Monday, October 20, 2014

Fat fatty fats

I love fat. I don't want to BE fat, of course. Who does? Fortunately, thus far, I have found that consuming copious amounts of good, pure animal fats has done very little to increase my waistband.

Lack of exercise, on the other hand.....ahem. But that's a different story. ;P

I love eating fats. They make me feel more...solid. Strong, but on the inside. I've always been a bit, shall we say...wispy. "Petite", they used to call me as a child. I'm about the size of a small 12 year old, given the fact that I kind of stopped growing when I was 12. In two of my pregnancies I have struggled to gain and keep weight on, and now that I am breastfeeding my third son (18 months postpartum), I find I am only about oooohhhhhh seven-ish pounds heavier than I would prefer to be.

It's the boobs, you guys. It's all in the boobs. Seriously.

ANYWAY. All that to say, don't be afraid to eat fat! That is to say, good fat. Good fat doesn't make you fat. If your body can digest it, process it, and poop it out, it's not going to stick to you and cause you pain. If it's rancid, adulterated, or otherwise toxic, it's going to get stuck in all kinds of places and wreak havoc on your poor innards. Stick with the good stuff. Home-churned raw butter. Self-rendered tallow. Bacon grease from pastured bacon. Yeeeeaaaahhhhh baby.

No canola oil, you guys. Just don't. Don't. No.

Butter. Tallow. Bacon grease. Lard. Oh yes.

That's right, I said it. Lard. Don't be afraid of your porcine friend! Laaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrd. Frrrrrrriiiiiieeeeend. Truuuuuuuussssst Meeeeeeeeee.....(are you hypnotized yet?...)

Fats make food worth eating. And hence, life worth living.

My logic is undeniable.

I love my logic, don't you?

So. Now that you're all ready to dive into the wonderful world of delicious, savory fats, here's a quick tutorial on rendering said animal adiposity.

First, get some fat from your local butcher. You can try to be all fancy by asking them for "tallow" or "suet", but they might just look at you and be confused until you say " know...the extra FAT.", at which point they might just say "ooooohhhhhh the extra fat! yeah sure, here, have some for free!"

Or they might charge you a dollar for like ten pounds of the stuff. Or they might charge $1 per pound. I dunno. It seems to be sort of arbitrarily decided in my neck of the woods. Maybe butchers have frequent mood swings?

Step One! Chop it up with a big knife. Preferably a heavy knife that you can really lean into. If the fat has been frozen like mine, it can take some effort to break up.

Step Two! Toss it in a crock pot. Cover and turn the pot to LOW.

Step Three! Leave it for 8 hours or so. You might check on it every now and then, but I usually just leave mine overnight.

Step Four! Once it's all nice and melty and the bits are brownish (I'm so technical, y'all), turn the crockpot off and let it sit and cool for a while.

Step Five! Strain it using a clean kitchen towel. I usually strain into a good stainless steel pot. Don't ever strain it into plastic. Newbie Me might have done that a few years back when I was just starting out with this stuff. (Shhhh. We don't speak of Newbie Me anymore. Plastic melts real fast, in case you didn't know.)

Make sure that your oil is a good temperature for this before you do it. It should be warm enough to stay liquid, but not hot enough to burn. You're going to want to squeeze your straining cloth, so if it's burning your hands, it's too hot.

Squeeze all the goodness out of the crispy bits and toss those in the trash or the compost or whatever. Some people say to eat them, and call them "cracklins", but I'm pretty sure those people are wrong. I have never been tempted to taste these gloppy, brown, weird looking remains, and I'm pretty sure "cracklin'" is actually made from a roasted pig's skin. Pig's skin = crackling. Leftover bits from making tallow = soggy and gross.

Step Six! Transfer strained tallow to a clean mason jar and affix a lid to the top. Label your richness and gaze at it in satisfaction.

I don't know exactly how long this lasts, but it is very shelf stable. I know I've kept mine at room temperature for at least a month and never had a problem with it going bad. If you're worried, of course you can always keep it in the fridge, although it will get rather harder in there. Your tallow should solidify as it cools and be a lovely, soft creamy white.

I use mine for sautéing, deep frying, and seasoning my pans mostly (do it properly and you will never have that first pancake stick ever again!). You could use it in baking, but I would recommend having some strong spices in whatever you're baking because it does have a definite beefy flavor to it. There is a specific type of lard that is supposed to be good for baking ("leaf lard", I think), and there is a very specific way to render it very carefully and slowly and specifically so that it is almost entirely devoid of piggy flavor, but I have yet to attempt anything like that. ^_^

Good luck in all your adventures, friends!

This post has been shared on the Homestead Barn Hop!


  1. I am rendering fat at the moment in my oven, not so much to eat but to make soap. My dad used to render pork fat to fry his potatoes in, I remember them being yummy. Might keep the fat off our ducks and render that, I hear that's great with potatoes. Thanks for your post. Blessings

    1. I find that most everything is better when fried in tallow/lard. :) I've even done French fries before and they were just spectacular! I would looooove to have duck fat, I've never eaten ducks at all. Thank you for your comment!!