I recently saw a video floating around Facebook from Planet Paws demonstrating how to make a Himalayan Yak Chew for your dog at home. My mind was totally blown, and it became a must-try.
First step, research. Before spending all this time making these chews I wanted to make sure this wasn't just a Pinterest hack destined to go horribly wrong. It ended up seeming pretty legit so I decided to give it a try. I also found out some interesting history about the Himalayan Yak chew.
The Himalayan yak chew originated in Nepal and is called Chhurpi. It has been around for centuries and can stay fresh for up to twenty years. Traditionally it is made from Yak cheese (hence "yak chew"). But is now made with milk from cows or chauri ( cow/yak cross).
There are two different types of Chhurpi, soft and hard. The soft one is made from cows milk and usually used in cooking. The hard version made from Yak milk and is famous for being the hardest cheese in the world. People enjoy it as a tasty snack, leaving it in their mouth to soften and then chewing it like gum. Hard chhurpi is the version enjoyed by dogs as a long lasting chew.
This video talks about the history and process of producing chhurpi.
I didn't have access to Yak's milk so I purchased cow milk from my local grocery store. Here is the step by step process I followed to make my yak chews. At the bottom of this post, I included a compare and contrast guide discussing the pros and cons of the ones I made versus the ones at the sore. There is also a recipe card with all the necessary instructions that you can right-click and print for your convenience.
1 gallon skim milk
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
1 tsp salt
Step 1 Pour
Set your burner to medium-low and pour in your milk. Stir continually as it comes to a boil. Bringing the milk to a boil took much longer than I had originally expected.
I did not actually stir frequently enough, as evident by the burned bits on the bottom of the pan. Don't be like me, stir stir, stir!
The burned pieces did get into the cheese curds a bit (you can clearly see them in some of the pics) but my dog, Dustin, didn't seem to mind.
Step 2 Add
After your milk begins boiling add your lemon/lime juice and your salt. And, keep stirring. Your milk should start to separate into chunks. I started seeing this transformation very quickly, within about 30 seconds.
Step 3 Cover
Remove your cheese curds from your pan and into a cheesecloth. I put them into a strainer before the cheesecloth to prevent more of a mess. I do recommend this step, it makes clean up easier. I didn't have an actual cheesecloth so I consulted google, who told me that it is ok to use any type of cotton as cheesecloth and that non-died is ideal.
Fold the cheesecloth so the curds are covered and apply pressure. I placed it in-between two plates, again, to make clean up easier, but that is optional, and then put a heavy pot on top. You can be creative with your pressure items, but keep in mind that the more pressure that is applied the more firm your final chew will be. Leave covered, with pressure for 4-6 hours.
Step 4 Cut
Preheat oven to lowest temperature (somewhere close to 150 degrees is ideal)
After you have waited the 4-6 hours, remove your curds from the cloth and transfer to a cutting surface. At this point, my curds were still fairly soft but were completely stuck together. Cut off the jagged edges, and slice into pieces that are appropriate for your dog's size. If you're unsure, the bigger the better (avoid choking hazards).
Step 5 Bake
Put your yak chews onto a baking sheet. If you have a way to raise them so the air passes through all sides as they bake that is preferred. I used the cooling rack that came with my pan. Don't stress if you don't have something like that though.
Bake them in the oven for 40 minutes.
Step 6 Wait
After your treats have been in the oven for 40 minutes, remove them. At this step, my Yak chews were still not as firm as I was expecting and the color had not changed. I contemplated baking them for longer, but I decided to keep following the recipe.
Place them onto a plate, a piece of parchment paper, or another non-stick surface, and wait 24-36 hours. After the long wait, I checked on my chews and they were nice and firm, and had darkened in color, they were now perfect for a dog to chew on!
Always supervise your dog as they eat any chew.
Compare and Contrast
After making my own yak chews I thought I would compare and contrast some factors of the ones that I made versus the ones you can buy in the store. I compared mine with the original brand, Himalayan Pet Supply, because it is the original, and also, it's the one I see most frequently in nearby stores.
Price and Yield
A pack of three small chews cost $10.29 on the Himalayan Pet Supply website. I paid a total of $7.67 for the milk, lime juice, and salt that I purchased for this project. I had both lime juice and salt leftover and finished with 7 chews. My kitchen scale is broken, so I cannot compare the final weights, but I am sure each store-bought chew is a little larger than the ones that I made. I think their total weights are comparable.
The store-bought chews ingredient list includes: skim milk, citrus juice, salt, and enzymes. My ingredients were almost identical, I just omitted the enzymes.
When your store-bought Himalayan chew gets down to the last few inches you can soak it in water, put it in the microwave and then it puffs back up to a larger size. This is great because you basically get a second chew. I have no idea if my homemade chews will also do this.
The homemade chews that I have do leave behind some crumbs. I would say it's a little messier than the ones you would find in a store, but I also made mine a little softer purposefully and I think the soft texture contributed to the crumbs. I believe that if you made a more firm batch the messiness factor would be the same as one of the store-bought chews.
I did not find the homemade chews difficult to make. Time consuming, yes, a little. But you do spend most of the time just waiting in between steps. I don't think making them at home beats the convenience factor of just running to the store, but if you like to cook and have a little time it is totally do-able at home.