half a cup of olive oil (depending on how much meat you have) in a sealable container or a Ziplock bag and add a few tablespoons of fresh parsley finely chopped and some garlic powder. It’s a great flea repellant.
Add your leftover meat and burp the container or bag, shake and let the mixture marinate for a few hours (overnight if the meat was overcooked or really dry).
Dehydrating Turkey Leftovers
Preheat your oven to between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove meat from marinade and lay out flat on drying racks over lined cookie sheets or directly on parchment cooking paper on a baking sheet if you don’t have racks. However you do it, let it slow cook with the oven door cracked open a few inches for 3 to 5 hours, depending on how thick your leftovers were. They should be crispy and crunchy when they’re done. Let cool and store appropriately.
Healthy Dog Treats
Sweet potatoes or yams make excellent dehydrated pet treats as well. Cut them in slices about 3/4 of an inch, arrange them in a single layer in a shallow pan, cover them in molasses, pour water on top and let them soak for an hour or so in the fridge. After that, dry them in a preheated oven set to 250 degrees in the exact same manner you would the turkey jerky.
All-Natural Pet Treats
Since there are no preservatives in these all-natural pet treats, it’s important that your jerky has all of the moisture cooked out of it or it could spoil. If there’s a question about it, you may want to keep them in the fridge. Any of these recipes will please your pets and helps you get rid of unused or uneaten food stuffs that might otherwise go to waste. Anytime you have older meat in your freezer that is borderline date-wise or might be suffering from freezer burn, don’t throw it away, make pet treats with it.