I’m in love with fat. Well, not MY fat, but thanks to my new found love affair with GOOD fats, MY fat is slowly but surely diminishing! Thus begins the story of 13 pounds of fat. My fear of fat began as guilt when I was a little girl, gazing longingly at the fatty roast on the dinner table and asking for some fat, my favorite part. Horror and disapproving looks from my gorgeous, skinny mom, “Fat and butter are bad and will make you fat. Here, have some margarine for your bread.” Needless to say she died young with a myriad of health problems, but was gorgeous and skinny till the end. Too bad I did not know earlier what I am learning now.
Now that I am blessed with our own cows to milk for raw butter, cream… and our own birds, sheep, pigs and steers for our own meat and fat I am learning to make the most of all parts of each animal. I have been cooking with our own lard for quite a while, second to coconut oil, but had never even seen tallow before. Our butcher said that Jersey steers don’t have much fat, so I should not get my hopes up for any suet. Here is our Jersey Steer True, last summer, practicing his freedom on our porch.
We purchased him when he was about three months old for $100 from our incredible grass-fed dairy friends in Durango, Co, James Ranch, whom we bought our beloved dairy cows from. True’s hanging weight at about a year and a half was 367 pounds and this is the 13 pounds of beef suet we got. We kept all the organs, bones and everything we could keep.
It never registered to me how much volume fat really takes up until I connected the fact that I have lost 13 pounds since January by being on the low carb/ high fat diet (and feel SO much better) and then seeing this 13 pounds of fat on the table and visualizing it around my middle. Yikes!
To render the tallow you take off any bits of meat that might still be connected. I saved those pieces and some extra fat to add into my slow cooking brisket which indeed did not have much fat on it. Yum! Cut the tallow into small pieces and put in a large double boiler. I use two large enamel canning pans which fit inside one another. Many instructions tell you to then put all the fat into a food processor, which I would never take that extra messy, unnecessary step. For more detailed instructions you can go to my earlier post on rendering lard. Other instructions tell you to put the cut up fat in a pan directly on the stove or in the oven and then add water, bring to a boil, and then when the water evaporates you will have rendered lard. Well the H2O will evaporate, leaving all of the fluoride and other junk that is in water remaining in your lovely tallow. No thanks.
As your tallow is rendering, use a strainer and ladle the hot fat into jars as you go, filling them up as soon as you have enough melted tallow. This way the already melted fat will not have to continue to be on the heat, and the jars will make a proper seal when the hot fat cools.
When the suet was rendering into tallow, the fragrance was so much different than the rendering lard. It had a doughy smell. I do love using lard but the flavor and richness of the tallow is so incredible! I filled 8 pints of tallow so far, and am keeping the rest of the fat that has not rendered completely to use in recipes, instead of rendering it completely out and making cracklins.
Jersey tallow has a bit more yellow color in it rather than pure white tallow from other breeds.
Now to make some tallow salve or balm. I have made my own herbal salves and balms for several years, growing and drying my own herbs, infusing them in olive oil and then using coconut oil and beeswax as a solidifier. I had always wanted to make a tallow salve, and I am thrilled with it. Here is a wonderful article on the Weston Price website on tallow salves.
I grew a large amount of Dulcamara in a previous garden I had and dehydrated it, then infused it for over two years in olive oil.
Dulcamara is definitely a subject for another post, but basically here is the story. Friends of our from Ecuador worked for an oil company and the indigenous people working in the area, including his wife, got cancer. He discovered this amazing plant in Africa, brought it back to Ecuador and his wife and many of the Ecuadorians are cancer free. It also is used topically for skin and for diabetic wound and burn care.
Update for Keren: The botanical name is Kalanchoe Gastonis-bonnieri also called Donkey Ears or Life Plant. This is what it looks like when it is large.. It is very sensitive to cold and now that I can’t grow it in the garden I just have a small one in a pot. It was too close to the window this winter and froze, but had many baby plants growing on the edges of it’s leaves which I replanted.
Other herbs I have dried and used for salves and balms are lavender, comfrey, calendula flowers and unfortunately mullein, whose tiny hairs I was unable to strain completely out and it gave me such a rash on my eyelids I had to throw the whole batch out.
To infuse olive oil with dried herbs is also done in a double boiler on the stove. Place as many dried herbs as you wish into the olive oil and heat gently in the double boiler for at least two days. You want the oil to take on the color and healing properties of the herbs and then strain out the herbs through fine muslin, linen or good cheese cloth. You will not be able to clean this cloth again, so use it as a rag to oil your wood furniture.
The ratio of herb infused olive oil to tallow is about 8 or 9 parts tallow to one part olive oil. I used ten parts tallow because we live in an extremely dry climate and I wanted a stronger balm.
Place the herbal olive oil into a double boiler and add the tallow and gently heat to melt everything together.
I added about 20 drops of Patience essential oil blend of Patchouli, Rosewood, Lavender, Geranium, Bergamot, Vetiver, Palmarosa and Rose. I figured I could always use more patience and also did not want to go around smelling like a brisket all the time.
Fill small mason or other jars with the pretty pale green oil, put lid on tightly and place directly in the freezer for about 15 min. You want the tallow and olive oil to set quickly instead of separating out.
I needn’t have worried about smelling like a brisket, as I have found that this tallow is very mild. I think it has to do with the slow method of rendering over a double boiler and removing the liquid as soon as there is enough to fill a jar, which is why I believe that the lard done in this manner is pure white, mild and not porky.
This soft green, slightly fragrant salve stays on so much better than coconut oil, for face, hands, feet… It does soak in and is slightly greasy but living in this harsh and dry climate I will take a little grease anyday to ward off some of these wrinkles.
Update: Here is the new version of my slightly more spreadable salve. The quick version to make when you already have rendered tallow and infused oil on hand.