Tallow Follow-Up

In my earlier post about tallow, I mentioned Jennifer McLagan, a “nose to tail” chef and author who writes about the subject in her books Bones, Fat, and the forthcoming Odd Bits. I sent McLagan an e-mail, asking for her help with my suet/tallow conundrum. Here is her helpful response:

Hello Tricia,

From your photos I would say that was suet, it is brittle and has a papery membrane. Technically suet is tallow, the general term for beef and lamb fat, but beef/veal suet can be used without rendering. It is very firm at room temperature, so you can just grate it and then make wonderful tea biscuits, dumplings and steamed puddings. You can still use it for all these recipes, just dice it as would any other fat, but yes, you could have skipped the rendering step.
As you have rendered, it try making french fries with it. They will be amazing.

I recently made one of her salad dressing recipes, but substituted chicken fat for the duck fat. When the dressing turned out quite bland, I realized that chicken fat and duck fat are not interchangeable. Since I have jars of frozen chicken fat I need to use, I asked her when, if ever, it would be appropriate to use chicken fat in place of duck fat.

As for chicken fat vs. duck fat, duck fat is richer and better flavoured than chicken fat. Also duck and goose (even tastier) are lower in polyunsaturated fats than chicken fat, so have a better omega 3/omega 6 ratio. Try using it when you roast or sauté poultry, or add it to the pan to cook eggs — anywhere you are not depending on it for flavour, as in the grapefruit salad dressing.
You could make the gribenes recipe. It’s delicious and I am sure you could confit in it, as the flavour comes from the spicing and what you are confiting. You can cook chicken skin in a pan and make chicken cracklings and add them to a tea biscuit or top a salad or cooked vegetables with them. Also it would be great when you want a neutral fat. So when a recipe says “vegetable” oil that I am sure you are not using, grab your chicken fat.
Hope this helps.
Yours in fat,
Jennifer

2010 in Review

Please excuse the serious lack of activity around here. I’ve been keeping my new mother alive with champagne, spending some time eating and photographing snow peas (our only successful fall crop), stocking up the freezer with chicken stock, and eating a healthy dose of black-eyed peas for New Year’s. But I just haven’t gotten around to getting any of it posted. Don’t give up on me; I’ll be back someday soon!

Meanwhile, the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how my blog did in 2010, and here’s a high-level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2010. That’s about 21 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 38 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 231 posts.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, freshgreens.typepad.com, mail.yahoo.com, bulgarbugle.com, and harvestymebread.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for chicken fat, heart, oklavore, and census of agriculture 2009.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Rendering Chicken Fat April 2009
11 comments

2

Census of Agriculture February 2009
3 comments

3

About Tricia October 2008
2 comments

4

Garden Update May 2009
6 comments

Cook and Freeze

I know I’m in good company when I say, if I don’t control myself, I could go crazy buying cookbooks. So, I have a mostly no-purchasing policy. Mostly. I bought two cookbooks for myself in the last year or so, and they were both purchased last month. I borrowed Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn from the library, and after getting it home, reading every word of the introductory chapters, and lusting over the descriptions of cured meat, I knew I had to have it. (Side note: Unfortunately the library’s copy smelled like cigarette smoke, instead of luscious smoked pork.) Expect to see some future posts about my experimentation with charcuterie.
The second cookbook, Cook & Freeze by Dana Jacobi, was mentioned on The Splendid Table. Not long after, I started a new job. It was my first week and I was flipping out about my new schedule and the lack of time to prepare good food. (Case in point: Braum’s and shitty CVS cookies were two of my evening “meals” that week.) My sweet brother reminded me of the handy contraption that lives in the dusty cabinet above the fridge — the slow cooker — which has experienced a rebirth. And Lynne Rossetto Kasper introduced me to Dana Jacobi.
While she was testing recipes for her Mediterranean cookbook, Jacobi stashed some favorites in the freezer. She said what emerged was a revelation that led her to discover which foods tasted good when freshly cooked and defrosted. She experimented with methods and ingredients, which was all extremely helpful when she later she found herself spread thin from caring for her aging parents.
There are several things that I love about Cook & Freeze. This is the type of food I already want to cook, regardless of hectic schedules. Mexican Mushrooms in Won Ton Cups. Cantonese Flank Steak. Mole Chicken Enchiladas. Spiced Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup.
And the recipes call for ingredients I already use, save rice flour, but I am willing to pick that up at a health food store. There are no convenient “mystery foods,” but the convenience is still there.
Each recipe gives instructions for serving now, freezing, and defrosting. She gives helpful tips for substitutions, and makes note of recipes that work well when doubled or halved.
The first chapter, “Everything You Need to Know,” is about preparing, packing, and defrosting for best results.
The final chapter, “Cooking to Fill Your Freezer,” groups recipes that can easily be prepared simultaneously. Can’t wait to do that.
cook and freeze tool
Sophisticated tool: Half of a 2-liter bottle (or something similar) makes a handy stand for filling freezer bags. Genius!
cook and freeze tool
Fold the bag over the stand and fill ‘er up.
cook and freeze
Remove the bag, lay flat, and evenly spread the contents and press out air bubbles, all while taking care not to squish the food out of the bag. After you get the contents smooth and as much air released as possible, seal the bag and lay it on a flat surface in the freezer. Use a cookie sheet or cutting board if you need to. Have you ever had a bag freeze between the slots of a wire rack? That’s a real pain in the ass.
cook & freeze: sweet and tangy bison balls
Label and date everything. With each recipe, Jacobi recommends that ideal storage time. Consider keeping an inventory of your freezer for simplified meal planning.
frozen beans
This flat bag of beefy kidney beans brings me great satisfaction. Doesn’t take much, does it?

