So I’ve officially had a Keto way of eating for the past 16 months. I say “way of eating” because Keto is not just a diet for me, but a complete and permanent change in my life.
When I transitioned from simply being gluten-free to Keto, I didn’t do it thinking that I’d try it out and see how things go. I read and read and read as much as I possibly could about Keto and how beneficial it could be for people with autoimmune diseases and leaky gut syndrome. So going in I already knew that this would be a complete lifestyle change, which it has been. I’m very happy with the results I’ve achieved so far through being Keto, so I have no desire to introduce anything I used to eat back into my diet.
A few months ago, one of the books I picked up to read was The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. This was, for me, one of the most educational books I’ve read to date on the state of American health and how we got to where we are today. I was actually so angry with a couple of the things I read that I had to put the book down for a few days and take a break.
Saturated fats have become the black sheep of nutrition in the current American mindset. But saturated fats are essential for our bodies and our brain. Before the whole low-fat fad started in the 1970’s, butter, tallow and lard were found in most kitchens. And you know what wasn’t rampant? Obesity and Type II Diabetes. And autoimmune diseases were unheard of. But everyone you talk to now either has one of these or knows at least one person who does. It’s only been 40 years since saturated fats were villianified, but our health as a whole has taken a nose-dive.
With all of this in mind, my Keto journey became one of cleaner ingredients and pretty much nothing processed. I wanted to get back to using real butter, lard and tallow in my cooking. Butter was easy to find. Kerrygold is my favorite, but I will use other butters from cows that are grass fed as well. Lard and tallow are much harder to come by. Lard is rendered fat from pork and tallow is from beef. I finally found a good lard that was clean and non-homogenized, and I really like it, but I’ve been having reactions to pork lately, so I started hunting for a good, non-homogenized tallow.
While on the hunt I happened to be talking to my butcher and asked what they did with all of the fat trimmings from their beef. He said they used some of it to add into ground beef, but that the rest was either thrown out or given away. That was music to my ears! I was able to take home a couple pounds of fat trimmings, which led to my next research project: learning how to render the fat and make tallow.
I had recently read about rendering tallow on one of the Facebook pages I follow. It looked super easy and I know the benefits of using tallow are numerous, so I really wanted to make some.
If you don’t know, and I didn’t until recently, tallow used to be one of the most popular oils for cooking and frying. Big chain restaurants used to use it because it was inexpensive, had a very high smoke point (420 degrees F) and could be used for a long time before being discarded and replaced. Unfortunately the fear of saturated fats that began in the 1970’s changed that. Tallow is a saturated fat rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is a fatty acid that can help burn fat. Saturated fats are needed to absorb vitamins like A, D, E, and K, so tallow helps your body get the most out of what you ingest. Tallow is also a perfect lotion (which I haven’t tried yet, but I am going to) and can be used to make soap and candles.
So to start, you want to make sure that you cut off any of the meat that may be present so that you’re left with only the fat. Next, it’s really important to get the fat into the smallest pieces as possible. I don’t have a meat grinder (yet), so I cut all of my fat chunks into the smallest cubes I could. The more surface area you have, the faster it will heat through and melt down. This step took longer that I expected, and next time I think I’ll actually ask the butcher if he would run it through the meat grinder before giving it to me. This is what it looked like after I finished cubing it.
After you have it all cut, it’s time to add the heat. I chose to do this in my Instant Pot like a slow cooker, but it can also be done in a crock pot or on the stove on low. You want to heat it very slowly so that the fat melts but doesn’t burn. I read that it could take between 5-6 hours, but I think I had mine set too low because it wasn’t finished until the next day. I checked on it periodically and stirred, just wanting to make sure all of it was heating through. This is how it looked halfway through cooking.
The cubes of fat were browning nicely, but they need to be a dark brown, almost crispy looking. Once they get darker brown, it’s time to take it off the heat and remove everything that didn’t render down. I scooped out as much of the remnants as I could and then started to filter it through a coffee filter, but it filtered so slowly that I switched over to my nut-milk bag. You want to make sure that you get out all of the solid pieces so that it doesn’t go rancid. You could also use cheesecloth, but I didn’t have any. Here’s what I had at the end:
The crunchy pieces that I scooped out were a nice bonus, but that beautiful golden liquid was exactly what I was looking for! Now it just needs to cool and solidify. The finished product is a nice creamy white color and has a waxy feel.
I am so happy that I made this! I’ve already used it to sear a ribeye and to cook a couple of eggs. I’m going to try it on my hands since the weather has been so cold and see if it helps with the dryness. I’m excited to not only have this full jar, but in the fact that I succeeded in making it myself! And it cost me nothing but time and electricity.