Yesterday's riddle was: What do candles, soap, and french fries have in common?
The answer: TALLOW!
Beef (bison & sheep) fat = tallow. Pork fat = lard. Chicken (duck & goose) fat = schmaltz. Whale fat = blubber.
Why on earth would you want to render beef lard?
Because it makes the best french fries on this side of heaven.
If you, like me, are trying to get away from highly processed, hydrogenated, or rancid oils, then you'll find it's all fine and dandy until you try to go and fry something.
Olive oil has a very low smoke point, so you can't fry in it. Coconut oil (because of its high smoke point) is great for deep frying, but it's danged expensive at about $50 per gallon. Palm oil? $30 a gallon. Beef tallow cost me (to home render) less than $5 a gallon, which is roughly the same price as a gallon of cheapo vegetable (soybean) oil.
Not only is it cheap, but it goes with french fries like Johnny and June, Sonny and Cher, Milo and Otis! or something like that.
Won't it clog all of your arteries and lead to certain and sudden death? Uuuum... no. Read about it here or here (the second link is about lard, but same principles apply).
Where To Get the Stuff?
Well that's fine, dandy, and great you might say. But where the bazookie do you get grass-fed beef fat? Not at your local grocery store, I can assure you. Yes, they might actually sell beef fat, but you'll probably pay more for it (and it's probably feed lot grain fed high Omega 6 stuff) than if you go right to the source.
CALL A BUTCHER. The guys who have little independent shops that cut up deer for hunters? The guys who will come to your farm to slaughter your hog? Those are the guys. They're everywhere. I never knew butchers existed apart from the guys in the box stores who wear white coats and icky gloves... but once I started looking for them I realized, butchers are everywhere, and despite the fact they kill and gut animals for a living, they're really nice people.
I went to a butcher and asked for "10... no, nevermind, just 5 pounds" of grass-fed suet (the good fat around the kidneys). "How much is it?" I asked. "Ahh... $1 a pound." He ended up giving me 10 pounds for $5 (or 50 cents a pound) just 'cause he would've thrown it away otherwise. He was glad to be rid of it.
Another source, of course, would be straight from a farmer who raises grass-fed beef cattle. Most people don't ask for their suet on a 1/2 or 1/4 beef, so it's discarded.
Alright, so you've got your beef fat.
Chop it into small pieces. Freezing it for 30-45 minutes and then grinding it in a food processor or meat grinder is the best way (because it's quicker to chop and it renders more quickly), but chopping works well, too.
Be sure to cut off any meat that's left on the fat. It'll look like this:
Now, there are (at least) 3 methods for rendering it into tallow.
#1: Stovetop (low heat), until fully rendered.
#2: Oven (250°), until fully rendered.
#3: Crockpot (on low), until fully rendered.
Which one did I do? Why, all 3 of course, to compare for future reference.
A deep skillet for the stovetop:
A dutch oven for the oven:
And my trusty little crock pot:
Which method won?
#1: The stovetop was by far the quickest method. But I also had to stir it every 20-30 minutes or so for a few hours. If you've got nowhere to go for an afternoon, this was (for me) the quickest way.
#2: The oven was the longest but resulted in the least odor while rendering. The smell of rendering tallow isn't awful but it's not like frying bacon, either. The oven trapped the tallow fumes really well, and was pretty low maintenance (just stirred every hour or so, though I probably didn't need to because nothing was sticking).
#3: The crockpot was the easiest... set it on low and let it go. This is how I'll be doing it in the future. I just set it on low, stirred it in the beginning because I was nervous, but then just let it go and forgot about it. It actually rendered more fat from the suet than the other two methods, too (very even heating).
How long does it take? My pieces of fat were big so it took all afternoon... it's not an exact recipe. Just render until the pieces of fat are really small.
Pot covered or uncovered? I did both, and it didn't really matter, except covered cooked faster.
Is it shelf stable?
It can be. Most people put it in the fridge, but canning it is super easy.
There is no method from the USDA about home-canning lard or tallow. But I got a good seal from just the hot-packed jars. Many claim it's perfectly shelf-stable and works just fine. If you're nervous about it, keep it in the fridge or freezer... but that space is at a premium for me so I canned it according to these simple instructions (in fact, after reading several other articles, I didn't even water-bath it).
So there you have it.
I've already fried onions in the stuff and lemme tell you, they were incredible.