Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rendering Tallow, Part II

I'm still not quite clear on whether or not it is appropriate to say that I'm "rendering tallow." Since rendering is the process and tallow is the product, I have a little hunch it might be more accurate to say that I am rendering beef fat and thereby creating tallow.

"Rendering tallow" sounds cooler though. It might fit right in with other retro-chic crafts, like knitting soakers or transforming a vintage dress into a calico duster.

"Rendering fat", on the other hand, just makes me think of Tyler Durden in my kitchen with a bag of medical waste. I'm not sure I want to sample that variety of pemmican. ("Suet green is people!" Meh. At least it's not made of soy.)

Back to my tallow. Recap. Last time I was attempting to follow Lex Rooker's pemmican manual, but I don't have a candy (that word should be banned) thermometer and I ended up burning my tallow. Having never seen the stuff before in my life, I wasn't entirely certain at first that I'd burned it. But honestly, given the taste, I was sure hoping I had.

I briefly considered attempting a wet render, but I was concerned that something nutritious might be lost if the fat commingles with a bunch of water that will later be discarded.

So this is what I did instead:

1) First I trimmed the excess meaty bits from the fat and discarded the meat.  Suck it, American Heart Association.

2) I put the fat through the food processor with the cheese shred disc. Afterward it looked much like it had been through a meat grinder.

3) I got it bubbling like this. I melted it all on low and then turned the heat up to medium. As it bubbled, I could see water vapor escaping. That's good! I know I want as much water removed as possible so that my tallow will not spoil. 

4) When there were no longer many bubbles, I ran it through my strainer. I love my strainer. It has been used by four generations now, if you count caveboy rinsing his own berries. The cracklings were brown and actually tasted pretty good this time. Last time when I burned the tallow, they were awful.

5) I made a double filter with two coffee filters, one above and one below the strainer.

6) I ran the melted fat through the filters. This system would have worked wonderfully, had I not thwacked it clumsily with my hand. As it was, I caused it to slip and ended up with a few crackling crumbs in my tallow. I was too impatient to run it through the filters again, so I just accepted this batch will be imperfect.

7) I let the tallow cool on the counter, then placed it in the fridge overnight. My hope was that if there was any water remaining, it would sink to the bottom.

8) In the morning I cracked the tallow with a knife and dumped it out. There wasn't even the slightest film of water underneath. Success!

Sure, the first bite seemed a delicate melange of Crayola, candle wax and Irish Spring. (What can I say? I've tasted a lot of things in my time.) It's growing on me, though.

So. Now I can make tallow. Next stop? Maybe this.


  1. Curious - what do you do w/ tallow? I have some I bought from US Wellness Meats that I use to sautee veggies. Other than pemmican (which I would like to try and make but haven't gotten around to doing yet), I am not sure what else to do with it. Do ZC'ers heat it up and pour it on their meat?

  2. I've read that on ZIOH, yes! Some posters say they use tallow to supplement cuts of meat that aren't fatty enough. Tallow can also be used to fry poultry or other meats, which I guess would add some extra fat, too.

    So far I've mostly been using butter to go along with my lean cuts since it is more familiar to me. Based on what I've read in other people's journals, I guess I'll probably get to liking the tallow better after a few months. Right now it seems too bland. Has it grown on you?

  3. I don't use it much. I've been putting butter or ghee on steak or burgers. Perhaps a dap of tallow next time.

    My wife doesnt like veggies sauteed in it. I think it's fine.