Wednesday, 18 September 2019
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Homemade Gelatin Gummy Dog Treats

Dalmatian dog smiling at homemade gelatin gummy bone treat

In the current special FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series topics, we're sharing (and drooling) all about DIY dog treats! Although these are technically a chilled treat, we're such big fans of gummies that they really deserve a special post all to their own. They are easy to make, healthy, and our dogs love them! We always have some sort of gummy treat in our fridge. Here's an introduction to making gelatin gummy dog treats, safe treat storage, and a few handy tips and tricks.

Why We Started Using Bone Broth and Gelatin with Our Dogs


Gelatin is full of potential health benefits and it's those benefits that led me to get over my ewwww factor and start making gelatin treats. Oli in particular could use all the help I can give him for his ageing joints and mobility, but it's not just for seniors. Not only is is packed with protein, it can be beneficial for other aspects of general health including metabolism, digestion, liver function, bones, skin, coat, etc. 

Gelatin is made by boiling down the skin, cartilage, and bones of animals. I've experimented with making bone broth that set firm enough to be cut into bite-sized pieces, which is basically the process of making gummies from scratch, but it takes a lot of time/effort and the resulting gummies can be quite rich. Quality gelatin has many of the same good healthy qualities and can be used as a sprinkle, in baking, and to make very quick and easy gelatin gummy dog treatsI still make bone broth, but I'm not so focused on getting it to gel super firm. These days and just freeze it in a tray and then store the cubes for ready use, as shown with a recent batch in the collage below (with a very happy Oli drooling over the smells!). You can also use gelatin powder to firm up runny bone broth for storage or to use as gummies.


Making and freezing homemade bone broth for dogs


Making Gelatin Gummies


Powdered gelatin can be used with any dog-safe liquid base, including dog-safe stock or broth, plain yogurt, various milks, pureed fruit, pureed vegetables, or even plain water. Liquids can be mixed and/or other ingredients can be added to the base for scent/flavour, extra nutritional value, or just because you feel like it. You can experiment with compatible flavours using anything yummy and dog safe. Tip: There are a few special exceptions when working with gelatin, including fruits with protease enzymes such as fresh pineapple or kiwi.  These can affect the gelling properties, resulting in a runny jelly. Accidental fails can be salvaged by freezing as pupsicle treats instead.

For healthy goodness, choose a quality gelatin powder (I currently use Great Lakes). In my experience, 3 tbsp of gelatin powder per cup of liquid will create nice firm gummies, but if you prefer, you can use more gelatin for added supplementation or less for a jigglier jelly treat with lower gelatin content. Individual gelatin powders may be a little stronger/weaker. Find a ratio that works for your preferences and, of course, your dog.

How to bloom and dissolve gelatin powder for gummies

Preparing gelatin gummies takes only a few quick minutes, plus hands-off time to set. Cool liquid is measured into the pan and powdered gelatin is evenly sprinkled across the surface. It is then left to sit for around five minutes (can leave it longer, if you wish) to fully hydrate and bloom. Once bloomed, it can be gently heated and stirred until the bloomed gelatin is completely dissolved. Alternatively, a measured quantity of hot liquid can be added to bring the bloomed gelatin for dissolving, but make sure your total liquid measurement is suitable for the quantity of bloomed gelatin to ensure your gummies set correctly. 

The completed mixture can then be poured into silicon molds for shaped gummies or a suitable container for set-and-cut treats, and placed in the refrigerator until firmly set. As with all types of food and treats, it's important to make sure that the shape/size is suitable for your pet, both in terms of treat content and safe eating. 

Helpful Hints, Tips, and Tricks:

  • Volumes are very easily scaled.  If you want a precise measure of a specific pan/mold capacity, you can do a test pour from a measuring cup of water to measure the volume required to fill and scale your added gelatin powder to suit the volume of liquid for your batch of treats.
  • In my experience, 3 tbsp of gelatin powder per cup of liquid makes firm gummies, but if you prefer, you can use more gelatin for added supplementation or less for a jigglier jelly treat with lower gelatin content. Individual gelatin powders may be a little stronger/weaker. Find a ratio that works for your preferences and, of course, your dog.
  • I like prepare my gelatin in a pan for the additional surface area, which is helpful for blooming. 
  • If you're using shaped pans, keep them simple for easy breakage-free removal. I find that flexible molds work best as stiff molds can be tricky for removal. Supple silicon molds are tricky to move when full of liquid, so place of a portable surface to help you get things into the fridge without mess and stress.
  • When pouring into molds, I like transferring from my prep pan into a coffee milk jug. It's stain resistant, heat safe, easy pour, and dishwasher-friendly. Awesome! 
  • Once set, gummies are ready to eat, but for an even better "real" gummy texture/feel, after you have taken the treats out of the mold (or cut into pieces from your pan), return them to the refrigerator on a plate/tray uncovered to dry for a day before normal container storage.
  • Gummy treats should be kept refrigerated and can be frozen for longer storage, although freezing can affect consistency.  See below for more details on storage.

Mixing Liquid Ingredients for Gelatin Gummy Treats


If you're mixing ingredients, depending on the ingredients and your preferences, you may want to pre-mix as an all-in-one base or split the preparation.  You can premix most liquids in the pot/pan you plan to use for making the gelatin. Tip: If you're working with a thick ingredient, incrementally adding the thinner liquid and stirring it in can help reduce clumping for an easier mixing. If you're using chunky add-ins and prefer a more uniform mixture, you can put your ingredients through a blender or food processor to create a base.

