Homestead Alchemy - Tallow
I love taking something and magically transforming it into something else. I like it even better when that thing I transform is something that would've otherwise been ignored or disposed of. Chunks of animal fat, for example.
Shortly after the Covid lockdowns began and grocery stores were full of only empty shelves, we purchased beef and pork in bulk from a local ranch. I rounded up several family friends and we all went in together on the bulk buy which made it extremely affordable and was a nice boon for the rancher as well. When the butchers called to ask for our cut requests, I made sure to request the fat from both animals. Lucky for me, our friendly buying group members were not interested in the fat, so I GOT IT ALL!
Here we are, many months later, and I am just now getting to the beef fat. Three huge clumps of it have been in my deep freeze since April 2020. Time to make room for more beef, so I needed to deal with the fat. To start, I chopped it up into half inch - inch cubes, trimming the silver skin and meat from it as I went. Dropped it all into a slow cooker, added a couple tablespoons of salt and about two cups of water. That slow cooker was quite full, and I probably should've allowed more space. Next time.
I left it on Low for several hours, stirring regularly to ensure nothing was sticking to the bottom of the insert. Once it was mostly melted, I scooped out the chunks with a slotted spoon and discarded them. I poured the liquid fat (and residual chunky bits) through a cheese cloth lined sieve into a large bowl. I left this bowl out on the counter over night (you could place it in a refrigerator or into a cool area) and allowed the fat to solidify. In the morning, I had a nice lovely disc of tallow floating on disgusting water. I removed the disc and discarded the water. Truth be told, I poured it out into some shrubs during a snowstorm. I figure some animals will love the fatty bits and flavor. The tallow is white. I will most likely use it for cooking, as you might use butter or oil. It does have a slight beef smell and taste, so I will need to consider that when choosing a cooking fat.
I will also take some of the tallow and render it down again, using the same basic process. Tallow, salt and water in slow cooker. Strain, allow to solidify, separate from water. Each time that process is done, more impurities will be pulled out of the tallow and be kept in the discarded water. Depending on the fat at the start, it might take a few rounds of this to end up with really pure tallow. And, that's what you want if you are planning to use it for skin care products! More on that later!