I am learning, but it does take a while. This is only our second steer we raised to have been processed into beef, not including Elsa, and I try to be as careful as I can with instructions to our processor as to what to keep. Siegfried hung out at about 540#. I always ask to keep all the organs and the fat, and the scraps and bones for the dogs. Invariably our processor always says that Jerseys won’t have any fat, but I know better.
I am almost out of rendered beef tallow, so yesterday I dug out packages of our new beef fat, and was a little disappointed. I obviously was not specific enough to save the suet (adipose fat or the fat around the kidneys and organs) separately from the body fat (subcutaneous fat underneath the skin.) All the packages were marked beef fat, and the fat was all mixed up.
You can see the suet, or internal fat, on top of the body fat which is on the bottom with flesh still attached.
Both of these types of animal fats have different fatty acids, different melting points and can have a different taste and smell. I like to use internal fat for face salves and pastry.
This is body fat, and one reason why the flavor and odor of body fat can be off is that this is what covers the carcass as it hangs in the processing cooler to age. The outer layer of fat is usually trimmed off because it can pick up odors from the cooler. Another reason to process your meat carefully and know who does it.
It is best if you can render these two types of fats separately, either fat from pork, beef, lamb… I repackaged all the body fat and froze it for later. How can you tell the difference between leaf fat or suet, and body fat? Suet is usually whiter, does not have strips of flesh that need to be cut off,
has a thin clear membrane which holds it together, and crumbles easily.
Now for the rendering part. Here is how I have found to be the easiest and best way to render fat and get a pure white, odorless tallow or lard, with the least amount of work and mess.
1. Many rendering instructions will tell you to grind the fat in a food processor, or chop it finely. Waste of time, and a huge mess. I just chop into chunks.
2. I don’t know if they still make these, but I have an old roaster oven which you can regulate the temperature, it is enamel so it does not leach lead, and it can hold a large amount (18 quarts) of fat to render so you don’t have to render very often. I also use this for super easy roasted bone broth. If you can’t find something like this, such as a slow cooker with a temperature regulator, you can slow render on top of your stove or in the oven. I find that around 250 to 275 is the perfect temperature to render.
3. Do not add water to the fat as many instructions will tell you. By adding water, you have to cook the fat at a high temperature to evaporate the water before canning, which will make it too porky or beefy tasting, and it won’t be pure white. Slowly the fat will begin to melt and become transparent. Stir every so often.
4. By rendering at a low temperature, you are going to ladle off the fat as it melts, making sure that you have enough melted fat to fill a jar. I find that straight sided pint or pint and a half jars are easiest to get the hard tallow out of later. When the jar is full, put the lid on tight and let it cool. In about 10 min. you will hear the lid pop down as it makes an airtight seal.
5. The last thing I do which is much easier and cleaner, is to use a fine screen strainer inside a funnel to strain the melted tallow. Many instructions will have you hot render the entire batch of fat until it is all melted, and then strain it all with some cheese cloth. What a big mess!
Yes, this does take a long time, but you don’t have to watch it, and can just strain off some every few hours or so. When the heat is low enough, it will not burn. It takes about 24 hours, if you are not in a hurry, but you can do it quicker at a bit higher heat, but you need to pay attention, which I’m not very good at.
Rendered tallow, with an airtight seal will keep for a year or two in a cool, dark pantry or root cellar. When the jar has been opened, it is best to refrigerate, but leave at room temperature a while to soften a bit if you are going to use it for pastry.
While the tallow is hot it is a lovely golden yellow, and when it is cool, it is pure white.
It is going to be a lovely day, have a great one!