Tip: As a sneaky little shortcut when making quick batches of broth gummies, I sometimes bloom the gelatin on cool water and then drop my frozen dog-safe homemade broth cubes straight from the freezer into the pan to melt at the same time as I dissolve my gelatin. It's super quick/efficient and works perfectly! Just make sure the total measurements work for the gelatin to liquid ratio.

Preparing gelatin and homemade stock in a pan for gummy dog treats

Splitting the preparation can be helpful for a number of reasons, but be careful with your total measurements. Splitting can be particularly useful to minimise the heat exposure of a liquid ingredient. I like to split my base for yogurt and kefir to protect the probiotic content. To do this, I prepare the gelatin in a measured quantity of liquid (making sure my total after combining is the 3:1 ratio above) and then make sure the prepared mixture is below 50C (120F) before stirring it into the yogurt or kefir.  I also like to split if adding fruit and veggie purees, just so they're still semi raw/fresh. Splitting can also be helpful when working with opaque ingredients. If you're new to gummy making in particular, it can be hard to judge when the gelatin is fully dissolved when you have an opaque or speckled base.

Tip: Peanut butter is a special exception, as it can be tricky to blend or melt uniformly into a water-based gelatin mixture. You can read here how I make gelatin gummies with peanut butter


Adding Dry (or Chunky) Ingredients to Gelatin Gummy Treats


In the past, I used to add most dry ingredients to the base (unless splitting) before preparing the gelatin, but with very few exceptions, I now prefer to add it after preparation. No issues with visibility, no unnecessary heating, and easy to get a uniform blend. It's also a good way to make a variety of gummy treats with a single small batch of gelatin base, if you're trying something new.

When adding powders, I measure the powder into my pouring container.  Tip: As noted in the helpful hints above, I like using a coffee milk jug when I make gummies. I then mix a small quantity of the prepared gelatin with thepowder to dissolve/mix with minimal lumps and clumps. Once mixed, I add the rest of the gelatin and mix to thoroughly combine.

When adding chunky things or ingredients that don't dissolve, such as dried herbs, chunky puree, etc. these tend to sink or float in the liquefied gelatin. Not a problem, but if you'd prefer things more evenly distributed in the gelatin mixture as suspended solids, you will need to cool the gelatin down to just above its setting point so that it is thick and viscous enough to hold the floating/sinking pieces distributed through the gummy. Slowly, stirring periodically, allow the mixture to cool and thicken.  You can do this at room temperature, or you can speed things up using the fridge (or an ice bath, if you prefer). When the mixture has thickened enough, spoon/pour the finished gelatin mixture into your molds and chill to set.

Paw print and bone shaped homemade gelatin gummy dog treats


Troubleshooting Setting Problems


With the exception of the protease enzyme fruits, as noted above, the most common culprit is something going awry during prep. The blooming liquid needs to be cool and the sprinkled gelatin should slowly hydrate and plump up into a thick grainy gel (sort of reminds me of applesauce, but with surface wrinkles). Don't be tempted to stir it during blooming. Once fully bloomed, the mixture can be slowly heated to dissolve the grains. It needs enough heating to fully dissolve, but don't "cook" the mix as high temperatures can also weaken gelatin's ability to gel.

The quantity of powder-to-liquid noted above is generally great for us and we've tested with multiple brands, but gelatins do have different strengths, so if things are consistently soft with good bloom and dissolving, try using a little more for a firmer set.

Tip: Gelatin will re-dissolve with gentle heat, so you can try reusing failed mixtures with additional bloomed gelatin, but it is much easier (and likely less frustrating, especially if the cause is uncertain) to salvaged by freezing as pupsicle treats instead.

Storing Gelatin Gummy Dog Treats


Once set, gummies are ready to eat, but for an even better "real" gummy texture/feel, after you have taken the treats out of the mold (or cut into pieces from your pan), return them to the refrigerator on a plate/tray uncovered to dry for a day before container storage. Don't leave them uncovered for too long, as they will continue to dry out.

Gummies will remain firm at room temperature, but are best refrigerated for extended shelf life and food safety.  At warmer temperatures, the gelatin in the gummies will start to melt back into a liquid. The melting temperature depends of a lot of other factors (quality, concentration, other ingredients, etc) but this is typically well above room temperature, except perhaps a sizzling summer room, and these are not pocket-friendly treats.

Gummy treats should be kept refrigerated and can be frozen for longer storage, although this can affect consistency. They're so easy to make, I prefer doing frequent small batches and using fresh from the fridge. Tip: If gummies are frozen, I find that defrosting in the fridge uncovered on a plate or dishtowel helps to make sure that they thaw semi-dry instead of getting a little slippery. Freezing causes gelatin to separate which tends to bleed out some liquid content in addition to condensation factors.  See a staged "extreme" example below. As a demo I photographed a beetroot batch made and then frozen uncovered on a hot humid day without dry-time, so you can see an example of frosty freezing at it's worst, and then the tasty gummy after thawing dry. 


Before and after examples of frozen and thawed gelatin gummy dog treats



Check out the Homemade Dog Treat FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting mini-series for more information on treat making, storage, and more: 

Ready to hit the kitchen? You can use our DIY Dog Treat Recipes navigation page to start your explorations, dive straight into all of our homemade dog treat related posts in the blog archives (or narrow that down to just the gummy dog treat ideas), search the blog from our sidebar, or hop over to our Pinterest for tons of other ideas. 

🦴 Remember, treats (bought or homemade) are for spoiling your pup in moderation. We share ideas here from treats that we make ourselves for our pets, but different animals will have different preferences (likes/dislikes) and dietary needs. Some pets may have special dietary requirements and/or food allergies/intolerances. If you are ever in doubt or have questions about what's suitable for your pet, have a chat with your trusted vet.

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