If you’ve ever cracked open the 1885 edition . . .
Of The White House Cookbook, you may have noticed a peculiar list of kitchen “must haves” that includes an ash bucket, step ladder and coal shovel, plus a collection of cake recipes with no baking times or temperatures. This may seem like an oversight at first, but when you take your kids on a tour of President Andrew Jackson’s 200 year old plantation, it will click.
Somewhere between the custom upholstered horse hair couch and bound volumes of newspapers collected over decades . . .
And the perfectly preserved dining room and kitchen – complete with door to the root cellar under the prep table – it will click. Things have changed.
These days, most of us don’t prepare dinner for fifteen in a cast-iron cauldron over an open fire, but we are blessed if we get to taste a bit of history every day.
Rediscovering foods that have nourished countless generations has been one of my greatest joys. I love whipping up batters in my grandmothers bowls, laying out my mom’s wedding linens for special guests, and sitting down to a meal that could have been made today, a hundred years ago, or even two hundred.
It’s truly magical, especially when the cooking techniques are almost as charming and rustic as my great-great-grandmothers. (But let’s be realistic here, I am not giving up my oven!)
In this post I want to share with you a simple technique for rendering tallow, a healthy fat that is finally making a comeback in the kitchen.
What is tallow?
Tallow is rendered beef fat. Before unhealthy vegetable oils took over our kitchens, tallow was often used for frying because it’s remarkably stable at high temperatures. In addition, it contains several components that are thought to be beneficial, such as . . .
Vitamin K2 – This is the elusive “X Factor” studied by Weston A. Price, DDS. It is thought to promote bone health, heart health and optimal brain function.
Omega 3 fatty acids – According to the Mayo Clinic, studies suggest the omega 3 fatty acids may benefit the heart, cognitive function, and joint function among many other things. You can read their full analysis here.
A note on sourcing
Before you run out to your local butcher shop to buy what they have on hand, consider this: According to this study, the CLA content of grass-fed cows is 300-500% higher than what is found in cows fed 50% silage and 50% grain. Another analysis found that tallow obtained from grass-fed beef had four times more omega 3 fatty acids than grain fed.
Also, antibiotics and other unwanted substances given to conventionally-raised cows are likely to be stored in their fat. For this reason, I recommend obtaining beef suet from pastured sources.
How To Use Tallow
- Cooking, frying, and baking
- Making pemmican
- For skincare (it’s the main ingredient in my favorite “naughty” skin balm)
- Making soaps and candles
How To Render Tallow
Note: For instructions on how to make tallow in a crock pot instead of the oven, follow the instructions in this tutorial on rendering lard. Just use beef suet instead.
- Pasture-raised beef fat
- Cut or grind the fat into small pieces
Trim away any pieces of meat or blood as you go. When I first started making tallow I was very fastidious about cutting away every tiny bit that had color. There’s not really any need to do that – just get the big stuff.
Step 2: Place fat in a pot with colander (or a pot with a veggie steamer inside)
Step 3: Place pot in an oven heated to 220F
Over time, the tallow will melt and drip down to the bottom of the pot, while the bits that are not fat will stay on top of the colander. Mash/stir occasionally to keep the suet from burning. The process is complete when all that is left on top is connective tissue that won’t melt. It can take several hours depending on how much you are rendering.
Step 4: Strain
Remove the colander and strain the liquid fat that has dripped into the bottom of the pot through cheesecloth or an unbleached coffee filter. Transfer the tallow to a jar for storage. Pure tallow can be stored at room temperature for about a month, or in the fridge for several months. It can also be stored in the freezer for over a year.