As I love to do everything as close to ‘from scratch’ as possible, rendering tallow from beef suet was an absolute must for me. Tallow is a somewhat controversial ingredient, but I feel confident that I am using a product that may otherwise be discarded from the meat industry, which is very prevalent in Iowa.
Right up the highway about 15 minutes from my home is a small traditional meat locker who I contacted about obtaining some beef suet (fat surrounding the kidney area – the best for tallow) to render tallow with. They were happy to supply some suet to me that was already run through a meat grinder, which makes for much easier rendering. In the past, I’ve trimmed, cubed, and ground the suet myself and that adds a ton of labor to the process; finding someone who has already performed those tasks makes my life easier.
This is what the suet looks like after it’s been run through the grinder.
The first step is to slowly melt (render) down the tallow to separate the liquid fats from the small bits of meat and gristle that are inevitably found in suet, regardless of how well it’s trimmed. After the first rendering, the tallow is poured through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to get rid of the majority of the bits. Some always seems to get through the first filtering. After this, the tallow is allowed to harden in a bowl, after which it is rendered again – this time with a bit of water and salt to help collect the remaining bits of gristle and meat. Again, the tallow is strained through the same apparatus and cooled in the refrigerator to harden. After hardening, the pure tallow is collected from atop the small pool of water in the bottom which contains any remaining impurities.
Here’s what it looks like after the second hardening.
Now it’s ready to make some fine shaving soap!