Stuffing/Dressing

Tell me more about your dressing: do you include boiled eggs, giblets, seafood, nuts? In your mind, what are the regional variations in stuffing ingredients?

Even though I know the distinction between stuffing and dressing, I still find myself using the terms interchangeably. Is that a southern thing? Or perhaps it’s a product of the cultural goulash that was my upbringing. As a Texan raised by a Minnesotan mother and a Coloradoan father, my word choice is often schizophrenic: coke/pop, supper/dinner, aunt/aunt (pronounced ant), y’all/you guys, envelope/envelope (pronounced onvelope), etc. Speaking of such things, have you seen this awesome map that illustrates the regional terms for soda (or is it pop? or coke?)?

Some Reading

Does this mean real, clean food is mainstream?
Katie Couric
Oprah

Monsanto mucks around with eggplant and the Indian environment minister says “no,” at least for now. The minister imposed a six-month moratorium on the launch bt brinjal, which would be the first GM vegetable. I was confused at first, but I guess technically corn and soy aren’t technically vegetables? Side note: isn’t aubergine a beautiful word?

Romantic photos of a farm in Florida.

A New York Times article explains how aquaponic systems use wastewater from tilapia to nourish lettuce plants. I know this is innovative and cool, but is it also sad? If you’re interested in learning more, Urban Harvest in OKC is offering an aquaponic workshop on March 27.

No brownies at NYC school bake sales, but spicy sweet chili Doritos are okay. Essentially, bake sales have been replaced with mass-produced crap sales.

3/20: The NYT follows up on the “crap sales.” Great quote:
Now, she said, “we’re supposed to believe that a packaged chocolate-chip cookie is preferable to a homemade one, not on the basis of taste, texture or the quality of the ingredients, but because it came from a factory and has a nutrition label.”

Food environment atlas: a spatial overview of a community’s ability to access healthy food and its success in doing so. Awesome!

Slant and Sausage

Do you subscribe to Meatingplace headlines and blog updates? I can’t remember how I came across the site, but I continue to read and get pissed; read, get pissed. It’s my education on inserting bias and “fast, flexible, fully automated sausage production.”

The industry blogs are even more fun, where bloggers like Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton of Poultry Perspectives argue semantics: in her view factory farms and family-owned farms are mutually exclusive. And the mere existence of factory farms is questionable. Oh, and this gem: “Poultry farmers are farmers and by nature these people love the environment otherwise, they could have a career in an office doing much less physically exhausting work.” (from “The message we need to shout,” 9/1/09; I’d link to it, but articles and blogs require a sign-in.)

Yesterday’s Meatingplace headlines were peculiar in that two stories were inconveniently interwoven.

meating place

The referenced author is Jonathan Safran Foer, whose new book is titled Eating Animals. He has an erroneously titled opinion piece here. I guess an honest, thorough title wouldn’t be as provocative. Do you think Foer’s critique of animal agriculture will be taken seriously? Is there room for another voice in this discussion?

Speaking of indoctrination…

Don’t ya just love all this “indoctrination” talk stirred up because—gasp!—the President seeks to directly engage schoolchildren?

Let us focus on some legitimate indoctrination:

“By the year 2000, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that one in five schools participating in the National School Lunch Program had brand-name fast foods in their lunchrooms.”

—School Lunch Politics
by Susan Levine

More here.