I realized, about a week ago, that I haven’t been cooking with lard like I normally (and fairly recently) like to do. Grass-fed, organic eggs are at their tastiest when fried in lard instead of butter or bacon grease. What you taste is just the yummy egg, untainted. If you haven’t eaten grass-fed, organic eggs you are missing out! Eat them for a few weeks then go back to the regular styro-foam containered eggs and you’ll realize just how bland the ones you have been eating for years really are. There’s also a huge difference in color and nutritional value. Chickens are not supposed to just eat genetically modified cracked corn. They’re supposed to forage around for bugs and weeds and maybe have a little bit of organic feed spread out for them, but they are not naturally vegetarian (since they eat bugs). It’s also not natural to only have white birds with vampire red eyes that live in rows of tiny cages with a bunch of other chickens that are pecking at each other’s eyes. But that’s an argument for another post another day….
Anyway… on the last grocery list, which I sent Honey to the store with, I added lard. But when he got to the store he found none. Upon asking a store clerk where to find it he was told, at this particular Publix, that they didn’t carry it. The very helpful clerk, however, walked him to the meat department and asked for him about lard. They offered him some of the fat that they normally just throw out. CAN YOU IMAGINE????!!! All that beautiful fat just wasted! Well, maybe you can imagine since “in this day and age” we have been brain-washed into thinking that all fat is bad for us. Not so people! Up until World War II all of our commercial fryers were full of lard (and our baked goods were made with Coconut oil instead of Palm oil). When our supply of coconuts and coconut oil was cut off during WWII we started making cheap vegetable oils to replace all oils. Since it was cheaper to make and buy all oil (including that derived from animal fats) was soon replaced with this new oil. When coconut oil was available again companies didn’t want to go back to spending more for healthier oils, so they paid for “studies” to prove how much better for our health the vegetable oils are. The farmer’s who were producing the vegetable oils managed to get lard outlawed in restaurants. Our current “food system” is all politically linked.
But back to our topic here: Making Beef Tallow. The reason I’ve just been talking about lard is because that’s what we set out to get this week. The gentleman in the meat department at our local Publix offered Honey some beef fat, since that’s what he was cutting up that particular day. He gave us, at no charge, a little over 2 pounds of it in fact. After a quick trip to Starbucks, for the Wi-Fi, we found that when you make “lard” from beef it’s actually called “tallow”. So that’s what we made.
Not to gross you out or anything, but this is what a little over two pounds of beef fat looks like. I’m imagining the 10 pounds of weight that I want to lose, this picture makes me all the more determined to work on it.
We read a few different methods for making tallow and after considering them all we decided to go with the stove top method. It just seemed the easiest for first timers like us.
The first thing you need to do is cut away all the meat and bloody spots from the fat. You want to use only the fat so you end up with pure untainted tallow. If you left all that in the meat and bloody bits would burn in the process, giving your tallow an off taste, and it would also cause it to go rancid pretty quickly. Pure tallow (or lard) is very stable and can be stored, unrefrigerated, for quite some time.
We saved the discarded bits for cat food. Audrey has been on a raw diet for quite some time now and this will be a great addition to her diet. Also saving us some money since she’ll be eating less store-bought raw food this way.
Now you should have chunks of pure fat that you will need to cut up into about 1×1 pieces. Add these to a heavy bottomed stock pot. We didn’t cut up the entire 2 pounds of fat because we wanted to do a test run to see how the process works and to see how our tallow turns out. So we have less than a pound of fat we’re working with here:
Add some water, the directions we read said to add about 1/2 a cup of water for 2 1/2 pounds of fat. We didn’t really measure. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.
At this point you will notice that the water has evaporated away and the fat is starting to melt. You’ll also start to see the chunks, or cracklings, beginning to brown a little. This is normal. Since we didn’t use a lot of fat chunks, and we used way too big a pot for the amount we had, the chunks didn’t get to either float or sink to the bottom. But, what you should watch for, is the cracklings to eventually sink to the bottom. This is when you know it’s done.
Take out the cooked pieces. You can save these and use them or eat them however you see fit. We didn’t really think the beef cracklings tasted worth saving, but I suspect the pork cracklings will be a lot better.
You need to strain the oil with a very fine sieve or through several layers of cheese cloth. If any bits or chunks are left in, again, your tallow will spoil or go rancid sooner. Here’s the beautiful golden tallow we ended up with. When it hardens it will become creamy white as in the first picture in this post.
And right away we decided to use it. Just remember every time you cook with your tallow (or lard) strain it well to save it.
And it only made the best home fries EVER!!! Seriously. I don’t cook french fries a lot at home, ok I really never have, because I’m just not a big fan of them. But let me tell you ~ these fries were seriously addictive. You gotta try them!!
Anthony decided to give Audrey a little tasty snack of some of the left-over chunks and she went NUTS-O over it. The rest of the afternoon she spent in the kitchen (in her cupboard with the missing door where she eats now) waiting patiently for more….
And I fully realize I just told on myself ~ Yes, we used a Teflon coated pot to render the tallow in. And yes, we are using non-organic and non-grassfed animal fats. If I had access to my own kitchen ware then we would be using stainless steel or cast iron. We’re using what we have available to us right now. Our next and biggest goal is to find a source for grass-fed/organic fats. But for our experimenting right now we are using what we can get. And I think it’s still a step in the right direction from hydrogenated lard and oils.
We also pass a small farm with a sign out front that reads “eggs and honey”. And can clearly see that the chickens are free ranging. They even have cows and we plan to ask them about milk. But that’s a completely different blog post for the near future. I hope we can go over there for a visit and snap some pictures while we’re there. So be ready for a “Local Eggs & Honey” post coming soon.
FYI – I’m also working on some beef stock as we speak. Still waiting to see how that’s gonna turn out.