Friday, January 13, 2012

Rendered Suet

Never before have I completed a recipe and quite so adamantly thought, "NEVER AGAIN." Okay, so suet is the beef fat that comes from around the kidneys. It is the purest fat from the carcass, and as such, was very popular for cooking. Kind of like the lard of beef. It is apparently the only thing to use for steamed puddings because of its particular melting point, and a traditional ingredient in pie crusts, mincemeat, and tallow candles.

If you are lucky enough to live in the U.K., you can get it in the form of innocuous pre-processed pellets . I do not live in the U.K.

So, when we bought half a cow recently, I asked the butcher for the suet. He asked what that was, and then said that they call it the leaf fat. He brought out a great big chunk to the yard, hacked off the meaty tendony bits into the Trash Can O' Animal Bits, wrapped it up for me, and said I could come back any time for the same. Usually they use it to mix into ground game meats.

Let's do this.

7:00 a.m- Looked at leaf fat. Resolved to make it into suet today.
8:00- Looked at leaf fat. Resolved to make it into suet soon.
9:00- Looked at leaf fat. Resolved to make it into suet soon.
10:00- Looked at leaf fat. Resolved to make it into suet soon.
11:00- Looked at leaf fat. Resolved to make it into suet soon.

12:00 p.m.- Convinced husband to cut it into chunks. Cut one chunk myself. Had severe hibbity jibbities. Vowed never to do it again. Husband asked if this was going to smell weird. I reassured him that it probably wouldn't. Possibly. Anyway, it'd probably just smell like beef.

12:15- Put it in the crock pot, with about 2 cups of water.

3:07- Does it smell weird in here? Not super weird, just a little weird?

3:11- It smells weird in here. Is it the suet? It is, isn't it. I should check.

4:00 Lifted the lid of the crock pot. IT IS THE SUET. It does not smell like beef. It smells like fish that has gone off. I hope this doesn't get worse. It isn't too bad as long as you don't open the lid.

4:46- Put crock pot in garage, to quench the smell of death.

5:54- I think it is following me. No. It's just residual.

7:01- suspect stench is infiltrating. Told Husband I was pulling the plug on this project, but he convinced me to try it just a while longer. Sigh.

8:27- The stench may be lessening... or I am just getting used to it.

10:09 p.m., next day- Fat still not entirely rendered. This is taking much longer than I thought it was going to. It doesn't stink anymore! Hooray!

1:43 p.m., the day after that- Looks like pineapple chunks in syrup. Smells... like beef! Admittedly not a super quality in something whose purpose is to go into desserts, but much better than Nasty Fish flavored.

1:48 p.m.: I'm tired of this. I'm straining it.


Still kind of gross. But... less so?

This is after chilling. Creamy and delicious? I guess?

Now, to do stuff with it! Yay.

As a reward for getting through all those icky pictures:

***Edit: Please also visit this much more helpful article on rendering lard here.***


Anonymous said...

I just wound your blog. LOVED this post, both for the fact that you actually figured out Suet, and the humorous telling of your adventure. Thanks so much for sharing!

Jaymie @

Jana said...

Thank you, Jaymie!

Nancy said...

After all that, I surely hope you like your steamed puddings when you make them!

Jana said...

Boy, me too. I guess I could do it again if they were REALLY GOOD...

Nonna said...

THAT was super brave Jana !

The only time we buy suet is in the wintertime to put out for the birds. After seeing what you went through to get the final product I will continue to just buy it for the birds ( I'm such a lily livered chicken )

The final darling, precious photo of your sweet baby was worth the pall of quesiness I felt as I read your funny commentary !!!

Kathleen said...

I like the contrast of fats.

One is nasty and slimy, in the form of suet.

One is precious and coo-inducing, in the form of wrist rolls and neck rolls on a baby.

It's confusing because they are both made of fat.

Jana said...

Thank you, NB. I'm glad I was able to ameliorate the queasiness.

Kathleen, Lookit the wrist rolls! Ee hee hee hee!

Alexa said...

I've never commented before, but I have been reading your blog for some time.

I had to say that, as I am from the UK, I never even knew that the packets of suet that I buy from the supermarket to make dumplings started life looking like that!

I also didn't realise that suet was not available anywhere else - I could have sent you a packet over and saved you the trouble.

Looking forward to seeing what you make with it,



Nancy said...

to Alexa: Your comment has brought up several questions that interest me. Perhaps they are cultural differences between cooking in the UK and the USA.

1. What is a packet of suet? Is it just a package of the fat as seen in Jana's post or is it something else?

2 Could you share your dumpling recipe? For me, a dumpling is rather like a bread that is cooked on top of a soup and includes no fat, so I wonder now what is meant by your dumplings.

I would be most interested to hear your comments!

Jana said...

Thank you for visiting, Alexa! I hope I have not ruined things for you. But then, most tasty meat starts out looking pretty unappetizing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy, happy to share my suet knowledge (never thought i'd be saying that!)

