Saturday, August 10, 2013

Making Beef Tallow

Beef tallow is one of those things that unless you're a whole foodie like me, that you'd probably never even THINK of using!  I mean, a few years ago the very thought of cooking in animal fat was a huge no no in my mind!  The very idea that people cooked in or consumed any amount of fat was just appalling to me!  Didn't they know that's how you got fat!?

Ha ha ha!  Oh how I've learned differently!  Of course!  I mean, I make my own butter now too and you couldn't pay me to buy margarine.  So, why not find animal fats useful for cooking as well?  Not only is it good for cooking, it's also useful for making soap!  Beautiful, wonderful, lovely soap!

So today, I'm going to show you how incredibly easy it is to take a humongous slab of cow fat and turn it into something useful.

I'll start by saying that if you choose to use your tallow for food consumption, PLEASE be sure that it is from 100% pure grass fed pastured beef.  Know your farmer, know your food.  ;)  However, if you only plan to use your tallow for soap, then you can utilize any beef suet (fat) that you can get a hold of.

I called around to see what I could come up with.  My local farmer that we buy our bulk beef from was willing to sell me some grass fed suet for $1.50 a pound.  When we buy our 1/4 cow, he always throws in the suet as part of the package deal anyway, but if I were to buy it separately, then that was has asking price.  Not a bad deal for high quality suet that I'd feel good about frying up some potatoes in!

A nearby meat locker was willing to sell me their grain fed beef suet for $1.20 a pound.  And better still, the little butcher shop right down the road from me was willing to GIVE it away!  So free, of course, is always better.  :)  I was able to pick up 15 pounds of beef fat for nothing.  Most places simply throw away the fat anyway, so they truly aren't out anything by giving it away.  However, because it is not grass fed, this will only be used for soap. I'm not a big bird person, but of course this could also be used for suet bird feeders as well.

So of course your first step is to obtain some beef fat. AKA suet.

Cut it in some chunks or cubes.  The smaller it is, the faster and more efficiently it will melt down.  Leaving it in large chunks makes for a much longer process.   I did get lazy towards the end and make bigger pieces cause my arm was about to break and I physically could not cut any more.  But smaller is better.

Throw it in a large pot and turn it on Medium - Medium High and just let it melt.  

Let it melt, simmer, cook down until the remaining pieces of fat turn brown and crispy and all of the oil that is usable is out of it.  Then you'll strain it.

I forgot to take a picture of this step.  Sorry!  I used my large mesh over-the-sink strainer with a large piece of an old clean t shirt cut to line it, then sat it over the largest stainless steel bowl I had and just let it strain.

Once that was done, I put it in some baking dishes I'd lined with wax paper.  Previously when I did this I just poured it straight into some glass mason jars, but it was incredibly difficult to get it out once it was hardened. This time around,  I put it in the baking dishes, and let it set on the counter until it had slightly hardened and then put it in the freezer to continue hardening.

When it was fully hardened, I turned it over dumping it out, breaking it into pieces, and then froze it in Ziploc baggies in 1 pound portions.

Now, whenever I'm ready to make some soap, I've got my beef tallow ready too!  :)

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