One of these days I will post pictures. I have decided that I am just not great at taking/posting pictures. I'm sure it would make these ramblings much more interesting to read. Honestly, I am lucky I get to write at all!
In the spirit of "Waste Not, Want Not" Wednesday, which I was going to start as a blog roll myself if someone didn't already have it running (which someone does so I'm just going to add my thoughts to that list instead), lets talk animal fat!
We just got a half beef for an incredible price a week ago now. A couple weeks before that we got a pig for the freezer (the beef was just too good to pass up). So I have perfected my rendering after doing over 40 pounds of pork fat and a party sized cooler full of beef suet. For those that don't use animal fat, you don't know what you are missing! I use it for frying, sautéing, and baking (baked sweet potatoes, squash, etc., not cupcakes although if I ate those likely I would use lard or butter as my fat source). It is an amazing cooking fat. I prefer it to coconut oil for my veggies. I just love it. It creates a fantastic crispy cover.
My process is a dry process. I don't like using water. I find it messier and it also is harder to salvage the cracklins after. Preheating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit is my first step. I have a propane stove and am over 1000 feet above sea level. I have read people using 250 degrees Fahrenheit...that would have taken FOREVER for me. So, 325 degrees Fahrenheit it is. Cut the suet or lard into smallish cubes and place in a stainless stock pot or cast dutch oven (I used both because of the amount of suet I was rendering). Place in the oven and allow to cook until there is about as much liquid fat as there is solid and pour off the liquid. I highly recommend heating your mason jars prior to pouring if you are using mason jars. I use my canning funnel and a fine mesh strainer (I also sometimes lay a nylon jelly bag in the strainer to make sure nothing is left in the tallow or lard) to strain the ladled off liquid fat. Depending on the amount of fat you have you may want to combine the two pots that started at the same time and start a new batch in the one you just emptied. This is what I did. I kept combining the pots until I couldn't anymore.
Once the liquid stops coming off the solid fat pieces and they have taken on a dark hardened (somewhat crunchy) texture I will strain them out of the liquid fat (or pull them out with a slotted spoon) and dry them on a cookie sheet. They should be pretty dry already but you may wish to dry more. At this point you should have beautiful tallow or lard that is still in it's liquid state. As it cools it will solidify a little (lard) or quite a bit (tallow) but will liquify again if it is out on hot days. Kept in the fridge lard will take on the texture of spreadable butter and be a very clear white, tallow will be a bit yellow if it is from grass fed beef and will be a hard fat in the fridge.
My preference for storage is to hot pack them and put them in my cellar. To do that all I do is place a canning lid on the wiped rim of the mason jar and screw the metal band on. As it cools a vacuum will be created and seal the container. As long as there is no water in the jar and it is kept in a cool dark place it should keep. You can also water bath can them but I found hot packing to be sufficient.
Other things you can do with rendered animal fat include making soap, season cast iron, use it to preserve things, make candles as well as use it for other body products. I have not made anything yet but soap is on the agenda. I have a ton of tallow that came off the bones I've been cooking for stock and anticipate using that in soap. I have read that tallow candles do not smell very good but may try one anyone just to cross it off my "can do" list. Just cooking with animal fats will season your cast iron, especially if you scrape them well after use. Body products intrigue me but I'm not quite there yet.
I have seen dry rendering done on stove tops with small amounts of fat. Likely that is where I will render my leaf lard which is just a small amount and I haven't rendered yet. If you don't have beef or pork fat but do happen to have deer (from hunting season), goat, sheep or even chicken they can all be used in a similar manner. I have a friend that just gifted my chicken fat (schmaltz) soap. I haven't used it yet but I must tell you, I'm excited to! It just needs to sit for a few more days to be fully cured.
If you have any ideas for animal fat, I would love to hear them!
Shared at: Waste Not Want Not Wednesday
Hi there, Wysteria here. I will be writing as regularly as possible on behalf of my family and regarding our adventures in farming, food, health and things of the like. My interest range widely and my brain wanders far. Namaste.