I was at my favorite local butcher shop (Prime-N-Tender Meats) the other day, and asked if they had any suet I could have to make homemade suet cakes for the birds. They went in the freezer and came out with this bag containing a big bag of fatty glop.
I’m not really sure what I was expecting. This was a bit of a last minute idea that I came up with while I was there. I thought seemed like an quick, easy project. Oops. I really should have thought this through a little better. But in the end, I did get some really nice looking suet cakes for the birds. Would I do it again? Yes 🙂
Making Homemade Suet Cakes
Ask your local butcher for suet. You may need to ask around, as not all will carry it, and some may charge a nominal fee for it. Cut it up into small, even chunks. Put everything in, even the stuff that doesn’t look at all like anything would eat it. The fat then needs to be rendered. After trying a couple of different ways, (see below), I found that the best way was to use a crock pot over low heat. I felt confident that I could safely leave it to cook all day without worries of starting a grease fire. To get the rendering started, I added a 1/4 cup of water.
Then cover and let it cook all day until the the remaining fat is crunchy and there’s a good amount of liquid fat in the bottom.
Strain out the crunchy remains and place the liquified fat (and little crumbs) in a bowl.
Now it’s time to pull together the ingredients to make the suet cakes. There’s lots of things to use that the birds will love. This time I chose:
- peanut butter
- bird seed
- sunflower seeds
To the 1 c of liquified fat I ended up with, I added about 1/2 c cornmeal, 1/2 c peanut butter, 1 cup mixed seed and 1/2 c sunflower seeds. It should be fairly thick.
I then used 2 glass storage containers to make the cakes in. I don’t have a lot of plastic containers around anymore, but you can use whatever you have in the cupboard–plastic storage containers, plastic tubs, paper cups, whatever you might have around that is the right size.
Place in the refrigerator to harden.
Remove from container and use immediately or store in freezer bags in the freezer. I got them to release from the glass bowls by putting them in warm water for about 30 sec. They may also needs a little coaxing with a knife.
Yum! Now I have 2 very tasty smelling suet cakes ready to be put out for the birds. Whatever you don’t use you can freeze for later use.
**Everything I’ve read says it’s not a good idea to have suet out in the warmer weather. It can melt, go rancid, start to smell bad or can simply damage birds wings or your patio. All good reasons to store the leftover suet in the freezer until next fall.
**When I first started to try and melt the suet, I tried the big chunks in a saucepan, and then cut up in the saucepan. Both terrible ideas from a fire safety standpoint. If you do want to use a saucepan, a double boiler would be a much better idea.
**My mom, Peggy, simplifies things even further by just putting the fat from the butcher in a net or cage and let the birds go at it. They love that, too.