Back in the day, Ralphie loved his rawhide chews. He used to stash them under the bed, wedge them in between cushions, hide them behind furniture – put them under the rug, even. Naturally, we’d buy him bones meant for larger breed dogs for maximum comedic effect. (Oh, the pictures! I won’t post them here, since they’re tragically non-vegan, but.)
We’ve sworn off animal-based chews since going vegan
– probably a good thing; not only are they gross and apt to goo up the furniture, but considering how he enjoyed hoarding those things, treats left unattended would likely be a source of epic conflicts in this multi-dog household –
and haven’t found a suitable replacement yet. Vegan “pig’s ears” are the closest we’ve come – but as pricey as they are, even those go quickly, devoured in a matter of minutes. Homemade sweet potato chews made in the dehydrator are pretty nifty: less expensive than the pig’s ears, but they last almost as long. The apple chips I made back in September got me thinking: maybe I could make a similar chew using apples. Nothing beats free, amirite people?
While the original apple chip recipe can easily work for dogs (indeed, the dogs begged much of that batch!), this time around I went with a thicker cut than you’d use to make chips: about 1/4″, sometimes thicker. (My hands aren’t always that steady, yo.)
When dehydrating them, you have two options: suck out most – but not all – of the moisture, or dehydrate the apple slices completely. Option A gives you a slightly spongier chew, which might be better for some dogs. (These will also need to be refrigerated or frozen.) Option B results in more of a chip-like chew, similar to the people chips I made, only thicker. I worried that some of the smaller dogs might have trouble chewing them, but so far so good. This includes Kaylee, who has a history of dental problems and is missing half her teeth, as well as Mags, who recently broke two teeth down to the nubs and has dental surgery scheduled in the near future.
If you’re unsure, try a batch of each and see what works. You can always throw the extras in your morning oatmeal or use ’em in a batch of homemade granola!
I also cut out the spices – the dogs enjoy the apples as-is, so why bother? – but you can season them with cinnamon and lemon juice if you’d like. (Just stay away from nutmeg, as it can be harmful to dogs.)
Apple Chews (for dogs and their peoples)
Fresh apples (as many as your food dehydrator can fit!)
Lemon juice (optional)
1. Clean the apples thoroughly before starting. Inspect them for any signs of damage – bruises, worm holes, etc. – and cut away any bad sections. Remove the stems and seeds using an apple corer. (Warning: this is a squirty, messy job!)
2. Slice the apples width-wise, so that each slice is donut-shaped, with a hole in the middle. Cut the slices between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick plus – a thicker slice will result in a heartier, chewier dried apple slice. If these are meant for human consumption, go with a thinner cut; for dogs, cut each slice 1/4″ thick plus.
3. If desired, season with lemon juice and cinnamon. Place the apple slices in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and cinnamon – about a tablespoon and a teaspoon worth, respectively, per every eight apples – and mix well.
4. Place the apple slices on the dehydrator trays; they can be spaced closely together, but make sure there isn’t any overlap. Bake at 135F for ten to fourteen hours. About three to four hours in, flip the chews over so that they don’t stick to the trays. Around hour ten, check in on the chews and remove those that are done. Give each slice a gentle squeeze to check the water content.
– If you prefer a slightly softer chew, remove them once they’ve begun to shrink and most – but not all – of the moisture has been sapped out of them.
– If you prefer more of a chip-like chew, leave them in the dehydrator until they’re dry and brittle.
Continue to dehydrate in one or two hour increments until all the slices are done.
5. Store in an airtight container. Softer chews should be refrigerated and used within a week; extras can be stored in the freezer and defrosted as needed. Completely dehydrated chews will keep for a week or more on the shelf, but can still be refrigerated or frozen for maximum freshness.