Beef has met with a lot of bad reputation recently. The animal fat has been abhorred by millions on account of the projected health hazards it may cause when consumed or used by humans. Reasons: High saturated fats, low polyunsaturated fatty acids, high risk of cholesterol and arteriosclerosis. Health hazards apart, beef has been in use from the ancient times in many industrial, homemade products including soaps, candles, leather and most recently, biodiesel. It has also been discovered that consumption of animal fat like beef or lard is good for health, compared to hydrogenated vegetable oils and that clogging of arteries cannot be attributed only to the intake of animal fat. With all these facts, one cannot ignore the importance of beef and its various byproducts.
What is Suet? “Render therefore unto suet the thing that was beef fat”, goes an old adage. Suet is raw beef fat present around the kidney and loin region of cows, that is, around a beef’s hindquarter. Suet is available in packaged forms in stores. Sometimes packaged suet is dehydrated and can be mixed with flour, which can go rancid or can be unsuitable for preparation of tallow or bird feed. This is why it is better to get raw suet from your butcher. However, when you buy from suet, ensure that you get only the fat around kidneys and loin area. All other fat is not suet and should not be used in suet recipes or suet uses.
Popular uses of Suet: Suet, as such, has a lot of traditional uses. It is used in puddings, in the making of mincemeat, in making of cakes, bird feed and a lot more. But, the most common and primary use of suet is to make tallow.
1. From suet to tallow: Beef tallow is made using fresh suet. Suet is traditionally rendered into tallow for use in soaps, candles and cooking. Raw beef fat is solid at room temperature and has a high smoking point of 40 degree Celsius. To be rendered into tallow, suet is heated on a pot, until it is cleansed of its impurities. When the fat melts and the red skin turns into brown, you can sieve the crackled pieces of fat from the liquid using a cheese cloth. The liquid fat, when cooled or refrigerated, becomes tallow. Tallow is pure white or yellowish in color depending of freshness or quality of suet.
2. Suet as bird feed: Suet is traditional bird food. It is used to attract many kinds of birds – woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, thrashers, creepers, cardinals, and starlings. Suet, when mixed with peanut butter, is good food for juncos, jays, bluebirds and goldfinches.
3. Suet and cooking: Suet is an important ingredient in the traditional English Christmas pudding. Since it has only a mild beefy smell, it imparts a rich and tasty flavor to any kind of dish. Suet is used in many recipes including the preparation of Haggis, steak and kidney pudding, Christmas pudding, mincemeat, spotted dick, rag pudding, dumplings, Jamaican patty, Windsor pudding etc. Suet can be made into suet cakes for other uses.
It should be remembered that grass fed suet tastes better and is healthier compared to suet from grain fed industrially-raised cows.