HOW TO RENDER TALLOW - and not stink up your house

Yup, that's a cutting board full of fat.  Vegetarians and weak stomachs: avert your eyes- things are about to get a little primal.

I don't think my poor husband will forget the day that I asked him to pick up a 10-lb. bag of beef fat from the local health food coop.  Poor guy didn't know what he was getting into.  Just had to wander back to the butcher counter and tentatively ask if there was any fat back there for him.  Sure enough, they lugged out a whopping bag of trimmings labeled with my name and handed it over to him.  Did I mention that he is awesome at supporting whatever harebrained ideas I get into my head?  Although I do like to think that he felt a little triumphant (in a primitive hunter sort of way) as he walked right past the cash registers with his free bag of fat, telling them that he didn't have to pay for it.

 "Oog.  Me provide for family."

I think it was a lot less majestic in his experience, but I like to think that I at least keep him entertained.

A lot of people say that the leaf fat around the kidneys is the best for this, but I couldn't find any and this fat was free, so I went with this one.  It worked out just fine, although the rendered tallow isn't quite as hard as the leaf fat tallow and it takes a little more fat to get the same amount of tallow.  So, aside from the quantity and hardness of the final tallow, the only thing that was sacrificed was some of my husband's pride.  Poor guy.

Slice up the fat and remove any large chunks of meat or blood.  Chop into small pieces or freeze and then run through a food processor.  The smaller the pieces, the less time that it will take to render them.

Put the chopped fat into a crock pot and set it on "Low".  If you'd like to, you can add 1/2 cup of water to the fat to prevent burning, but it wasn't a problem with mine.  Crock pots are pretty steady with their heat.  Just remember to stir it every hour or couple of hours (for me, it was whenever I remembered it).

Did I mention that I have a really patient husband?  He didn't even give me very much crap for invading his manly workbench area with two crock pots full of melting fat.  What a guy.

When it's starting to render, the bits and pieces will get even smaller and a little darker.  It took about 14 hours for mine to render.  Once it's rendered, just pour it through a mesh strainer to remove the chunks and pieces.  Be careful, as it's very hot.  I gave the bits and pieces to our dog and he was one happy mutt!  I let mine sit out on the counter for a half hour to cool down a bit before I covered it and put it in the fridge.  This is what it looks like after it's sat out for a half hour:

The rendered fat is on top.  The bottom is a sort of broth that is high in gelatin.  Once it sits in the fridge for a few hours, the tallow will have cooled and turned white.  The gelatin on the bottom will have "gelled" up.  Just pop the tallow off and lightly scrape the bottom of it to remove any gelatin.  You don't want gelatin to go down the drain- all that fat and gelatin will definitely clog it up!  You can save the gelatin in the bottom and throw it into soups and sauces- the richness and nutrients that it will add are really good. Or you can feed it to your dog- whatever works for you.

Rinse the tallow chunk with cold water and either use it right away or store it in the fridge in an airtight container.  You can also freeze the tallow if you're not using it right away.  It should last a few months in the fridge and a year or more in the freezer. 

Ta-da!  You've just rendered tallow!  Now you can use it to make soap, lotion, cook with it, or whatever else you'd like to use it for.

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