Last week — was it really last week? — we went to the butcher and picked up the cut and wrapped beef from our first home-grown grass-fed beef. Remember I shared the whole mobile slaughtering experience with you?
The cow turned out to be 614# hanging weight (gutted, skinned, etc.). I was a little nervous about whether it would all fit, so I spent the morning cleaning out the freezer. This was the best I could do.
When the freezer has been totally empty, I've been able to fit more than 700# in. Because it still had stuff in it, whether I could fit 614# was iffy… But it all fit! *whew*
One thing that helps is that we get most of it turned into ground beef. I keep the most prime steaks (like sirloin, T-bone, Porterhouse) and roasts (like rump and tri-tip), but everything else goes to ground beef. This makes it fit more compactly in the freezer, and also more delicious. In our opinion, of course.
I have to say, both my husband and I are nervous about the possibility of the power going out and losing all that meat. We've been nervous before, but more so this year… So, I have plans to dehydrate and/or smoke a bunch of this, vacuum seal, and then store without electricity. I will keep you posted about that.
The meat is phenomenal! We've had steaks and hamburgers and chili so far. Very tender, flavorful, and moist.
Did you know? The Fundamentals II eCourse includes a bonus lesson on cooking or grilling amazingly tender and moist grass-fed steaks. It is hard to get grass-fed cooking right unless you're using a technique suited to its unique constraints. If you're a current member, you have access to it — so check it out. If you're not a member (yet) check us out here.
One thing I did not expect was to get back so much fat! Our normal local grass-fed beef source is excellent, and I've always been happy to bring home two bags of fat to render into tallow. Well, this time, we got five bags of fat — which absolutely would not fit in the freezer. That meant I had to start rendering tallow ASAP.
This is just one of the bags. Can you tell that it is quite large? Like a foot by a foot. Imagine five of those. I packed them in coolers with ice from the truck stop down the road, and got to work rendering.
Thankfully, I have an abundance of crockpots. Though you can render in the oven or on the stove-top, I find crockpots the most convenient because there's not so much monitoring involved or chance of toasting the fat.
I know it may seem excessive that I have five crockpots, but let me explain. 😉 One of them is tiny and great for keeping small amounts of food warm. One crockpot is old and devoted to soapmaking (but can be used for other purposes if I need it). Another is actually a roaster oven. The other two crockpots are always in use for stock, beans, roasts, etc. So you see… it all makes sense!
Anyway, I couldn't render the tallow in the house — with all that fat, I knew it would take days and I couldn't fathom heating up the house like that. The weather was really hot at the time. So I set up my rendering project on the front porch. (It was a good thing, too, because it took five days, pots running 24/7, to finish it all.)
Basically, the process of rendering involves low heating and ladling off the melting fat. Here are more detailed instructions. In that post, I'm rendering goat fat. It doesn't matter what fat, though. The process is the same.
(Standard and premium members of my unlimited online classes — you get a rendering fat how-to video as your thank you video for August 2012. It will be up in your account by the weekend. I'll send an email when it is ready.)
This fat was quite yellow — that's because the cow was 1/2 Jersey. It's a breed thing. The two jars on the left are full of cooled tallow, while the jars on the right are holding hot, liquified tallow.
So… quick math here. 5 hugs bags of fat, 5 days of rendering 24/7, and we netted 8-1/4 gallons of tallow. I am still shaking my head in disbelief.
We *think* our cow turned out so well because: 1) she nursed on her mom, a Jersey cow, for at least six months, 2) we fed her the same dairy-cow-quality hay through the winter as we did our dairy cow, and 3) while she was 1/2 Jersey, she was also 1/2 Red Angus. 🙂
How can tallow be used? Wherever you use fat in cooking, like butter or ghee or coconut oil. I may also make soap out of it.
It is best to store tallow in a cool location. This is where I have trouble. Obviously, my freezer is not going to fit all that! And I don't have a cellar. In the past, I've stored jars of rendered goat fat in the pantry and they were not rancid even more than a year later. Oregon stays cool most of the year.
So, once again, storing in the pantry is really my only option. Except that with this tallow, I vacuum sealed the jars with a FoodSaver with jar sealer accessory. I think they will be fine.
Do you render your own tallow or lard? Any tips to share? Any questions about the process? Please share. 🙂
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