Can you ever get enough of those long chain organic acids, the essential ingredient in any recipe. Not just any fat but the highest quality fat that you can lay your hands on. Fat is not just the ideal medium to carry flavor but also many vitamins are consumed through fat. So what can I say, fat can be a healthy choice.
There does seem to be a lot of discussion around on the benefits of the traditional unadulterated animal fat as being a better alternative to manufactured grain based, partially hydrogenated, oils. My personal rule of thumb is the less manufactured a food ingredient the more suitable it will be for food and more importantly flavor. Suet is the beef organ fat surrounding the kidneys, it is a long chain fat whose chains are 17 carbon atoms long (according to Wikipedia). It which can be melted or rendered down to tallow which is a clean white solid fat at room temperature.
When I first started thinking of using more fat in my cooking I got some from the local supermarket. I don’t think what I bought was a quality product as it made me feel a little queasy and I had to throw most of it out. As a sidebar many products on the supermarket shelf are misleadingly labeled; if something is low fat it will usually mean high in sugar and I also found of 15 brands of cream only one actually had 100% cream as the ingredient. Back to the subject, I did eventually find a small block of quality tallow and this was much better eating experience. This led me to the next step of sourcing my own suet and rendering my own tallow, I could then control the whole production process.
My local organic butcher carried the raw suet at around $6.00 a kilogram which I thought was reasonably cost effective. With two kilograms (about 4 pounds for the non metric) in hand and I estimated 20% to 30% wastage I should get enough tallow to last me a few months. Suet is the organ fat from around the kidneys and it is different to muscle fat with a cleaner flavor, once rendered down to tallow it is solid at room temperature, long shelf life and also higher in vitamins. Also there is the claim that the fats are also more balanced especially with grass fed organic at 50% saturated fat.
On the practical side, especially if you have an aversion to manufacture grain based manufactured fat (yes I admit to this level of paranoia), tallow has no trans fats and a high smoke point meaning that it can be used for high temperature applications such as deep frying.
If you have any old recipe books they will often use tallow in things like pie crusts. I have seen a lot of examples where the word “tallow” is used interchangeably with the word “lard” which is technically referring to rendered pig fat, and “leaf lard” is the equivalent rendered organ fat from the pig. The pig based “lard” is softer than tallow at room temperature and is often used differently in those old school cookbooks that used it as a recipe ingredient.
- 1 - 2 kg Suet
- Grind the suet into a paste, I use the meat mincing attachment on my stand mixer
- Add heat, I put it in the oven for 1.5 hours on 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Once fully melted scoop off the waste floating on the top.
- Pour off the hot liquid into a clean container through a sieve.
- Let this stand at room temperature until cooled
- Break up the hard tallow which will now be on top of liquid that settles out below the fat.
- Melt tallow in the oven again.
- Pour off the hot liquid through a sieve into the final container for storage, I use a Pyrex container with a lid. Alternatively molded it into blocks.