Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Three ways to Render Suet

I was fortunate enough to find suet at a local grocer (anyone who has looked for Suet outside of winter at the local grocer may have an idea of how frustrating looking for suet is! Sometimes I can get it from the butcher). This was an extra step I took to add authenticity to mince pies which I served at a recent local event. This is not a step you need to take. Suet, lard and vegetable suet are interchangeable. However, if you get the opportunity, you *should* try to make your own rendered suet, aka tallow.  Many manuscripts refer to the use of "white fat" in cooking which played a vital role in sausages and pies adding moisture to food.

What is the difference between suet, tallow and lard? Real suet is the fat around the kidneys.  I have a sneaky suspicion that most "suet" that you receive is not necessarily "real" suet, but fat located throughout the body.  Real suet has a higher melting point then muscle fat, and this will affect your cooking. Maybe not enough to notice when using it in meat, but in pastry the lower melting point could result in a heavier textured product and not the expected airy texture left behind after pastry has set and the suet has melted.

Tallow is simply suet that has been rendered. Earlier I mentioned that real suet is from the fat around the kidneys? When this fat is rendered it will hard, but fat from around the muscle which has been rendered will remain soft.  Why should you render suet into tallow?  Raw suet contains things you may not necessarily want to eat; skin, vein, blood and/or connective tissue...ick!The beauty of tallow is that it has a higher melting point -and- can be kept at room temperature for weeks without going bad. Outside of cooking, it is has also been used in cosmetics and skin care,  soap and candle making and also in medicine.

There are several different ways to render fat into the tallow.  The process I prefer is done in the crock pot, however, if you do not have a crock pot you can also render it on the stove, or even in the oven.  No matter which process you are choosing to use, the first few steps below will be the same.

To Begin

Trim off any visible bits of meat or skin then place your suet in the freezer. Once the suet has frozen you will want to cut it into blocks and then place it into a food processor for a course grind.

Crock pot Method 

Once hardened cut your suet into blocks and process to a coarse grind. Place your ground suet into a food processor, turn on low and leave overnight. The next day you will find that the suet has rendered completely, leaving behind what is referred to as 'cracklings' which you can eat if you wish. Strain your fat (I used a coffee filter in a strainer), and allow to cool.

Stove top Method

Put the ground fat into a large dutch oven or heavy pot on top of your stove. Turn heat onto low and allow fat to begin to melt. If you are rendering a smaller amount of fat, you will want to check back in about an hour and stir it with spoon.  Continue to cook on low, stirring occasionally with a spoon until all the fat has melted.  You know it is done with the cracklings are crispy.  Strain, allow to cool and store.

Oven Method

Place your suet in a pan preheated to between 175 and 200 degrees. Every hour you will want to remove the pan from the oven, pour off the fat that has rendered, strain it through a cheesecloth, piece of muslin or coffee filter and return pan to the oven.  This process will take several hours to complete. Make sure to look for the crispy browned cracklings. Allow to cool and store.


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