In the winter months, farm life slows down a bit. The fields are covered in snow and the year’s harvest is resting in grain bins waiting to be sold. Colder months provide farmers the opportunity to tend to aspects of farming that get overlooked in the warmer months. This usually means focusing on business operations and servicing equipment. But it can also include projects that make farm life more beautiful and interesting — like a suet birdfeeder.
Homemade suet is an economic and ecological treat that’s sure to add a little life to your farm. It’s also a great way to entertain and educate your kids for a few hours one morning or afternoon. During the winter, birds need more calories to maintain their energy levels and to retain body heat. Since many of their natural food sources decline during this season, suet is a much-needed lifeline for them.
Nothing to It, But to Suet
Suet is the hard white fatty tissue that is found on the loins and kidneys of cattle. Animal fat that has been molded into hard balls, cakes, or other shapes create suet. The fat that remains in the pan after cooking a package of bacon is one example of suet. For those living on a cattle farm, you can use leftover beef fat trimmings.
If you don’t have access to your own fat trimmings there are several other options. This includes purchasing lard at the grocery store or asking your local butcher for trimmings at little to no cost. Anytime you make pork, bacon, or beef in a pan the drippings are a great form of suet. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you can purchase vegetable shortening in place of meat.
Suet in its most basic form is simply melted and molded beef fat. However, most people add a few extra ingredients to make it more appealing to birds. There are a variety of bird species who enjoy the benefits of suet, but it’s not for all of them. Woodpeckers, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, starlings, titmice, jays, and other insect-eating birds are most known to enjoy suet. You’ll also see the occasional cardinal, creeper, warbler, or kinglet stopping by a suet feeder.
How to Make Suet: The Basics
1.) Sharp knife or meat grinder
2.) Wooden spoon
3.) Large saucepan
4.) Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
5.) Large bowl
6.) Molding containers
1.) Animal fat or vegetable fat like Crisco
2.) Flour, oatmeal, yellow cornmeal, millet, etc
3.) Organic crunchy peanut butter
4.) Birdseed (optional)
5.) Dried fruit (optional)
6.) Unflavored seeds and nuts (optional)
Putting it All Together
The first thing you should do when you make suet is to chop the fat you’re using into small pieces. You can also use a meat grinder. Make sure that all excess meat, tissue, and bone are completely removed. Then heat the fat on low heat until it turns into liquid. Make sure that you continuously stir the fat as it melts to avoid burning. Do not use higher temperatures to melt the fat more quickly, this could lead to a fire and/or scorching the fat.
Once melted, strain the fat to remove any particles. Do this as many times as needed. This should be done if you’re using the leftover fat from cooking something like bacon or pork chops as well. Use a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Mix in optional ingredients and let cool slightly. Then pour the mix into preferred molds (sandwich-size containers work best) that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Place in freezer until firm or ready to use.
The Quickest & Easiest Suet Recipes
Here are three simple and easy recipes to try.
Easy Suet Recipe – The Spruce
1 cup rendered suet
1 cup chunky peanut butter
3 cups ground oatmeal
½ cup white/wheat flour
Birdseed, insects like dried mealworms or crickets, chopped unsalted nuts, dried fruits.
Directions: Melt the suet and PB together until they are smoothly blended and liquid add the cornmeal and flour mixing well. Add ingredients of your choice (optional). Transfer to the molds of your choice and freeze overnight. Remove from freezer and let thaw slightly. Insert into suet feeder.
5-Ingredient Bird Suet – Intelligent Domestication
1c Crunchy peanut butter
2c Birdseed of choice
Directions: melt the shortening and peanut butter together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Stir in oatmeal. Stir in birdseed and cornmeal. Pour into preferred containers and freeze overnight.
Two-For-One Recipe – Almanac
Suet Cake Recipe 1
2c melted fat (beef fat or lard)
2c yellow cornmeal
1c natural peanut butter
Suet Cake Recipe 2
1c melted fat (beef fat or lard)
2tbsp honey (optional)
1c sunflower seeds
Directions for both: Melt the fat in a saucepan until completely liquid. Next, remove from heat and let sit for several minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for a few minutes.
Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are good), and then store them in the freezer until ready for use.
Suet Was Made for the Winter
While suet can be made year-round, it can only be put out for the birds during the winter. That is because suet is made from melting fat, adding ingredients, and then freezing until hard. The summer heat would cause suet to melt, lose form, and become rancid. Winter is the best time of year to hang a suet feeder. December is usually the best month to begin hanging your feeders. If you hang your suet too early, it can attract unwanted critters and larger animals.
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