Chewing the fat

We’ve finally gotten around to rendering the pig and cow fat into lard & suet. The fat used for this comes from around the kidneys, and is very hard and dry compared to fat from other areas. Suet is used in traditional steamed pudding recipes and dumplings, as it has a low melting temperature and integrates into the batter or dough quickly. It is supposed to make a light and fluffy dish, but so far our results have been a bit heavy. Maybe it’s because we’re using traditional recipes, and just aren’t used to what our ancestors might have considered fluffy.

So far we used suet for dumplings (cooked in beef stew) and Spotted Dick pudding. Since we had plenty of blackberries, we used them in place of the traditional currants (which account for the spots in the spotted dick). It was very rich, not very sweet, but an interesting experiment.

Lard is a softer fat, and is most often used in traditional pastry crusts. We gave ours a go in a Cornish Pasty recipe. These hand-pies have a long history and many variants, and the recipe we used is fairly middle-of-the-road. They turned out very tasty. The crust is hearty enough to take a lot of abuse, yet still flavorful and toothsome.


The lard/suet has to be rendered from the raw and gruesome butcher’s cut into clarified and grateable fat blocks. Not too tough, just a rough chop and into a kettle to cook down. It’s then strained into a jar or glass pan to cool, and the yummy cracklings make great dog treats.


Once it cools, suet (the cow fat) becomes very hard and brittle and must be chipped into pieces then grated into the recipe. Lard is slightly softer and grainy, not much like the store bought kind.

Animal fats have gotten bad press in the past few decades, but it seems to be a mistaken concern. Recent studies are finding that  in moderation, animal fats provide much needed nutritional content and help our bodies absorb more vitamins and regulate hormones. Read more about it in this article from The Independent.

Of course Magnus doesn’t care about lard, suet, dumplings, pasties or puddings. It’s still winter, and he needs his rest.


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