When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents didn’t let anything go to waste. I remember my mother and paternal grandmother in the kitchen rendering fat, using it to make suet blocks for the birds and serving up the “cracklins” with supper. It makes for great memories, but unfortunately, they’re very vague. Like most things in childhood, I was only mildly interested in what they were doing and committed absolutely none of it to memory. So, a couple of years ago, when we we were butchering a particularly fat deer, I had the realization that I wanted to put the fat to use, but couldn’t remember how. With a little digging, I found an article on how to render fat in one of our homestead/survival type books and this is how we’ve been doing it ever since. We use the fat for suet blocks and our homemade soaps; I’ll be posting about both of those over the next couple of weeks. Well, actually I’ll also be doing an instructable on making your own lye out of hardwood ash, so maybe soapmaking will be 3 or 4 posts away, we’ll see.
The fat that I’m rendering in this instructable is deer fat, but you can use fat trimmed from store bought meat also, of course.
When you trim your fat, make sure to get only fat, no meat or flesh. Any meat cooked in your renderings will give the final product an off smell and definitely won’t be anything you want to rub all over your body if you make soap out of it.
Cut your trimmed fat into small cubes (approximately 1/8 inch).
Place cubed fat into a pot along with a couple Tablespoons of water to get the fat started without burning. Don’t worry about having water in your rendered fat as this small amount of water will evaporate off during the cooking process. Turn your burner to a relatively low setting. On my stove, I use #2 on the dial.
Keep stirring as the fat starts to cook, making sure that none sticks to the bottom of the pot and that all the pieces are getting warmed. Here’s a little of how the progression should look:
Once you start getting close to having all the fat rendered, you will notice that the bubbling will drop off significantly. Wait until you have no more of the active, large, grouped bubbles like you see in the last picture above. It will still have some, but no where near like above.
Place a strainer with a piece of doubled cheesecloth over a bowl or measuring cup. If it’s glass, make sure you’ve warmed it a little so that the hot grease doesn’t shatter it.
That’s all there is to it! The process is really simple and unless you leave it cooking too long, should give you a very pretty milky white fat that has endless uses. Although rendered amounts and times will vary, I’ve listed the specifics below that may be useful to you. 🙂
- In this example, I started with a little more than 2 cups of cubed deer fat and ended up with just shy of 1 cup of rendered fat.
- Once in the pot, cooking time was 1 hour and 10 minutes.
- If you’re not going to use your rendered fat immediately, simply label it and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready.
- If you have your trimmed fat, but not enough time to complete the cooking process, freeze it. It will keep nicely for a year or more.