How to Render Tallow
Now I’m going to warn you here before you go any further, this isn’t the most beautiful tutorial I’ve ever posted here on LHL. But I will also tell you that it might just be one of the most useful. So if animal fat doesn’t bother you, read on!
Last fall we finally were able to butcher our own cow. No, we didn’t do it by hand. Personally I think it was well worth the cost, time, and stress to let the local butcher do his job! But we did raise this guy here on our little farmstead and even though we’d purchased meat in bulk before from family, this was our first full cow. You better believe that I was going to get my money’s worth!
When we spoke to the butcher about the processing I was very clear that I wanted back any useable parts of the cow, including the suet (fat) and the bones that are best for stock. I was very happy that I made this request because we got back over 100 pounds of bones for stock making and 6 very large bags of suet for making tallow. We are currently on our second batch of tallow and today I wanted to share with you how we make this wonderful product.
How to Render Tallow
Tallow is useful for just about everything from frying veggies to using as a lotion on your skin. I don’t think you can find a better tasting homemade french fry than one that was fried in fresh tallow.
The good thing is…tallow is super easy to make. Messy, yes, but very easy. The bad thing is that decent suet can be hard to find. If you are searching for some, be sure and ask your local butcher first, many families may not get back their suet when they butcher a cow.
All you need to render tallow is a slow cooker, a bit of water, and your suet. You will also need a strainer and some freezer containers to clean and store the finished product.
Start by placing 1/2 cup of water in a slow cooker. If you have more than one slow cooker, use the one that you don’t care about as much. The one pictured above is my stock/tallow slow cooker. It’s very useful but no longer very pretty! I generally use 1/2 cup of water if I put in 2 pounds or if I put in 5 pounds, it’s just to keep the suet from burning in the bottom of the slow cooker while it renders.
Time to place the suet in the slow cooker! As you can see, I just put mine in as is since I’m storing the bags of suet in the freezer until I’m ready to work with them. If you have thawed suet it will take much less time to render if you are able to cut it into smaller pieces. Either way will work though.
This is a picture after the suet has been cooking on high for about 2 hours. You can see that the pieces have come apart and sit much better in the slow cooker now. You will want to stir around the pieces every hour or so to keep them from burning.
This picture was taken after about 3-4 hours of cooking time. It doesn’t look much different from the top but you may be able to see how the suet is beginning to cook down and it’s only filling up the slow cooker about half way now.
This picture was taken after about 5-6 hours of cooking. You can clearly see that most of the suet has become liquid and there is only a small amount of white pieces that still need to cook down. At this point your mixture will be bubbling pretty good and you will want to turn it down to a lower tempature setting if you haven’t already done so.
Once most of the white is gone from your suet pieces and just the cracklings remain, it’s time to turn off the slow cooker. You can let the mixture sit for just a little bit to cool down but do not let it sit for long or it will harden and create a big mess.
(I apologize here for the lack of pictures of the next part, straining the liquid has to be done quickly and it can be rather messy….I didn’t get pics this time!)
Next you will place a Mesh Strainer like the one pictured above over a large bowl. You will need to have your jars and containers ready to go. I’ve tried placing the tallow directly into the jars with a funnel and cheesecloth but that made a huge mess, the mesh strainer is the way to go.
Very carefully pour the liquid into the bowl while straining it through the strainer. Once you’ve emptied the slow cooker, move the strainer out of the way and quickly ladel the liquid into your jars or containers. I use jelly size mason jars with plastic lids as my freezer containers. It’s great for holding the hot liquid and a good size to get out when you need a jar…not too big.
The liquid will begin to cool very quickly but per sure and let the jars sit for at least a half an hour before placing them in the freezer, you don’t want any jars to break. This is liquid white gold!
Isn’t the final product beautiful?
You can use the tallow in your cooking like you would butter. You can also use it (slightly softened or at room temp) as a good lotion for very dry skin (you only need a little bit).
I like to use tallow in baking recipes instead of shortening. I make some wonderful dairy free scones and an allergen free pie crust using tallow that my family just loves! (Yes, it’s the one pictured above, remind me to share the recipe this fall, it’s AMAZING.)
You can also use tallow for soap or candle making but I haven’t tried either of those options yet since we love it as a cooking/baking product so much. However you decide to use your tallow I’m sure your family will enjoy it just as much as ours does!
Have you ever used or made your own tallow? What was your experience?