Some of the most adventurous home cooks might want to know about a range of animal products called "suet," or specifically, a common one called beef suet. Although by most admissions, these rustic foods are not much used in regular American cooking, they are popular on the other side of the pond, across the Atlantic, in jolly old England. When it's time to dust off the traditional Victorian cookbook or try a range of recipes from across the globe, this somewhat obscure food may come up. Finding it in a supermarket shouldn't be too hard, but learning to use it can be another matter.
What Is Beef Suet?
Beef suet is a kind of raw beef fat. Specifically, the suet is the hard fat around the kidneys of the animal. It has a melting point of 113-122 degrees Farenheit, and substantially below that range it will congeal into hard chunks.
Some people confuse the beef suet with the drippings or other beef by-products. In actuality, beef suet is kind of hard to miss; while many find it to be a disturbing and unappetizing product, it can be tasty if cooked in the right capacity.Uses of Beef Suet
Beef suet was traditionally used to make tallow, where fat was critical in the production of candles that afforded light to pre-Edison homes. These days, beef suet is still used in some English dishes. The classic Yorkshire pudding dish, as well as English Christmas pudding both use beef suet as an ingredient. The old U.K. favorite 'steak and kidney pudding' also uses beef suet as a textural and taste component. Those who want to re-create these kinds of authentic old English meals might go looking for beef suet to make their culinary experience complete.
Another modern use of beef suet is in bird feeding. Lots of birdwatchers who want to attract a diverse community of birds to their yards will use beef suet as a base for a "suet cake" or similar bird feeder food. Buyers can warm the fat to its softening point, then mix in seeds, peanut butter and other ingredients to make a tasty meal for jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, and many other kinds of birds. Some even use suet cakes to draw squirrels and other wildlife to a space.
Some of those individuals who are into using natural products have come up with some other interesting uses for beef suet. One of the commonly reported ones is using this animal product as a waterproofing or polish for boots and other leather wear. Consumers who tend to stick to commercial products will be amazed at what you can get out of these lumps of animal fat.Buying Beef Suet
Because beef suet that gets too close to its melting point over time can turn rancid, butchers recommend buying the stuff in hard chunks and keeping it below or at room temperature. In a solid state, suet can last for while, but it's best to use it as soon as possible for human consumption.
Knowing more about natural products like beef suet can help consumers and households find different ways to cook. At the fringes of food science, the traditional quaint uses of these products remind modern individuals of a time when communities did more with unprocessed foods and raw materials.