This is suet, it's the fat around the kidneys of a cow, and is one of the finest fats you can use for soap making. It's different than other fats on a cow in that it's much drier and better for making soap.
Friday I went and picked it up from some family friends that are butchers, this is a little more than half the fat I got. I have another big batch in the bucket below, I weighed it when I brought it home and it weighed about 45 lbs, I have no idea how much soap this will make as there are other ingredients I will be using like olive oil, cocoa butter, milk etc.
I've never rendered this kind of fat before, just small amounts of chicken, and turkey fat. Several weeks ago I wasn't even sure where suet came from, I just knew birds liked it in special feeders with seeds. Now that I'm going to be making soap, this was the first step I needed to do. Today I spent several hours rendering it, and will spend much more time tomorrow boiling a pot full at a time and stirring it all the while.
During this process of rendering, beef fat is melted in water in order to separate out any impurities. The purified fat which results is called tallow. Here's the step by step process I used.
1. ~ The first thing your need to do is gather your supplies.
Supply list for rendering:
~ Suet or other meat fat
~ 2 to 4 tablespoons salt
~ Sharp knife
~ Large pot
~ Long-handled wooden or plastic spoon
~ Safety glasses or goggles
~ Rubber or plastic gloves
~ Wooden or stainless steel ladle
~ Sieve or colander ( I used both, and stained it twice)
~ Primary mold
2. Place the chopped suet into a large pot, no more than half full, to accommodate some expansion of the suet as it heats and bubbles. Add 2-4 inches of water to the bottom of the pan. Also add the salt to help separate the impurities from the mixture.
3. Set the mixture over moderately high heat and put on your safety goggles (I put mine on after it came to a boil) it can splatter and get you so be careful. The object is to get as much of the suet as possible to liquefy. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil, watching it constantly, as it may ignite if it boils over. Mash the small pieces of suet with you spoon to release any trapped liquid fat and speed up the melting process, which will take at least 30 minutes for each 2-3 pounds of suet, and longer for larger amounts and bigger pieces. If the water begins to boil away, add more water.
4. When most of the suet has dissolved, remove the pot from the stove and allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. Pour or ladle the mixture through a sieve or colander, straining it into your primary mold (I used large metal pans with high sides). The sieve or colander will catch any debris, like gristle, sinew and meat.
5. Inspect the strained solids remaining in the sieve, if you've cooked the mixture long enough, these will be brown. Throw them out to the chickens, birds, your dogs, or cats. My animals were very curious and like to eat these little tasty morsels.
6. Placer the filled primary mold in your refrigerator overnight, you don't need to place a lid on it.
7. Remove the mold from the refrigerator and turn it upside down into your sink. Press the bottom of the mold to remove the block of tallow, allowing any liquid to drain away. If you started out with more ordinary fat than suet or if the fat contained much meat, you'll see a gelatin-like mass on the bottom of the block, and you'll want to scrape this off and discard.
8. You should now have a hard, firm, white or off-white block of tallow. Scrape away and discard any layer of debris on the block. Also scrape away any portions of the block that are soft or discolored. Refrigerate or freeze the tallow until you are ready to make your basic soap.
The higher the quality of your tallow, the better your soap will be. To make the highest-quality tallow, use beef suet, which once rendered, makes an excellent soap base and a much harder soap than many other rendered fats. Although tallow rendered from ordinary beef fat trimmings can be used, it just doesn't measure up to suet-based tallow. Suet isn't always easy to locate, spend some time calling grocery stores and butchers in your area.
Even within suet there are variables that are out of your control, like the diet of the animal, and it's overall health. I know when we went to talk with the butchers they actually said that the fat on the cows they were butchering at the time had really nice fat. It was interesting when I cut into it, it definitely seemed like good fat.
One final note.. this is stinky business, I am so glad we set up the outdoor work area with our propane cook stove, it's a nice big heavy duty one. The smell was very unpleasant, and would have really stunk up the house. The animals sure liked it though, everyone was around watching, and Summer my golden retriever was my little vacuum cleaner and cleaned everything up that fell on the ground.