Earlier this year, a friend offered us several bags of fat from their uncles processed pigs. Being avid birders, we immediately thought of using the fat for suet, and gladly accepted.
As usual, we had more ideas than time, and the suet sat in the freezer for almost a year. Finally we allocated time for the project, and researched suet recipes online. Usually when trying something new, I will look for similar recipes. In my mind, consistency like this means a greater chance of success. For suet ideas and ingredients, I relied on a several sites. Wildbirdscoop.com and The Farmers Almanac will get you started.
My ingredients changed last minute – over the last few months, I kept scraps of bread, leftover nuts and such to be chopped up and added to the suet. Unfortunately, I moved it from the freezer to the fridge too early and it molded. That went into the trash, and I scanned the kitchen for items to include. The final ingredient list included peanut butter, oats, a standard bird seed mix, and a partial quart bag of West Virginia blackberries.
My tips for ingredients are to make sure everything is dry and similar in size so that your suet will stay together in a single piece. In the first batch, I added berries that were too wet, which caused the suet to crumble, which is messy, and will lead to the suet falling from your feeder.
You need to have your ingredients ready before you render your fat, as you will need to add it to the warm fat so it can be molded into the size and shape you desire. We tried 2 forms for the completed suet: a mini muffin tin and a 9×9 Pyrex dish (both lined with plastic wrap).
Once your rendered fat is strained and still warm, we added our “good stuff” ingredients, which were berries, oats, and bread – basically everything but the store bought bird seed. Once that was mixed in, I added bird seed in small, half-cup batches, until the mix looked thick and filled with ingredients for the birds. By this time, the mixture had cooled, and I carefully made small balls of suet and flattened each ball in the mini muffin tin. Once that was full, the remainder went into the pyrex dish.
Important note: some recipes say you should render the fat 2 times so it ends up harder. I would recommend this! I only rendered once, and the result was very soft suet. The mini muffin suet blocks work well, but will melt quickly. I keep them in the freezer until needed. The pyrex dish never got hard, and since its in a large dish it had to be divided into smaller chucks. The pro of having softer suet it that it can be rubbed onto tree bark, which the wood peckers loved, but for general use, I would render twice.
For the process of rendering the fat, which I had never done, I relied on Good Cookery, which has provided an instructional video.
I won’t transcribe the entire rendering process, mostly because I found myself referring to that video while I actually rendered the fat, pausing when needed, to ensure that my product was looking similar.
Here are a few pics of the finished product, with some pics of the fat as it’s rendered.
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