In the absence of butter or cooking oil you can easily render fat from an animal to use for cooking. Animal fats have a medium-high smoking point making them great for many cooking methods like frying or sautéing.
Wild game like duck and geese have an abundance of natural fats that, when rendered, make a delicious way to transfer heat to the food you are cooking. Also, when coupled with a cure in salt, the meat can be cooked then stored in earthenware in the ground for a long period of time before consuming.
All animal fats will taste different and vary within species based on the diet of the animal. Pork fat (lard) or beef (tallow) will have milder flavours than duck or goose, and when done strictly with the suet are great for making pastries.
How to Render Animal Fat
Game birds have visceral fat in the cavity, separate it from the innards when gutting the bird. There is also subcutaneous fat found under the skin from all over the bird. Use as little or as much of the skin as you like. Save any trim from the gutting and butchering process for rendering.
For large game there are more types of fat to be aware of for rendering purposes. Caul fat is what you will find around the animals stomach. It is thin like a membrane and can also be used as casings for sausage or maintaining moisture when cooking lean pieces of meat. Suet is the hard visceral fat located around the kidneys and loin which, when done alone, can also be used for candles or pastries. There is also subcutaneous and intramuscular fat which can be found under the skin and attached to the muscle.
The process for rendering the fat is the same for all.
Cut your fat or duck/goose skin in similarly sized pieces. You may find it easier to chill the fat first. This is not a mandatory step but can make the rendering process happen quicker.
Put the trimmed fat pieces in a pot with a generous amount of water. Place heat to a simmer then reduce to low heat. As the water evaporates the fat will melt.
If you put the neck or any piece of meat in the pot it will tenderize as you are rendering the fat. The neck meat makes a great snack and can be used in a number of preparations.
Your fat is fully rendered when the impurities also known as cracklings have all floated to the top. At this time you should have a clear liquid on the bottom of the pot that looks like unfiltered oil. There should be no presence of water. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Keep the bits that floated to the top as the cracklings make tasty snacks and or garnishes, especially in the case of duck or goose skin.
Be careful when handling the rendered animal fat, as it will be hot. Place in a jar and once the fat reaches room temperature, store it in a cool place like the fridge or even the freezer. If the rendered fat is to be kept in the fridge or freezer, I like to let it cool in a baking dish deep enough to hold the fat so I can cut the pieces up for ease of use.
The rendered fat you have created can be used as a substitute for butter and other cooking oils in preparing vegetables, enriching cornmeal grits, and the like.
Next week, I will talk about cooking your meat in the rendered fat.