This post is about grandkids and grandpups. I am always on the lookout for simple but fun things to do in the kitchen with my granddaughter, Kaedynce, and grandson, Bryce. I also love my grandpups. I have three of those, Chloe (a.k.a. Boss Bitch), who belongs to Kaedynce; Buddy, Bryce’s birthday dog, and Mac Daddy, whom my daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Solo, rescued. Chloe is a beagle who has no idea how small she actually is, and she is the boss of any group she joins. I love her spunkiness and sometimes wish I were more like her! Buddy is a Yellow Lab, only 9 months old, and he’s the size of a small elephant with the loving disposition of a Lab. Bryce wants to train him to be a search-and-rescue dog. Mac Daddy is a Yorkie/Silky mix. He’s absolutely the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and also one of the sweetest.
(I’m not playing favorites here. I asked for pictures of all three dogs, and this is the only one I got before post time. But isn’t Mac Daddy the cutest little guy?)
Recently, a Facebook friend of mine, Debra, dehydrated some cooked sweet potatoes as a treat for her dogs. She used a jerky gun to extrude the sweet potatoes into a square shape. I got to thinking, why not make something like that for the grandpups with the grandkids? I don’t have a jerky gun, but with some advice from Debra and the dehydrating group, I came up with Pumpkin Plops for Pups. Of course, the only thing original about this is the title.
I used to make Thanksgiving pies from homegrown Halloween jack o’lanterns until I learned that field pumpkins are not nearly as sweet or flavorful as pie pumpkins. I started growing pie pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies, and just a few field pumpkins for carving. But the waste of the field pumpkins after Halloween always bothered me. Oh, yes, they were composted, of course, but still. Last year, I had chickens, so I didn’t feel as guilty, and this year, I planned to give our two jack o’lanterns to the chickens again. But then I saw Debra’s post about her dog treats, and the light bulb blinked on.
It really couldn’t be any easier. I had two jack o’lanterns that Dennis carved during the family carving party. (During which Buddy, by the way, ate quite a bit of raw pumpkin.) I named our jack o’lanterns Drunken Jack and Happy Jack.
I cut the faces off the jacks (the cut sides tend to mold quickly, although these weren’t bad), and gave them to the chickens. They also got all of Happy Jack, because I didn’t need him. It made a funny picture.
I cubed up the rest of Drunken Jack and filled my 6 quart soup pot. I put a little water in the bottom of the pot to keep the pumpkin from scorching and got it boiling, then turned it down to a simmer. I stirred the pot occasionally, bringing the more cooked cubes up to the top and turning the more raw cubes on top down to the bottom. It only took about 45 minutes to get the peel on the large cubes soft enough to puree.
I didn’t peel the pumpkin for two reasons. One, that’s a lot of work my hands can’t take, and I didn’t want to put too much pain, time, or effort into an experiment I wasn’t sure would work. Two, I thought the peel would provide more body to the plops and fiber to the pups.
When the flesh and peel were soft, I scooped the pumpkin out of the pot and into a colander set over a large bowl. I wanted to drain as much water out of the pumpkin as I could before dehydrating, and I wanted the pumpkin to cool down before I pureed it.
Once the pumpkin was cool, I put it in the food processor in batches. It took a while to get the peel broken down enough for my purposes, but eventually, I could only see small specks of bright orange.
The grandkids arrived after school, and the plopping commenced. Early on, I’d thought we might be able to use frosting piping bags to create little poop-shaped plops (in which case this post would have been titled “Pumpkin Poop for Pups”). But as soon as I scooped the pureed pumpkin out of the food processor bowl to fill the piping bags, I could tell it wasn’t going to hold a shape. It was still too watery. But that was okay. I thought the kids would have fun with the piping bags, and they did.
We each had our own fruit leather tray. Bryce gave creating a log-shaped poop plop for Buddy a good try! Kaedynce was more dainty with her plops, but she was attempting to create a medium-sized plop for Chloe. I made little plops for little Mac Daddy. When our trays were full, they went into the dehydrator at 115 degrees. Bryce, little logician that he is, read the guidelines on the control panel of the dehydrator and told me that vegetables should be set at 135 degrees. Kaedynce, older and wiser in the ways of the kitchen, replied that pumpkin was not a vegetable, but a fruit. “Doesn’t matter,” Bryce said. “Vegetables and fruit should dry at 135 degrees.” There might have been a squabble, but Nana intervened. “My friend, Debra, recommended 115 degrees, so that’s what we’re going to do!”
(If you want to try this but don’t have a food dehydrator, you can do it in the oven. Set your oven to the lowest setting. The pumpkin plops can be placed on parchment- or waxed paper-covered cookie sheets. When the oven and cookie sheets are warm, turn the oven off, turn on the oven light, and leave the oven door closed for 18-24 hours before checking. If the plops are still wet, heat the oven up again, and repeat above procedure until plops are leathery.)
The plops were very watery, so I was very surprised to see that they were dried to the leathery stage after about 18 hours. I was also surprised to see how much they shrank! They were so small, Buddy could have eaten them all in one gulp!
I decided to try another batch with the leftover cooked pumpkin from Drunken Jack. I’d intended to give the leftovers to the chickens, but the bowl was still sitting on the counter the morning after the initial test run. I buzzed the pumpkin cubes in the Ninja blender this time, and it was faster and made a smoother, thicker puree. Then, instead of using a piping bag, I used a tablespoon to create big plops, smoothing down the tops with the back of the spoon to a relatively even thickness. I knew these would take longer to dry, but I thought maybe after shrinkage they would be substantial enough for big Buddy. They still only took about 18 hour at 115 degrees.
As always when dehydrating food, it’s a good idea to put the dried food into a glass bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours to let the moisture left in the food equalize. Then if it’s dry enough, you can store it in a plastic bag or glass jar.
Pumpkin Plops for Pups was a success, in terms of a fun activity for me and the kids, and in terms of creating wholesome little treats for the grandpups. The kids and I intend to make dog biscuits one of these days, if we can just find a bone-shaped cookie cutter.