Working With Tallow
by Master Bedwyr Danwyn
(mka Ted Lazcano)
Tallow is nothing more than purified animal fat, and has
been used since ancient times as a source of fuel for light. Fat from cattle and
sheep are the traditional fats of choice for tallow, with sheep fat purported
to be the better of the two, but very difficult to obtain today. Beef fat can
be purchased in Wegman's or other grocery stores' pet section for 69 cents a pound
already packaged and ready to go.
Rendering, or the purification of animal fat into tallow,
isn't hard but will take a couple of hours. There is an economy of scale, with
it being easier to make a lot of tallow than it is to make a small amount. It's
a bit messy, too; so it's best to render a lot of fat into tallow all at once
and store the surplus in your refrigerator for future use. It will keep for years.
How To Render Fat Into Tallow
Caution: Melting fat is dangerous and should not be
done by children.
1. Buy some fat. If you're starting out, I suggest around
5 pounds. If you know of an old time butcher, buy it from him. Otherwise, go to
2. Buy an old metal pitcher from the Salvation Army. Larger
strain holes are better than small ones. Also buy a strainer made with wire mesh,
not punched holes. These items are inexpensive and reserving them for tallow is
easier than cleaning them.
3. There are only two places to render tallow; outdoors or
in someone else's kitchen! Outdoors with a single electric burner or propane stove
4. Cut the fat into small pieces, and place as many as will
fit into the pitcher.
5. Put the pitcher into a pot of hot water, and place on
your stove. Bring the pot of water to a boil. As the fat melts you will be able
to add more pieces to the pitcher. This is a slow process. Avoid the temptation
to place the pitcher directly on the stove! The higher temperature will indeed
melt the fat faster, but it will also fry it, creating thousands of little burnt
pieces that will be difficult to remove and may result in the fat catching fire.
6. Stir your fat with a chopstick. When you can't add any
more fat and it looks like the solid pieces have melted as much as they are going
to, pour the liquid through the strainer into a large bowl about half full of
hot water. Give the (cooled) greasy pieces to your neighbor's dog and send him
7. The molten tallow will form a layer on top of the water.
Allow it to cool into solid, whitish tallow, and slice it free from the bowl.
Don't forget about the water underneath it!
8. Examine your tallow. You will observe solid impurities
stuck in the bottom of the tallow, as they are heavier than tallow but lighter
than water, so they become trapped there as the tallow solidified. Scrap the bulk
of these away with a knife.
9. Put your chunks back into the pitcher and repeat! Each
time you do this, your tallow will become whiter, harder, and less smelly. As
a rule, I render my tallow three times.
10. After your final rendering, melt the tallow in the pitcher
again. You may either use the tallow for a project, or pour it into a muffin pan
and allow to cool into ingots. To release the solid ingots from the muffin pan,
run hot tap water onto a single ingot with the pan upside down over a bowl of
cold water. The ingot will suddenly drop free and fall into the cold water. Dry
with a paper towel and store in your refrigerator. They will last for years and
can be remelted.
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