The suet that I buy is in little pellets that look a bit like maggots - I found a picture here :

The pellets are dry and quite hard, so it's not gross at all!

The most famous brand of suet that I buy is called 'Atora' - there might be more information on their website. I know that there are several shops in the US that import British food, maybe one of them sells suet!

You can also get vegetarian suet, i'm not sure what it's made from but it looks and works the same, and is lower fat.

The traditional British dumplings are cooked on top of a meat stew, wait until the stew is nearly finished and then make the dumplings and put them on top for 20 minutes, they come up lovely and fluffy.

I can't think what dumplings would be like without the suet in them, dumplings have a unique texture, kind of spongy, but crumbly, not chewy like bread, and more springy than cake. I'm not sure how to describe it!

There's not much to the recipe, just self-raising flour, suet (half as much as flour,)some dried herbs, and water to mix it all together. Then you roll it into golf-ball sized balls, and put on top of the stew. This is still a really popular dish for Sunday family dinners, not quite up there with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but we have it every month or so during the winter.

Suet is also good for making treacle puddings, spotted dick, jam roly-poly etc, but to be honest these kind of puddings are only really made by the older generation these days, as they're very heavy for modern tastes, and they take a long time to cook as you have to steam the puddings in cloth in a pan for several hours, kind of like a christmas pudding.

Hope I answered some of your questions!


Jana said...

Dumplings are made the same here, it's just usually done with solid vegetable shortening. Love me some chicken soup with dumplings. Mmmm.

As a side note, Queen Victoria was a big fan of suet puddings, and basically subsided on that and beef. Victorians were pretty suspicious of vegetables.

Nancy said...

Thanks to Alexa and Jana for all the clarifications! It turns out that I make dumplings from (dare I say it?) the recipe on the low-fat Bisquick package, and apparently that mix already has a shelf-stable shortening in it.

Lynn Siprelle said...

First: BABY!! :D

Next: Do it in the oven or on the stove top in a dutch oven. Crockpot is suboptimal; you'll never get it all rendered out. Also cut it in smaller chunks next time.

It's gonna smell bad. Lard smells bad when you render it, too. I try to do it on warmer days when I can open a window or five. If you have a hot plate, you can do it in your garage or somewhere.

My article on this is listed in Wikipedia under "lard"; it's linked to my name here. :)

Jana said...

Thank you for your expertise, Lynn! I will link you accordingly.

Nurse Heidi said...

Holy buckets, you are a BRAVE woman!

Brock said...

Yay for Jana! I soooo love your zest!

Jana said...

Thank you, Brock!

Robin said...

I can hardly wait to see the wonderful time-traveled recipes you will make with the suet. The smaller you chop or grind the suet, the more useable fat you can render. If you ask your butcher, he might run the hunk-o-suet through the grinder and save you or your husband from chopping it! Do render the fat outside over a propane burner, hot plate or grill--life is just much nicer that way. If you ever want to try making soap the old fashioned and thrifty way, you don't have to buy a chunk-o-beef fat. You can save the fat from browing ground beef. Just pour the drained fat into a large jar each time and keep it in the frige. When the jar is full, put everything in a pot with a couple of cups of water, melt and bring to a boil. Then pour it into a bowl, cover and cool. When it has cooled down put it in the frige to solidify. When the tallow is solid, take it from the bowl, leaving the water behind, and scrape off the thin film of meaty bits that you never seem to avoid collecting when you drain the fat. Viola! You have a nice chunk of tallow that can be bagged and thrown in the freezer 'til you are ready to make soap--or tallow candles. Down here in the south, dumplings are pretty much made the same way with flour, fat, salt and water. But we roll the dough out 1/4 inch thick and cut it into inch or so wide by two inches or so long pieces. We toss the pieces into boiling chicken stock (home made being the best, of course) and cook them. You then add the chopped meat from the chicken and a couple of boiled eggs that have been chopped up (the egg is optional, but traditional in my family.) YUM! Southern dumplings are more like home made noodles. The biscuit like dumplings cooked atop stew are called Yankee Dumplings down here.

Jana said...

Thank you, Robin! Your tip about getting the butcher to run the fat through the meat grinder is an excellent one.

I have a deep love for both kinds of dumplings; the bready ones and the noodley ones.

Illy Mooncat said...

Hey! Found your blog yesterday and have read the whole thing. :D. I was reading your suet adventure while I was sitting in jury assembly (So. Boring.) and trying not to laugh too hard. Especially at the 'Put crock pot in the garage to quench the smell of death' comment.
Also, raw meat gives me the hibblie jibblies too. I can't even touch it without gagging and freaking out. So you're totally not alone. My fiance just doen't understand the grossness.

Jana said...

Thanks so much! I hope your fiancé assists you on raw meat handling occasions.

Victoria said...

omg, you had me rofl. soo funny. ah *wipes away tears of laughter

so good. thanks. I needed that.