That hunk of deliciousness nestled there in my fridge, next to my own personal don't-you-dare-touch-them-they're-mine jar of pickles, is beef fat, fresh from our local butcher.
One of the benefits of small town living is that we have access to an actual real butcher, one that deals with actual real meat, not one who simply stacks trays of the pre-packaged stuff on shelves.
So when we were down there last week picking up some bacon, I asked him what he usually did with the fat that he trims from the meat. He offered to save it for me instead of throwing it away and sure enough, a couple days later, these two trays made their way to me in exchange for one of these:
Seemed a fair trade to me.
Each of those packs made a quart of tallow when rendered; one quart I poured into a tray to cool so that I could chop it into 4oz blocks for soap making, and the other half I saved for making fried potatoes.
We're all about real fat in this house. Processed and hydrogenated fats have been implicated in so many health issues, and are such nutritional wastelands (check out the links here and here if you don't believe me!) that we no longer keep anything but coconut oil, olive oil and butter in the house. And now tallow, too!
This interesting little graphic appeared on my Facebook timeline a while back, and it speaks volumes about the quality - and consumability - of hydrogenated fats.
But back to tallow. While being able to cook with it (mmmmmm, fries) is a nice thing, my primary desire was to make soap with it. My wonderful friend Debbie at Plott Hollow Farm designed me a soap recipe specifically for my little boy, who has sensitive skin and cannot tolerate most soaps. It is tallow, coconut oil and avocado oil based and, while I could buy tallow online, it seemed more in keeping with my ethos to make it myself.
I started by trimming the excess meat from the fat, though there wasn't much, as the butcher had been super efficient. Also, the fat had been refrigerated so was hard and easy to cut.
Once it was well trimmed, I put it in the food processor and whizzed it up some, until it was crumbly. Seemed more logical than standing and cutting it into cubes and I wanted to make sure it melted evenly and quickly.
I then tipped it all into my crockpot and turned it on to low. I stirred it every so often, and eventually it all melted and little crispy bits (also known as 'crackling') floated to the top. These I filtered out using cheesecloth.
I lined a pyrex dish with waxed paper (waxed side down - it's all I had in the house because I used the other parchment paper to trace Christmas cushion designs onto felt!) and poured in the tallow.
Next job is to cut it into small pieces to use for soap making.
Oh, and make some fries.