Fat, Lard, Suet, Tallow, Leaf Lard, Back Fat, Caul Fat, Kidney Fat…

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!”


Rendering Mutton Leaf Suet into Tallow on Punk Domestics

14 thoughts on “Fat, Lard, Suet, Tallow, Leaf Lard, Back Fat, Caul Fat, Kidney Fat…

  1. Everything I’ve read says you have to use grass fed animal for their leaf lard to be worthwhile. The pork I just got was home grown and fed on grain, and kitchen scraps like fruits and veggies. Should I not render the lard for a shortening substitute? Should I just make soap out of it? I’m wondering if what I have still has all the healthy fat benefits of grass fed. Thoughts?

    • Hi Keli, actually it is a yes and no answer. Cows and sheep are ruminants and do best on an all grass diet, whereas most pigs need other food to do well. Some breeds can gain on grass only, and extra feed in the winter. Do you know your farmer very well that you got the pig from? I would think that this feed would be just fine, and that the lard of your pig would be very good, certainly much better than any store bought lard (which should never be used because it is hydrogenated and dangerous.) You certainly can render the leaf lard, and other fat to render as well. 🙂

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  3. I can get my hands on some lamb’s kidney fat, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I see that it can be used for cooking fat just like other animal fat. Thank you for the post.

    • I think lamb kidney fat is the very best fat there is, make sure it is grassfed only though. I usually save all my lamb kidney fat for face and body salves and butters though, but it is very special to cook with as well.

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    • Oh Laurie, you definitely should! It is so easy and to have it rendered on hand is so wonderful. Let me know if you have further questions… and thank you for stopping by. 🙂 Jamie

    • I know how frustrating that is! I highly doubt they would save the caul fat for you, as you usually have to process yourself to get that, but you can ask. Also to ask for all scraps and bones for the dogs. It is amazing how much waste there is when you take them to a processor! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  7. YOU are such a dear, and this made me laugh out loud!! I have never gotten any of the leaf fat from our sheep, but I will next time (I think it just goes in with the dog bones most times which might explain the dogs beautiful fur!).And you are Cleopatra, no doubt about it! cant wait to read your next post!! But I do appreciate the doughnut factory smell when I do make doughnuts, did you ever make the olliebollen?

    • Haha! You are just jealous when I said that I’m looking more like Cleopatra with my new salve, but truth be told, I’m just trying not to look like her mummy quite as fast. 😉 I really doubt that we have been getting any of the kidney fat from Kinikin, as when I went in the back that time to observe little Bramble being processed, Angel just quickly set aside the liver, heart and little red kidneys, and everything else was trashed, and I never knew what to ask for then. I’m definitely going to make sure next time to tell them to just pack and wrap the kidneys with the fat still around them, and hopefully that will work. No, I never made olliebollen for the Dutchman, but last night I made him an apple pie, and was out of lard, so I used beef tallow. Best, flakiest crust I’ve ever made.

      I certainly don’t want my face to smell like a donut, in case I ever get pulled over for speeding, I don’t want to be too tempting for Officer Dunkin’. “Am I being detained? Am I free to go?” haha.

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