Monday, October 5, 2015

Tallow from suet for candles, soap and... pie crusts

Suet (the fat around the kidney - generally beef) was clarified or rendered down - slowly cooked then strained - to make tallow "...for pie-crust, for basting and soups, as well as for frying." Recipes from an 1828 Scottish book and two Jewish manuals.

From left and going counter clockwise in the picture - a chunk of suet with connecting 'skins', a pile of suet cleaned and chopped fine, the rendered suet/tallow and finally a spoonful of very white lard (top left).  The clarified suet could be beaten to whip it up to be used instead of butter.

Long time users of suet may not mind, but... if you think that all the suet in your recipe melts away like butter (like I did, for years) do not look at last picture.  It shows the rendered liquid fat (3/4C) and the left-over chunks of fat or something (1 1/4C) - what one author called 'sediment.'  Before being placed in low heat water bath, the large canning jar was full of the finely chopped suet so it decreased by half.                 

A few years ago I cooked down bone marrow, again on very low heat (coals under a trivet) and there were also pieces to be strained out.  Past post on rendered bone marrow HERE

Choose the firmest part, and pick it free from skin and veins. Put it into a saucepan, and set it at some distance from the fire, in order that the suet may melt without frying, or it will taste disagreeable. When it is melted, pour it into a pan of cold water. When it has caked quite hard, wipe it very dry, fold it in fine paper, and then in a linen bag, and keep it in a dry, but not in a hot place. When you wish to use it, scrape it fine, and it will make a nice [pie] crust, either with or without butter.
Lee, Mrs. N.K.M.  The Cook's Own Book and Housekeeper's Register: Being Receipts for Cooking ... Boston: 1842 [1832]

Melt down with care fine fresh suet, either beef or veal, put it into a jar, and set it in a stew-pan of water to boil, putting in a sprig of rosemary, or a little orange flower water while melting, this is a very useful preparation and will be found, if adopted in English kitchens, to answer the purpose of lard and is far more delicate and wholesome: it should be well beaten till quite light with a wooden fork.
The Jewish manual; or, Practical information in Jewish and modern cookery.  London: 1846

Cut the butter in slices; put it into a jar, which set in a pan of boiling water; let it melt and heat. Skim it, take it out, and when it has cooled a little, pour it gently off, holding back the milky sediment which will have subsided.

Mutton and beef suet and lard may be roughly chopped, have all the skin and fibrous parts taken out, and either be very gradually melted over a slow fire, or before the fire in a Dutch oven, taking away the fat as it drops. In this last process there is less danger of the fat acquiring a burnt taste than when melted into tallow over the fire. Strain the fat and keep back the sediment.

Dripping and melted suet* are used for pie-crust, for basting and soups, as well as for frying. Their suitableness for all these purposes depends, in a great measure, on the way in which they have been melted and preserved. When dripping is to be kept for soup it may be seasoned, not otherwise. It may be very highly purified by twice clarifying.
* For an excellent way of using beef suet, see Paste of Beef, Suet for Meat Pies.

Cut the suet in bits, and melt it in water. Strain it into fresh water, and when cold, press out the water, and pound it in a mortar with a little oil till it come to the consistence of butter. Use this for making pie-crust.
The Cook and Housewife's Manual… by Christian Isobel Johnstone Mrs Margaret Dods  Edinburgh: 1828

In another recipe 'Mrs. Dods' suggested using bladders to hold lard.  

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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