How to Make Your Own Tallow
Keeping with one of the quintessential homestead values of frugality, we decided to have our butcher set aside all of the trimmed fat from our grass finished beef from this year. Now a person might wonder why would someone want to render beef fat.
First off it seems wasteful and almost disrespectful to the animal to not keep and utilize this fine resource. The fat from your animal harvest is part of God’s bounty and to not make use of as much as possible from the slaughter fails to give the proper respect due to a creature that made the ultimate sacrifice to nourish our bodies. These are not merely commodity products to be wasted and tossed aside on a whim. Our livestock are honored members of the homestead community, and should be treated as such.
Secondly, being grass raised and finished, the fat harvested from our beef is actually quite healthy and nutritious. Grass finished beef tallow is high in omega-3 fatty acids and has the proper omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratio to keep us healthy. This is a fine saturated fat that our bodies can utilize, and can actually reduce cholesterol levels.
Beef tallow can be used in cooking and health care products. Tallow was traditionally used in food frying (it’s what made McDonald’s fries so tasty), and is rumored to be the key ingredient in some of the best pie crusts to be had! Grass finished beef tallow is called for in many homemade skin care products. It is valued for its high omega-3 and vitamin E content for this purpose. Lotion bars, skin creams, and salves can all benefit from a healthy dose of grass finished beef tallow!
Enough of the “Why”, now onto the “How”! The process is really quite simple. You don’t need any special equipment (though a meat grinder does come in handy), and the entire ordeal is pretty painless.
How to Render Beef Tallow
The first step is to gather up a big ol’ pile of beef fat. Have your butcher save the fat from your animals if you raise your own, or you can just stop by and ask them for some (specify grass fed/finished if you can). Most butcher shops are happy to give you the fat trimmings for next to nothing or even free! It’s a waste product for them and they usually have to pay to have it disposed of.
Next chunk up the fat in small pieces. The smaller the better here. This is where the meat grinder comes in handy. If you have access to one, grinding the fat in a meat grinder will yield the highest amount of tallow from your fat and will significantly reduce the time required to render it. If you use the grinder you will have a much easier time if it is partially frozen. The use of a meat grinder is not required, but it certainly makes the process go a whole lot faster!
After you have your fat cut up or ground, put it into a nice heavy pot (we had quite a bit so we used the turkey frier pot), add an inch or two of water to the bottom (this keeps the pieces from burning while you get some fat melted down), turn the burner onto to medium high heat, and let ‘er rip. Stir every so often to keep the bottom of the pot from getting too much stuff stuck to it. The water will eventually evaporate out and you will be left with pure tallow and crispy meaty bits.
After you’ve rendered all of the fat down you should be looking at a relatively clear liquid oil with various bits and chunks floating in it. At this point turn off the heat, line a metal colander with some cheese cloth or a flour sack towel, and strain your rendered tallow through the cloth, and into sterilized glass mason jars. Wipe the rims of the jars down, grab some hot lids, and screw the bands down. Most of the jars will seal as the jars cool down. Any that don’t just make sure to use them first. The unsealed jars will last for several months stored in a cool dark place, and the sealed jars can last for years this way.
As the tallow cools it should solidify and take on a nice white color. The flavor of the tallow should be mild and pleasant. Use your rendered tallow on any recipe that calls for shortening, oil, or grease.
From our three steers we rendered about eight quarts of tallow. This was from some pretty lean beeves, so you can only imagine what kind of yield you can get from a much fattier animal. The process for rendering lard from your hogs is essentially the same, and you can even render bear fat this way. I don’t know if I would try it with lamb, deer or elk, but who knows it could be really tasty, though I doubt it!
Well there you have it simple, effective rendering of super healthy fats for your homestead use!