I have always found something special about being able to figure out how to make my own ingredients, instead of just my own meals. It’s easy to make cookies, or pies, or dressings, but how about making the ingredients that go into the recipes themselves? It brings me a warm fuzzy feeling when I drop a slice of homemade butter into a pan instead of butter I bought at the store, or making pasta from noodles that started out as a pile of flour only 30 minutes before.
Today, I will show you how to make another special ingredient: rendered beef tallow. If you don’t know what tallow is, think of it like vegetable shortening, or something that can be turned into a frying oil with a very high smoke point, that will also impart some great flavor into the food. Tallow is what they used to fry your french fries in, before it became an unfairly- attacked cooking ingredient. Rendering is what the process is called when you turn a hard fat into a liquid fat, “cooking” away all the parts of the fat that can’t be reduced to a liquid. The properties in tallow also make for fluffier biscuits and softer cakes than vegetable shortening could ever hope to compete with. Here’s how it’s done.
First, you will need to procure some beef suet. Suet is the white, cloudy fat deposits that are present around the cow’s kidneys. You can make tallow with any fat, but the less contact it has with the meat of the animal, the better, as you will have to spend a lot of time cutting away the meat from the fat before rendering. The great part about suet is that you can get it for about $1.50/lb at the grocery store or butcher shop.
Next, you need to cut your suet into pieces manageable enough for your food processor. It’s best to do this when the suet is right out of the fridge, so it doesn’t get soft on you. We’re looking for the consistency of finely ground beef. Make sure to pick out any big pieces that aren’t fat from the mixture after processing.
Then, put the processed suet into a pan or dutch oven, inside a cast iron. I like to have the cast iron between the direct heat and my suet pot, so I minimize the risk of burning. Turn the burner on to 2, 3 max, and then it’s simply a waiting game. You will want to give it a stir every 30mins or so, and to check for burning.
After that, it’s just a waiting game. You’re looking for 4-6hrs on the stove top, and you will know it’s done when you see a great deal of liquid, and very small bubbles coming up from the bottom.
Remove the pot from the heat, line a pan with waxed paper, and run the suet through a cheesecloth to filter out any undesirable hitchhikers. You can pour it onto the cheesecloth, although I ladled mine because I’m clumsy and didn’t want to spill any.
Let this sit overnight, then simply break into pieces and put in the fridge or freezer. It should last for six months in the fridge, and 12 in the freezer. I will mix mine with a vegetable medley tonight, and stash the rest for future use. Now you know how to make tallow: how exciting!
Cooking is like chemistry, and you will feel like a mad scientist in the kitchen in no time once you start making your own ingredients. Bon appetit.