Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rendering Beef and Venison Tallow

What could be more fun than spending your day rendering beef and venison tallow? Spending your day rendering tallow with your husband! :-)

What is tallow? Tallow is rendered from fat, usually from a cow or a lamb... or in our case, a deer. For whatever reason, rendered and unrendered fat from a pig is called lard. But I digress.

To render the tallow, you cook the fat down, strain out the chunks, and what you're left with is tallow. I know that sounds a bit simplistic, but it's really not much harder than that.

Here's a good link for directions, if you're interested. It tells how to do it in the oven, crockpot, or stovetop. We tried the oven and the stovetop. I prefered the stovetop method, as the oven method seemed to take a lot longer than I'd like... it took all night. However, the chunks were quite a bit bigger than the shavings we used for the stovetop method.

Chunks of deer fat in food processor. My husband kept deer fat from hunting season this year--they process their own deer--and cut off the parts with bloody or meat still on it, so it's purely the deer fat.
Chopped up fat.
The above fat went into a pot and got cooked down.
After it gets cooked, you should be left with hardened bits on top. Strain those off and put the liquid fat in jars, where it will eventually harden. See the bits in the pan below. They're called cracklings, which you can use. I plan to give the deer cracklings to the birds and cats, but I want to use the beef cracklings as a bacon bit substitute.
My husband wanted to clarify the tallow, which we did before it was bottled. In my awesome 1895 version of "The Presidential Cookbook", it says to clarify fat by boiling some sliced potatoes until the potatoes are brown. The potatoes help to get rid of impurities in the fat. The recipe made it sound like the impurities just evaporate, so we ate the potatoes. They were tasty. :-)
Why in the world would we want to make tallow?

You can't buy this type of tallow in stores. At least not where I live. The beef fat we acquired from down in southern Minnesota when we lived there, from a farmer who pastures his cows. Grass-fed fat, that's right. Extra good for you. And you can't buy venison tallow, at least I don't know of anywhere you can buy it. If you can find tallow and/or lard in stores, it's usually hydrogenated. Those are trans fats, which you may have heard are really bad for you.

Also, we love cooking with tallow and lard. Whatever we make with it is so satiating that we feel comfortably full, and feel no need to continue eating.

I think we ended up with 7 pints and 3 quarts of tallow when all was said and done. So we should be good for another 6 months, hopefully.

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