Homespun

Using Every Part of the Animal

using-every-part-of-the-animal

Introduction

When I cook meat, I like to be mindful of how I can use the parts of the animal that people often discard. Whether it’s making bone broth, creating tallow, or even making your own soap, there is great value in using as many parts of the animal as you can.

 

Bone Broth

Making bone broth can be very rewarding. I usually use it to make soups, curries, stews, and chili. Sometimes I make a Thai coconut curry soup, but usually, I gravitate towards my favorite dish: a thick, stew-like curry, served over rice. 

To make a bone broth, boil the bones of your preferred wild game (chicken, beef) for several hours to extract all the nutrients and flavors found deep in the marrow. For reference, I usually boil my bones for up to seven hours. To determine if you're cooking the bones long enough, you may rely on color, smell, and taste. The broth should have a gelatinous consistency once cooled. And, if it isn’t thick enough, don’t worry so much — as long as you’ve extracted a great deal of the flavor and nutrients from the bones, you should be fine. Next, strain the broth into mason jars and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it (usually no longer than one week). You may also store it in the freezer for later use, adding onions, carrots, celery, and salt for increased flavor.

For soups, curries, and stews, I generally start with caramelizing onions and adding flour to make a roux. I then deglaze them by adding bone broth, cream, and all remaining ingredients and spices. The creams I use for curries vary, though I will often use compound butter, heavy whipping cream, Greek yogurt, or coconut milk, depending on the sweetness or savoriness I’m in the mood for.

Boiling bones for seven hours is no easy feat. I find time to make bone broth while making more complex meals during my days off, then use it to make simpler dishes during the week. If I get bones during the week, I will freeze them and boil them on the weekend. I do the same thing with the unused parts of vegetables to make vegetable broth.

 

Tallow

What is tallow? It’s the fat rendered from the harder fat tissues of the animal or, in short, grease. It has a butter-like texture and becomes a liquid when it is heated. I have rendered tallow for several years. I usually only do it when I buy significant cuts of meat with lots of excess fat, such as beef brisket. Before smoking a brisket, I will remove most of the fat protecting the brisket (though some must be left on to give your brisket flavor). While my brisket is smoking, I will take the fat cap and put it in a large pan in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for a few hours, until the fat has become dark, crisp, and shriveled. I then strain the tallow into a mason jar and use it for frying. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to several months.

 

Soap

Last year, I stumbled on a video on the MeatEater, Inc. website presented by Clay Newcomb, host of the Bear Grease Podcast. In this video, he shows how to make soap using bear tallow. I never considered making my own soap but thought it might be a fun project to tackle. Shortly after watching the video, I smoked four briskets for our Ridgecrest company campout and made soap using what I had left. I rendered the tallow from the fat caps and stored it until I got all the other components for making my soap. Before getting started, I went to soapcalc.net (which Clay talks about) to create my recipe. I selected beef tallow and added a small amount of two other oils — coconut and canola — to bring it within the specification ranges it required. The thought of working with lye was intimidating at first, but it turned out to be no more dangerous than boiling water. I cleared my work area, got all of my supplies and equipment out, made sure the area was clear of small children and pets, put on my gloves, and went to work. The soap turned out great! I was able to fill two soap boxes and had extra to experiment with. I mixed materials such as coffee grounds and dried rosemary into the experimental soap molds. Next time, I will add herbs. It was a lot of fun and I ended up with an awesome finished product!

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