Our freezer is still very full of Doug & Buddy bounty. One item we had the butcher save for us at slaughter time was their kidney fat, also known as suet.
It’s different than fat from other parts of the body, being hard & crumbly rather than soft & jiggly (think cellulite). Our ancestors had many uses for this fat, and we’re trying to decide which of those to recreate at Seven Trees.
Before using raw suet, it needs to be rendered into tallow, which removes any impurities and meaty bits. Here is one way to do it, though some folks dump the suet into hot water instead. The downside of that method is missing out on the tasty cracklins strained out from the melted fat.
A very ancient use for tallow is lighting, both candles and rushlights. Candles are pretty self-explanatory, though tallow candles had some drawbacks offsetting their cheapness. They were soft and greasy in the heat, and rodents found them quite tasty. They were usually stored in some kind of box to keep them safe from late-night snackers.
Rushlights were even cheaper than candles, but the light they gave was very dim, and they didn’t burn very long. There are many species of rushes, and the ones used for lighting had a pithy core with an outer ‘skin’ that could be peeled away once it was soaked. The bundles of piths were dried and soaked in tallow. Special holders were used for them, since burning rushlights at an angle was the best balance between a bright flame and longer burning time.
Suet is also used in cooking (lard is the same kind of fat, only from pigs instead of cows). Pastry crust and traditional English puddings are some ideas we’re considering, with Cornish pasty being near the top of the list. Suet crusts can stand up to all the meaty filling in a pasty without leaking, and we’re looking forward to finding out for ourselves.
Berkshire bacon pudding is another delightful recipe for a savory pudding with a suet crust. Maybe this is one to try when we have a day of manual labor or hiking planned, as I can’t imagine it being very low cal!
And suet even finds its way into dessert – spotted dick pudding! Don’t let the name fool you…the spots are from currants and raisins in the dough. No one seems to know where the other part of the name originated though.
We’ll be sure to share our experiments with tallow as soon as Seven Trees settles into the summer routine, and would love to hear from any of our readers who have experience cooking or crafting with tallow.