Tallow is rendered beef or sheep fat that is made from suet (pictured below), which is the fat only from around the kidneys or liver. Other beef fat will render down but will not have the same qualities.
Written and Lived By Stephanie Dayle
Rendered tallow is solid at room temperature, and can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent it from going rancid. This makes it very attractive to those who live off the grid, homestead, or practice emergency preparedness. Tallow can also be made from other animals using fat from the same area.
Making your own tallow, while time consuming, is easy and learning how to make it could be invaluable to emergency preparedness. Making your own tallow means one less thing you need purchase or trade from someone else. Tallow can completely replace your supply of Crisco, it is high in omega 3, vitamin D3, calcium, and contains zero trans-fats. Tallow, being an animal fat is mostly saturated fat. However, it is important to know that recent research has shown saturated fat plays far less of a role in developing heart disease than previously suspected.
The uses for tallow are almost endless. Tallow has a dry waxy texture making it undesirable for sausage and other meat processing, but it does have a high smoke point at 400°F which makes it very useful as a frying or pastry oil. It is commonly used to make: homemade soap, bio-diesel, leather conditioner, shortening in everyday cooking, tallow candles, and feed for small song birds in the winter time. Historically it has even been used to grease train and steam engine parts and rifles.
First you will need to gather your supplies:
- 3lbs (or however much you’d like to do) of Beef Suet – ask your local butcher
- A slow cooker (this can be done over the stove too – it just requires more supervision)
- Small wire mesh strainer
- Lots of Coffee filters
- Wide mouth quart jar, lid and ring
- 2 Quart pot
Beef suet from the store or butcher will always come frozen as suet has a low melting temperature and will begin to melt at room temperature. It is for this reason you should begin to trim and chop it up while STILL FROZEN. Be sure to remove any and all meat and as much blood as possible from the fat – this will help ensure that your final product will last a long time without going rancid. Cut your suet up into 1 inch squares, some people then run it through a grater to get even smaller pieces, but I find an inch to work just fine. Feed the tallow trimmings to your dogs, or chickens so nothing is wasted – both animals can process fat better than people and will enjoy the treat.
Put all the trimmed fat into your slow cooker and set to high (remember the high smoking point – you aren’t going to burn your tallow in your slow cooker). The rendering process will take a couple of hours – longer if you have bigger chunks of suet. You may want to take your slow cooker outdoors or out to the garage because it will smell. The chunks of fat shrink up and turn a golden brown (these are called cracklings) your tallow is ready to strain.
Now comes the tricky part. Remember tallow is always easier to work with and clean up when it is hot. When it is hot, it can burn you.
Wear rubber gloves for some protection and please be very careful!
Ladle the liquid fat and cracklings through the wire mesh strainer into a pre-warmed pot on your stove on low heat. When the slow cooker is empty, take your ladle and press the cracklings in the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. You can then dry your cracklings and put them on your salad, bake them in cornbread, or eat them like pork rinds. Chickens also LOVE cracklings.
Take a coffee filter and put it over the top of your clean quart jar making a little well for the oil, hold it in place with the ring for the jar as pictured. Next ladle your liquid tallow from the pot to your jar. This will take a long time, be patient and change your coffee filter often as it will clog while removing impurities you don’t want in your tallow. If you cheat and use a paper towel or poke holes in the coffee filter you will have to repeat the whole process to get the purity you need.
Tallow will strain better hot – so if it is just barely dripping, increase the heat on the stove to med-low or medium, just keep an eye on your oil, you will smell it if it gets too hot. This is the slowest part of the process and may need to repeat it if your liquid tallow is still cloudy and/or contains sediment. The more pure your tallow, the longer it will last.
Once you have strained all your liquid tallow into the jar (be careful the jar will be just as hot as the oil) clean up the jar and ring so no grease remains on the rim. While jar is still hot, treat a canning jar lid briefly with boiling water just as you would for canning and set it firmly on your jar of hot tallow. Next apply the now clean canning jar ring. Using oven mittens, set your jar in the fridge and leave it alone. It will seal itself just as if you canned it. Keep your tallow in a cool dry place this way for six months or longer – I have kept tallow good this way for a year. It will turn a pretty snow white color and solidify.
You now have tallow ready for storage, cooking, soap making, or whatever you want to use it for!
For more information on saturated fats and health benefits of tallow check out these links: