Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Render and Can Tallow

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.

The Method

Alright, so you've got your beef fat.

Now what?

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.


Pattylynmeyer said...

Wow!  Thanks for sharing this info.  I'm thrilled to try it as soon as I can. :)

Jules said...

Can I cook/bake with this? As in substitute it for margarine (or oil)  in recipes? The more I read, the more I would like to do this too. Just haven't jumped in yet

Farmer's City Wife said...

Yay! :) You're welcome, Pattylyn!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Hm... I've heard of people making pie crust with tallow (though lard is used more commonly there) but I'm not sure I'd want to put it into cakes or cookies. It has enough of a beefy flavor to it that I wouldn't want to risk it. So I'd say tallow is probably not a good replacement oil in baking, but I've liked it so far to cook savory foods in (both deep frying and just adding a tablespoon to the pan).

Expeller pressed (as opposed to cold pressed) coconut oil is flavorless and is, purportedly (I haven't tried it even though I have some), great for baking. It's pretty expensive, though. If nothing else, I'd make the upgrade from margarine to butter which is always an equivalent baking substitute :).

The_Extremely_Bearish_Bear said...

WOW!  This is cool.

WifeMommaHomemaker said...

This has been on my "to-do" for over a year! I keep looking over the beef fat I have in my freezer from our last cow. Now that the cooler weather is approaching in Texas maybe I'll get in the mood :). Thanks for the post!

Karen said...

Wonderful instructions, thank you.  I have done chicken fat and fat from a ham.  Beef is the only one missing.  I particularly like the info about canning it.  I've previously stuck to small amounts that I have freezer and fridge space for.

You've gotta try homemade potato chips with some of your stash!  Oh, yes, you do!  Slice thinly, a mandolin is useful, but not mandatory.  Keep in a bowl of cold water till all are sliced, about 1 1/2-2 good sized potatoes equals a bagful.  Deep fry in small batches.  We don't even bother to salt, they're so good.

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks :).

Farmer's City Wife said...

I feel the same way about the liver in my freezer! :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Oh goodness, Karen, now you're talkin'!! I've got my potatoes and tallow lined up... now to borrow a mandolin! :)

Lisa Gale said...

Okay I did it.  Finally...And the smell was so bad we nearly died.  My husband gagged more than once.  Did yours smell bad?  I will say that when I made beef broth from the bones of this same cow, the smell wasn't that good either.  We were really surprised it didn't smell good!  So I'm wondering if it was the particular cow fat we used or if we were just not ready for that smell to take over our house!  Now I am too scared to open one of the jars and heat up the oil.  Is that smell going to come back when the fat is heated up again???

Farmer's City Wife said...

Grass-fed beef, right? Here's the deal (which I suppose I should've mentioned in the post, hehehehe), grass-fed beef fat, even on the cuts of meat, is often (nay, usually?) nasty because the butchers don't hang it long enough. Most grain-fed beef you buy in the store is aged for three weeks or so which makes the fat taste a lot better, but usually small grass-fed operations don't spring for that kind of hang time at the butcher's, resulting in nasty fat.
Rest assured, the fat isn't rancid (well, I guess I can't give you a 100% guarantee of that, but I'd bet $$ on it), it's just not been hung long enough. Here's the other deal: it WILL smell nasty again when you cook with it, but it won't taste bad on the fried food.
Mind you, I don't use tallow to fry delicate foods (like fried shrimp) but I fry chicken fried steak in it, fried chicken and french fries. Once the frying smell subsides (which it does, with candles, hehehe), it's really a delicious meal.

Lisa Gale said...

Okay - that makes perfect sense.  I actually tried to make hash browns in the tallow the other night and the flavor was good but the smell stuck in my nose a little too much.  I'm going to see if our farmer will ask the butcher to hang it for a while and we will just pick it up on our own instead of making him go pick it up for us.  Thank you!!!!!!!!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Essentially, I think, the heat from the hot rendered fat itself will seal the jar. I don't think extra processing actually helps because the fat is hotter than the boiling point of water. The method isn't Ball-approved, but it works wonderfully for us :). My tallow and lard are (for my purposes) quite shelf stable.

I love schmaltz, by the way! Those crispy chicken skins are a great treat too.

Paul said...

Cool that helps me a lot, it makes sence, I have seen ppl can butter etc by bringing the temp up in the oven but the hot fat would do that, I guess I know what I am going to do this weekend. Love your blog by the way :)

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks so much :). Hope your project turned out well! I'm going to try canning more beans this week; fun stuff.

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