What’s my favorite? I used to say the creamy, buttery lard from our American Guinea Hogs which absolutely can’t compare to rendered regular grass-fed pork fat. That would be if I’m cooking with it. My old favorite for both cooking and for salves and creams was leaf lard from grass-fed beef, ours happening to be Jersey steers.
Now, hands down for salves and for cooking if I ever can get enough is kidney fat from lambs or mutton. I would never had known this delicacy had our friends not come to the farm and helped process some lambs and sheep and I kept the fat around the kidneys as it was and froze them for later.
Well, later had come, as I had run out of my tallow face salve and I can’t go a day without it in this dry, harsh climate. Instead of beef suet to render into tallow, I wanted to try the mutton suet, called kidney fat, internal fat, or leaf fat.
It was so interesting to me how the deep red kidneys were surrounded by this leaf fat, as if it is some sort of protection for them. It peels off very easily from the kidneys.
And has a thin veil of clear connective tissue surrounding the whole thing. I left this on, as it just melted away into the rendered fat and I wanted all it’s properties in the salve as well.
You can always tell the difference between body fat on an animal and leaf or internal kidney fat, because leaf fat will be more crumbly and will not have blood veins running through it. You might have to trim of a bit of flesh… here and there. Body fat or suet as it is called in beef or lamb before it is rendered into tallow (pig fat is rendered into lard) is more solid and you need to trim off any fleshy parts.
Most people whom I have read about rendering lard painstakingly chop the fat or heaven forbid put it in the food processor and literally grind it into tiny bits before rendering it. Ugh! what a mess, and I definitely don’t do that. If you are a glutton for punishment then by all means.
I just chop the fat into chunks, but in this case with the mutton kidney fat, it basically just crumbled into bits easily.
Another thing you will read about when people render fats, there is always a complaint that the pork fat was too porky, or beef fat was too beefy… and they blame the animal. Not so my fat loving friend, it’s all in the lower temperature method of rendering which will give you a pure white, mild and clean lard or tallow, vs a high heat which will basically make you smell like a donut or a bacon factory.
Put the fat or suet into a heavy covered pan into the oven on about 250, lowering to 200 if it seems like it is getting too hot. It will begin to melt, or render, and as it does, you ladle it into waiting jars. Try and ladle off enough to fill an entire jar, and put the lid on it while it is still hot. When it cools down, the jar will make an airtight seal this way. Rendered tallow and lard with a seal do not need to be stored in the refrigerator until opened, but should be in a dark cool pantry. I store AGH lard in the fridge because it is naturally so soft.
I was going to use all of this mutton tallow for my fancy face salve, so I put the majority straight into the bowl I use for salve making, and kept it warm over a pot of hot water.
As you keep ladling out the liquid tallow, you will get down to the cracklins, and by this time you are probably sick of being so careful, so you can turn up the heat to get the rest of the fat rendered, and crispy cracklins, but you will also get a stronger tallow or porky lard.
It will be a darker shade of tan, instead of pure white, and you can use it for more savory dishes. You can see the last bit of higher temperature rendered tallow in the small jar.
My next post I will explain what I put into my fanciest face salve yet. The secret ingredient even Cleopatra used on her face, and I’m positive when you see me next, you will comment:
“Oh my, I could swear that you look more like Cleopatra every day!”