You want odd looks?
Try mentioning you spent the last few days rendering tallow and you will get plenty thrown your way. But this old-fashioned cooking fat is worth the time and effort to learn a new skill.
Rendering your own tallow is not difficult, the main thing you will need is time. When we chose to process our own steer we did so for several reasons, but one was to utilize everything we could, and one thing he had plenty of was fat. If you don’t raise your own beef you can still render tallow. Talk to a local butcher and ask about the availability of suet, or kidney fat from beef or mutton. Kidney fat, is located around the kidneys of the animal and will be very white and have a waxy feel. It should be easy to remove and sometimes will come out in one big sheet. You can use any fat from the beef but kidney fat will be the mildest tasting.
A Little about Tallow
Tallow comes from beef or mutton fat, also known as suet. It is different from lard, (1) because of the source, lard comes from pigs, and (2) tallow is harder than lard. This makes tallow great for frying but lard is better for use in pastries and pie crusts.
What to do with Tallow
Tallow is an old-fashioned fat that many people haven’t even heard of, or if they have don’t really know how it can be used. Tallow has many uses including in: soaps, candles, wood and leather conditioning, gunsmithing, cast iron seasoning, and of course frying at high temperatures. Depending on what you will be using the tallow for will depend on how it is stored. If you will be using it for later use in soaps, storing it in blocks in the freezer will be preferred. When using for candles you will want to have mason jars and wicks ready when you are rendering. If using for frying it may be easier to get blocks of tallow from the freezer than trying to spoon out solid tallow from a mason jar. Keep this in mind so you can be prepared with your preferred method of storage after you finish rendering.
Why render your own tallow
- Cooking oils and fats you purchase from the store have been hydrogenated, an unnatural combination of hydrogen to oil, making it cheaper to sell but also making it contain trans fat which may be the worst kind of fat to eat.
- Baring you have access to quality suet, rendering tallow is very easy
- As a homesteader, or just someone who likes to raise their own beef, having a nose-to-tail plan for your animal, I think, is part of good stewardship. Learning how to utilize as much as possible not only pays the most respect to the animal, but also cuts down on your bottom dollar. We rendered close to 50 lbs. of tallow, which would have been wasted otherwise.
How to Render Tallow
What you will need
- Crockpot or heavy-bottomed stock pot
- Meat grinder (optional)
- Storage method (i.e. mason jars, baking dishes, ice cube trays)
- Obtain suet and remove any bits of meat or kidney remaining on the fat. I found that working with cold fat is easier so refrigerate overnight if possible.
- Grind fat using meat grinder, or cut into small chunks. This will give you a more complete and faster render.
- Add a small amount of water to your crockpot or stock pot. This will help keep the fat from burning and will cook off during rendering.
- Fill your pot ¾ of the way full of ground fat and cook on low, stirring occasionally. Once it has rendered some you may add a bit more fat to your pot, but don’t fill more than ¾.
- Remember to stir occasionally; you do NOT want to burn your tallow. Burning the tallow will ruin the whole batch.
- You will notice that the fat will melt and will begin to look clear this may take up to 5-6 hours. Also cracklings will float to the top. Cracklings can be used on top of salads or baked into breads, but honestly I just fed mine to the chickens and they loved it.
- Once all the fat has melted and looks clear, cover a large bowl with cheesecloth and strain cracklings and impurities from the tallow.
- Allow the tallow to cool in the bowl until it turns back into a solid.
- Remove the solid tallow from the bowl and any other impurities will have settled on the bottom and can be scraped off with a knife.
- Place the tallow back into a pot and render a second time. Repeat the process of melting all the fat and straining with cheesecloth once again.
- Have the preferred storage method ready and either ladle hot tallow into mason jars, or pour onto a lined baking sheet or into ice cube trays.
- Once the tallow has completely cooled place seals and lids on mason jars and label, slice into cubes if using baking sheets and store in labeled zip lock bags, or remove from ice cube trays and store in labeled zip lock bags.
**Tallow can be stored in the pantry for a month, in the fridge for up to a year, or in the freezer up to five years. **
**Tallow can have an unattractive smell while rendering. You may want to render in a garage/shop or on a porch.**
As I mentioned earlier it is important for us to utilize our meat animals to their full extent and it feels really good to not let things go to waste. And it does feel pretty cool to know I can render my own tallow or maybe it’s just a nerdy homesteader thing.