Here’s an article from Sandra Lane at The Organic Prepper on how to render tallow and a mention of several uses for it – soap, candles, moisturizer, balm, cooking.
While some recipes call for removing or cutting off the fat from meats, a few require the addition of fat. Whether it is oil to coat a soft ball of bread dough, or solid fat cut into a pie crust, sometimes added fat is needed for cooking. Recently I came across recipes for well-circulated survival food, pemmican, that called for tallow, and I had no clue what they were talking about. Being from the South, I knew what lard was, but not tallow. So off to do some research.
What is tallow?
I discovered tallow, real tallow, is the product of rendering suet, which is the white fat layer surrounding an animal’s organs; namely the kidneys and loins. But it’s also been the more modern name for the product rendered from basic beef fat and/or lamb fat as well.
Tallow has been, and still is, used in everything from soap to candles, moisturizers to lip balm, and is a source of nutrients including niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and riboflavin. From my own personal experience, I can tell you it’s pretty darn awesome.
My tallow experiment
When I was making pemmican to write my article about it, I decided to render some tallow, too.
The first thing I did was pull a few roasts out of the freezer. I’d been wanting to cook a roast anyway and, needing the fat for the tallow, I figured I’d carve the fat off the other one and can some stew with the rest of the beef. It wouldn’t be the good stuff; the fat from the organs, but it would be tallow. And since it was frozen, the fat was easy to work with and remove from the outside. The marbling inside was a bit more difficult to get to so I had to let it them thaw some to get to the rest of it.
After cutting all the removed fat up into smaller pieces about a ½ inch to an inch in size, I put them in a small saucepan and then started to cook them down. It’s recommended that this part of the recipe, making the tallow, be done in a crockpot. But I wasn’t making very much pemmican and so didn’t expect I’d need much tallow. It didn’t take me long to figure out I should have started making the tallow the day before. Turns out the fat has to be melted down slowly so as not to burn it. So, I had hours at minimum to kill.
After a little over 4 hours, I had rendered enough tallow to finish the pemmican (almost 2 cups). I only knew it was done because there were some funny looking things floating on top of a clear yellowish liquid. I was surprised it was a yellow color. Using a cheesecloth over a mesh strainer (that was in turn over a metal funnel sitting in a clean mason jar), I poured the tallow into the jar, leaving out enough for the pemmican.
It’s said that the ‘cracklins’ that are left can be seasoned and eaten, or fed to pets, but honestly, I just threw them away because there wasn’t much, to begin with, and they were mushy. I’m thinking if I’d cooked it longer, or maybe even fried them up, they might have been crispy.
Then I made the pemmican, which was easy, and began wiping my hands off on a paper towel. It was at that point I noticed the little jar of tallow I’d poured.
It was no longer yellow but almost white, and hard, at room temperature. Now, I keep my house cool – right around 69 degrees, so I totally understand that room temperature for me is cooler than it may be for others, but the grease hardening that fast was amazing to me. I then looked down at my hands and realized the paper towel just wasn’t going to cut it. Does anyone remember how an older person would tell us as kids not to pour grease down the sink because it would clog it up? This was the stuff they were referring to. Not the canola oil or the vegetable oil, or even the Crisco. Nope. It had to be Tallow. It was coagulating on my hands. Either I was dead, or this stuff was solid at 98 degrees F.
Turning the hot water knob on I squirted some homemade foaming soap on my hands and start to rub, and ended up making a soapy greasy paste. With a big sigh, I squirted some more, then some more for extra measure. Nope – not gonna cut it. My hands felt like they do after I’ve mixed up a meatloaf and put it in the pan; only they smelled like lemon instead of ketchup. I usually use food handlers gloves when I play around in food but I just had to see how that pemmican felt, and now I regretted it.
Then I spied the Dawn dishwashing detergent, remembered the slogan, and thought ‘What a wonderful time to test that!’. Twice with Dawn and some hot water and my hands were clean. At least Dawn takes this grease out of your way. My hands were clean. And soft… I cannot describe to you how soft and supple my hands were at this point. They weren’t greasy – they were soft. And – I kid you not – they looked like my daughter’s hands who’s 20 years younger than me. This was some miracle stuff!..