When we took our steer to the butcher, I asked for the fat to be included in our order. Most folks don't ask for the fat from their animals, but we brought home four bags of suet to be turned into tallow.
I stuck the bags in the freezer until I had time to deal with it, and eventually I took an afternoon to render one of the bags into clean tallow for cooking and soapmaking. I use tallow to fry foods; it contains a little less than 3% polyunsaturated fats, just a bit lower than coconut oil and is much better for you than vegetable oils.
If you are going to purchase beef fat to render, look for grass-fed beef.
First I cut the big pieces of fat into small pieces so they would cook out more quickly. Next time I'll let the fat thaw before I start the project; it would be much easier to cut.
The bag contained so much fat that I had to use my two largest pots. I added some water to the pots and brought it to a slow boil, then turned down the heat and let it simmer for several hours.
One pot was obviously done first - the solid fat had disappeared, and in its place was golden yellow liquid fat. The second pot took longer and stayed a lighter, translucent yellow.
I poured the contents of each pot through a strainer and into tall glass containers. Be very careful doing this; the hot fat can burn you much worse than boiling water.
Then I put the containers in the refrigerator to cool overnight. Even though one batch had deeper colored fat, they both hardened to the same white color.
By the next day the fat had congealed on top, and I could separate the thick layer of solid fat from the little bit of water on the bottom. I gave the bottom a quick rinse with hot water and put the hard fat in a bag in the freezer.
NOTE: Be careful when you clean your pots and utensils. Hot fat poured down your drain will congeal and stop up your plumbing.
If you think your tallow needs to be a bit cleaner - sometimes it will smell of cooked meat, for instance, or the bottom portion of the chunk will look a bit dirty - you can separate the solid fat from the water, add it back to the pot with fresh water, melt it and strain it again. It doesn't take long to redo it, just enough to melt the solid fat and then let it harden again in the refrigerator.
This one afternoon's work netted me 3.5 pounds of rendered tallow. It's the whitest of white, smooth and hard, absolutely beautiful chunks.
Tallow will last nearly forever in the refrigerator or freezer. You can also pour hot tallow into canning jars and let them cool, then keep them in the pantry. Label and date each container so the oldest ones are used first.
My next project is to render several large bags of fat from our pigs into lard, using the same method.
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a
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