Tallow, n., \’ta-(,)lō\ — 1) the white, nearly tasteless solid rendered fat of cattle and sheep used chiefly in soap, candles, and lotions, and 2) the butter-looking runoff that smells quite a lot like French fries, made using a thoroughly gut-turning process, that leaves your hands smelling like a slaughterhouse.
Here’s a handy-dandy recipe to make your own all-natural moisturizer, plus my own experience.
-2 to 3 pounds of suet (raw fat/trimmings, purchased from a local farmer, or from a guy who performs liposuction out of the back of his van)
-5-quart Crock Pot, or other electrically heated earthenware
-2 heat-safe bowls
Step 1: Cut the suet into 1/2″ pieces or smaller. Be careful to remove any bits of meat from the fat. This will help the cooking process to have a less-potent scent.
I grabbed the biggest, sharpest knife I had. After I removed the wrapping, I set the log of cow fat on the cutting board. As I pressed the knife in, the pieces of fat began to fall apart into cheese curd-like bits. After two or three attempts to cleanly cut the suet, I realized it was useless. Even trying to use the tip of the knife to remove the meaty bits from the pure fat was frustrating.
It became apparent that I could save time and effort by simply breaking the fat into bits using my bare hands. I felt uneasy as I used my fingernails to separate small bits of meat from the gristle. At that very moment, I realized I would not make a very good serial killer.
Step 2: Cook the suet in a Crock-Pot for 90 minutes on low, or until the tallow has completely separated from the solid trimmings. This is essentially a way to render fat at home.
The first thing I did after starting to heat the suet was to wash my hands. Good lord, my fingers had a thick layer of waxy fat which smelled intensely of hoof and organ meat. (Paramedics described a similar smell when they came upon Elvis in his Graceland bathroom.) The house began to fill with the aroma of a McDonald’s, if that McDonald’s used pure animal fat for their fry grease and didn’t have a ball pit that smelled like urine.
Step 3: Use a cheese cloth to strain the tallow into a heat-safe bowl. After straining, set the remaining solids aside.
This is a two-person job for sure. One person holds the cheesecloth/bowl, and the other pours the tallow/solids and asks why in the world they were doing this in the first place.
Step 4: Enjoy the fruit of your bounty!
Apparently, the tallow soaks into your skin better than many other organic oils/lotion alternatives. You can even mix in your choice of aromatic essential oils if you don’t want to smell like French fries (but who doesn’t want that?). It will keep for up to a couple of months in the fridge, or a few weeks at room temperature (again, not unlike McDonald’s fries).
The solids are called “cracklins”. You can fry them up in a pan and top your favorite food with them – eggs, salads, chili, etc. Especially etc. They have the consistency of fried bacon fat and are actually quite delicious.
I hope this has been a chance for you to live vicariously through me. Vicarious is definitely an upgrade. Usually, I’m just a cautionary tale.