Rendering Tallow February 23, 2013 14:00

One day Asia showed up to work with a bag of suet from the butcher.  In this case, we're talking about the leftover fat trimmings from cuts of beef.  They're cheap from the butcher store, or if you eat a lot of meat at home you may have them lying around.  The process is basically the same for other animal fats - pork fat becomes lard, deer, bear, goat and beef all yield tallow, and chicken fat is still called chicken fat.

 2012-09-19 15.14.11
Step one: grind the fat or slice it into small chunks.  If grinding, it helps to freeze the fat beforehand- otherwise it tends to get slippery and turn to paste.  We're using a Weston manual grinder here.


 2012-09-19 18.14.32
Step two: add water and start boiling!  The amount of water isn't critical so just use enough to cover the ground or chopped up fat.  You'll want to check on it periodically and add more water as needed.  You'll notice we did this outside - I don't find the smell to be terrible, but it's pretty strong.  A good hood fan in your kitchen would probably be enough.  We simmered this for two hours or so.


 2012-09-19 20.54.56
Step three: when you're good and ready or after a couple hours, pour the boiled mixture through a cheesecloth lined colander into a bowl or pot.  All the gristly meat bits will stay at the top and the liquid tallow and water will settle below.


 2012-09-19 20.55.12
Step four: let the tallow and water settle in to layers as they cool.  The remaining water is there at the bottom with a thick tallow layer at the top.  We let it cool to almost room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator overnight.


 2012-09-21 10.59.54
Step five: take the bowl out of the refrigerator and scoop off the now-solid tallow.  The watery bit at the bottom will have solidified into gelatin.  Congratulations!  Your fresh tallow will still have a slightly meaty smell, but this will disappear during saponification if you use it for soap making.  We got about 50% yield by weight if I recall correctly; 6lbs of suet got us around 3 lbs of tallow. Hot tip: you can render pork kidney fat in similar fashion to get the best possible lard for flaky pastry dough.


 2012-09-19 21.10.12
 Step six: deal with the leftovers.  The remaining gristly solids from step three could probably be eaten, but they're rather unappetizing.  We divided them between a bokashi bucket composter and a NatureMill Ultra.


 2012-09-19 21.11.21
Still step six: bokashi refers to a sealed-bucket method of composting and also the mix of wheat bran and microorganisms used to inoculate it.  Here we're sprinkling bokashi over the gristle to encourage it to break down anaerobically.


 2012-09-19 21.08.01
Still step six: gristle in the NatureMill Ultra.  This plug-in kitchen composter is supposed to handle meat scraps easily, so we tossed some of the gristle in here to see if it would actually convert to nice finished compost.

 We used our tallow for making natural soap.  We've got some photos which we'll post eventually.  Meanwhile if you're curious, come ask questions or consider taking a soap-making workshop: