Friday, September 16, 2011

Marilyn's Abacus

This delightfully silly little girl:

Is quite a handful.
And she loves the abacus.

The other day she sat on the floor just inside the kitchen with the abacus and tested me on my numbers. She would move a bead and ask, "What number this mommy?" And I would look up from my dishes that I was washing and answer accordingly, to which she would reply, "Yeeeaaaahhhh!!" Indicating not that she was happy to be learning but that she obviously already knew the answer and she was proud of me for knowing.

And once I found her on my bed. The thing is, the door had been locked. I keep it locked during the day and use the little metal key to unlock it if I need to get in there. Marilyn likes to get in to my room and get into things, or get into my bathroom and use my mascara as lipstick. One day I used a little green screwdriver as I had misplaced the metal key. I did not notice that a certain little girl was watching closely. Near her on the bed this day, was the little green screwdriver.

Oh boy, do I like her.
She sure does keep me on my toes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rendering Tallow

I've done it.

I've rendered tallow.

Tallow is rendered beef fat whereas lard is rendered pork fat.

The terms are not interchangeable I've learned. It can confuse people that know the difference. Using the correct terms can also confuse people who do not know the difference.

It's a win-win situation.

The actual rendering is not all that difficult.

The cutting of the fat (or suet) into tiny pieces on the other hand gave me a blister. In many of the online tutorials I read they recommend using a food processor. I couldn't bring myself to get mine all greasy-dirty and then have to wash it. It fits in the dishwasher but I do hate washing it.

I don't know that I'll give you a step by step tutorial but these are the ones I sort of followed:

How to Render Beef Tallow

How to Render Lard and Tallow

With our half a beef we bought recently I got three 2 1/2 pound bags of beef fat. I've been waiting a long time for beef fat. Last time we bought a beef I asked the butcher to save me some fat. "Oh sure, not a problem." Picked up my beef, put it away; no fat. "Um...excuse me, I thought you were going to save me some fat." "It was a lean cow, there wasn't any fat worth saving."

I don't know much about cows, but I'd call that a lie to try and cover up the fact that they forgot to save it for me.

For my first attempt I mostly thawed one bag and started sawing away with a knife. It wasn't working really well, so I switched to another knife. I got a blister. Then I switched to scissors and kicked myself for not trying them sooner, they made it fairly easy.

I cut all that beautiful fat into little pieces and threw them in a big pot.

And slowly cooked it on the stovetop for what seemed a very long time. I stirred it occasionally.
And the disgusting smell of beef fat filled my house.
I don't even like the smell of the fat that comes off of beef roasts and things.

When I figured it was done (and I was done, I started too late in the afternoon and so I was up later than I wanted waiting for it to finish) I strained it through a scrap of muslin fabric laid in my mesh strainer. It worked perfectly and I just threw the fabric away.

I was left with this lovely golden liquid (that still smelled yucky).

I filled two pint jars with the golden liquid and let it sit overnight on the counter to cool and solidify.

In the morning it was creamy white and quite pretty looking. (But it still smells kind of yucky).

I've been reading tonight where the best place to store tallow is. Some say the fridge, some say the freezer but I have read a few things that say you can store it on the counter as long as it's sealed tightly. I'm hoping this is so because I've been keeping mine in the fridge and it's very hard to dig out of the jars. I've had to resort to using the ice cream scoop.

It still smells funny. Well, it smells like beef fat. And I still don't like that smell, but once it's cooked in something it sure is yummy. I made biscuits the other morning, using half butter and half tallow. The biscuits where light and fluffy and very very good. They almost had a "store biscuit" taste (and I've always loved, but hated to admit, that I like the taste of "store biscuits").

And Saturday night I made this pie crust:

How to Make Perfect Pie Crust

and filled it with apples. And we ate delicious apple pie for breakfast Sunday morning.

I won't say that it was the most amazing pie crust I've ever eaten. I still might even like the pie crust I usually make with all butter, better. But here's the thing, I use a lot of butter. And butter gets expensive.

So if I can cut my butter usage in half and get the health benefits of good tallow from grass fed beef, (Yes, real fats are good for you!) then that's a good thing.

Oh and I used it to fry potatoes/onions/fennel and zucchini in tonight.

Oh my!

They were very good.

So I think I'll just make sure the stove fan is running full force and windows are open when I render the other 5 pounds of tallow because render I will.