More than one group of experts are talking about increased risk of soaring food prices and economic instability. With recent droughts and other natural disasters around the world, our food production and delivery system is under a lot of of stress. If you can, I’d highly recommend stocking up on non-perishable food items.…
If what you were eating was hurting your grandchildren, would you change it?
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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen my first experience with rendering poultry fat. After that success, I figured I was ready to tackle the big leagues. Target number two – beef tallow from our quarter of grass fed beef. First off, the butcher was surprised we wanted it, then doubly surprised when I said I was going to eat it myself instead of feeding it to the birds. Not everyone has caught on to the benefits of beefy goodness. “How much do you want?” said they. “Quite a bit” said I. I ended up with two rather large bags of the stuff, probably roughly equivalent to two five gallon buckets full. Here’s one of them, next to a quart jar of peaches for scale.
Tallow is a little different than poultry fat. Most of the references I found said it’s best to process it frozen, because as it thaws it sticks to EVERYTHING. They were not kidding. It’s rather strange stuff. When frozen and unrefined, the fat is very hard and the connective tissue crinkles like cellophane. As it melts, it becomes almost glue-like. I started hacking it into smaller chunks, planning to load the pieces into a hand-crank grinder like my mother had used when I was growing up.
There was a LOT of tallow, so the children were drafted to help.
“Mom, does this really count as “Domestic Arts”?”
I put the grinder together and was ready to roll, but dagnabbit! All the countertops and tables in the house were too wide to clamp the grinder on to them. What to do? I turned to my food processor, hoping it was up to the task. Alas, it made it through one pot of tallow, and then it turned no more. It was 15 years old and had been shedding strange black bits recently, so I suspected it was only a matter or time. Still, this left me with no easy way to cut the tallow into small bits. “Small bits” are recommended, because they will render faster and more evenly, so you’re not getting some parts burning while other parts are only half-cooked.
Here’s pot number one, all pink and fluffy looking.
Here it is after it’s started to melt down.
I admit, this was a little gruesome, hot and gelatinous like some creepy critters innards.
When the food processor died, I was only about a third of the way through the tallow, and this was a mess I didn’t want to make twice. Thankfully, a quick call to a friend and I was able to borrow their meat grinder – saved! (Said friend also asked foolish me why I hadn’t had the butcher grind the tallow for me. I had asked if they would render it, and they said no, so I honestly didn’t think to ask for grinding. Next time – absolutely!)
We chopped and we ground and we chopped and we ground, and I filled two 12 quart pots full plus a big roaster. I think rendering on the stove top and in the oven went equally well, although the pot from the stove top was easier to clean. Once I got the fat cooked down to clear liquid and brown bits, I strained it through a metal strainer and let it cool in glass or metal containers. This liquid is stunningly hot, so use something sturdy on a heat proof surface. Here we have the roaster with bits and the kettle with almost done bits.
After the tallow has cooled a bit, it can be poured into food grade buckets for long term storage in the freezer. I used two gallon buckets I had saved from coconut oil and a couple other freezer containers. Here’s what I ended up with before repackaging.
The tallow gets REALLY hard as it cools – significantly harder than lard or coconut oil – and the clearer it is the harder it is. (We did some finger poking into different batches.) This was really a pain in the backside to do, to be honest. When the tallow was frozen, it was hard as a rock. As it started to melt, it gummed up every surface – knives, grinder, bowls – ugh! To clean it required either extremely hot water and lots of soap, or lots of elbow grease. I used a fair number of paper towels on clean up, as I was leery of clogging my pipes up with tallow fallout. The house smelled beef for around three days, even with running the stove vent. It was mid-winter so I couldn’t easily air out the house. If I had started with ground tallow it would have be so much easier, but I guess one has to live and learn.
We did end up making fries, and they were pretty darn tasty, too.
I was going to take a prettier picture, but we were too busy eating them. 🙂
Beef tallow has a unrefrigerated shelf life of 2-6 months, depending on temperature and degree of impurities. I keep mine in the refrigerator (9-12 months) or freezer (1-2 years) for extended storage.
Yep, you read it right, “Eat more fat”. Of course I’m not talking about just any kind of fat, I’m talking traditional fats – coconut oil, butter, rendered poultry fat, lard, tallow, olive oil, sesame oil, and flaxseed oil. I just finished reading “Eat Fat, Lose Fat”, which completely blows the lipid hypothesis and all the other low-fat dogma out of the water. It’s been a trick finding good quality fats (did you know those blocks of lard in the store are normally hydrogenated?), but I think I am finally pretty well set. (I do still need to render the grassfed beef tallow.)
Follow this closely with “eat fewer carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates and sugar”. This is the really tough part, as most of us know. I was raised eating processed cereal for breakfast with a spoonful of sugar on top (not always, but generally on weekdays when I was in a hurry for the bus). Ever since I read about the cornflake experiment in Nourishing Traditions, I haven’t looked at cereal the same way.
What’s the cornflake experiment? From Nourished Magazine:
Another unpublished experiment was carried out in the 1960s. Researchers at Ann Arbor University were given 18 laboratory rats. They were divided into three groups: one group received corn flakes and water; a second group was given the cardboard box that the corn flakes came in and water; the control group received rat chow and water. The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats receiving the corn flakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box! (The last corn flake rat died the day the first box rat died.) But before death, the corn flake rats developed schizophrenic behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions. The startling conclusion of this study is that there was more nourishment in the box than there was in the corn flakes.
That is just wrong! But if you read Paul Stitt’s Beating the Food Giants, it won’t come as a surprise. Still, those cereals and snacks can be so tasty…
Number three – read even more labels! There are any number of foods that we eat or have eaten that are “supposed to be healthy”, which, upon reading the labels, turn out to be pretty darn awful. Most processed foods are full of genetically modified corn and soy and a lab full of preservatives.
Case in point: Yoplait Thick & Creamy Key Lime yogurt
Yogurt should be good for you, no? Check out the label on this beast:
- Cultured pasteurized grade A reduced fat milk (because we are told fat is evil)
- sugar (didn’t really buy it for the sugar)
- nonfat milk (because skim milk is thin – this stuff has oxidized cholesterol, which is really bad for you)
- high fructose corn syrup (undoubtedly a GMO product, and kills your liver like alcohol)
- modified corn starch (more GMOs)
- kosher gelatin (does it really matter at this point if it’s kosher with the other ingredients?)
- tricalcium phosphate (for calcium? also used to mask bitter tastes)
- citric acid (to make tart, because of all the sugar?)
- natural flavors (???)
- vitamin A acetate (supplement)
- yellow #5 (banned in other countries)
- Blue #1 (also possibly carcinogenic)
- Vitamin D3 (well, heck, now I know it’s healthy)
No wonder this doesn’t fill you up and has a strange chalky texture. I realize it’s supposed to be low fat, but you really can’t can have “rich and creamy” without some cream, at least not as far as I’m concerned.
Right now, I’m buying a few more things for the pantry, but we’re also getting rid of things I don’t intend to use anymore. Next week, I’ll try some more new recipes, like coconut crackers (from Eat Fat, Lose Fat). I may even try caviar again (it’s been around 20 years, so maybe it’ll taste better to me now).
I hope you all have a bountiful and healthy new year.
Peaceful Acres has a great follow up to this post – Lard, the Evil Fat? that you may also want to check out.
Update: 4/22/11 – It’s over a year later, and I’ve lost close to 20 pounds since I started tweaking my diet. Bring on the fat!