Category Archives: Homesteading

Adventures in Homesteading – Making Beef Tallow

And off the diving board we go!

For a while now, I have been really excited about doing things to see if I could do them myself. Why buy a can of condensed soup when you can make it at home? Why buy vegetables in the summer when you can grow your own? Even as a little girl, I was fascinated in baking and sewing and learning how things worked.

A few months ago, I decided that I was tired of spending money on shampoo when I could make it myself. I have very short hair, so I don’t use much shampoo and I’ve cut out conditioner completely. I’ve switched over to shampoo bars and making my own was difficult, exciting and liberating. I’m not dependent on the store for beauty products anymore!

This post, however, isn’t about soap making. It is about a vital ingredient in soap making, as well as an important tool when cooking Whole30 or just sampling different ingredients for your culinary adventures. I introduce beef suet!

Suet is the fat that comes from a sheep or cow, often found around the kidneys and loin area. Available at any local butcher or grocery store, it is usually cheap, plentiful and unwanted by so many people.

Then why did I want it?

When I was researching my first soap recipe, I found that palm oil was required in many of them. Not only is palm oil very hard to find around here, as well as expensive, but it is also under scrutiny for not being very sustainable and damaging to the ecosystem. I’m not a super crazy ecophile, but I do want to be a good steward of my planet as well as use up what other people might waste. A common (and ancient) substitute for palm oil? BEEF TALLOW!!

Wait, hold on. I said suet. Where did this tallow come from? The title? Tallow is just the rendered (melted down) suet. Take suet, add heat, get tallow. Easy peasy.

I am planning on a new batch of soap soon, so I stopped by West Side Market here in Cleveland and purchased some suet from Pinzone’s Meats. Eventually I hope to get some suet from my in-laws steers.

Next step was to get it home and trim it. Suet is white, semi hard and laced with a membrane that is very similar to shrink wrap.

I trimmed off any meaty bits or membrane that was loose, pulled the remaining suet into pieces and put them in my small crock pot. You could also use a heavy pan on the stove, or a Dutch oven, but I like the slow and relatively independent process of the slow cooker.

Then I covered it and stir every half hour or so until the fat is all melted and rendered. All that should be left is liquid fat and some crispy pieces of meat or other impurities that were still attached to the suet.

Using a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth (or coffee filter) and time, I very carefully poured the liquid tallow into a baking dish lined with wax paper. I let it harden in the fridge overnight. As it cools, it becomes opaque and turns a creamy white. Depending on what your cow was fed, the color could range from gray to a golden yellow.

Then I pulled it out of the container, cut it into chunks and weighed it for my soap making. I got exactly 20 ounces of hardened tallow, so that will be good for two batches of shampoo bars! Tallow will last for quite some time on the counter, fridge or freezer. I prefer freezer because it will keep it stable almost indefinitely.

And there you have it! Another little adventure into homesteading for this crazy lady. Thanks for checking in!