Posts tagged homemade suet

Birdy it’s cold outside

In other news, the hyper-accurate weather folks at [insert your local mid-Atlantic/northeast news channel] had once again called for more snow, resulting in a state of complete panic and chaos in the area.  Having forgotten what grass looks like, let alone a blue sky, it might be easy to lament the situation and complain loudly to whoever is unfortunate to be within earshot.  Or perhaps you were busy stocking up on milk, eggs and toilet paper, since you either don’t carry more than 2 days worth at any given time, or your inventory of said items suddenly flies south at the mere mention of snow, much as all of us should seriously consider.  Whatever your first-world-problem predicaments were, stop for a moment to think about the birds.

Yes, birds.   …seriously.

I know there are cold and hungry people too, and I will try to help them all too, but I don’t have enough suet and corn meal.  And I hope they’re not eating suet and corn meal, at least unless it’s in the form of grits and biscuits and gravy, more on that later. So, yes, seriously, hungry birds.  With all the snow we’ve been getting and the ground being covered up, there’s slim pickens for the birds.  Now, if you’re anything like me and like bulk warehouse clubs and storing food, you may occasionally run into the problem of too much food and fast-approaching expiration dates.  I absolutely hate wasting food.  Period.  I was a wasteful little kid and I was picky as hell, but lo and behold, when I started working for a living and buying my own food I became an overnight frugalist.  So while I manage to go through my pantry/frig and eat most of what is about to expire, sometimes there’s too much. Like a 50lb bag of steel cut oats.

wpid-wp-1425901351049.jpegI love buying in bulk, and I love Amish/Mormon country stores, because they love bulk too.  That bag was only $25, so it was a great buy. So as I was saying, things sometimes expire.  However, don’t throw them away, many pantry items can be used to help feed your local birds.  I have an assortment of cardinals (my favorite), blue jays, finches, doves, and a few woodpeckers, and they can go through a 50lb bag of bird seed in about 3 days.  Bird seed is expensive, but homemade suet can be free(ish).  I consider something that I was about to throw away to be more or less free.  It’s not perfect logic, but it’s good-enough logic.






Another free item laying around my kitchen: bacon grease.  Oh yes, the good stuff.  Left over bacon drippings that I store in a tin and keep in the frig for Southern cooking.

wpid-wp-1425901365712.jpegThere’s 100 ways to cook Southern food, but 90 of them are butter and the other 10 is bacon grease.   I keep the bacon grease because no self-respecting biscuits and gravy eater would use instant mixes.  I also keep it because I learned my lesson about pouring that stuff down the drain.  So, occasionally, I build up quite a stockpile of it (I buy bacon in bulk too, you know).

So with many of these food items sitting around, you may have put two and two together, or already know where I’m going with this, but it all can be combined to make your own homemade suet cakes.  Bacon grease is salty, but so long as the birds have a supply of clean fresh water nearby, they should be fine.  A heated bird bath is even better.  Set up a suet feeder near your kitchen window and you’ll have a great reminder that there is still life outside and spring will be around soon enough.  Just make sure you use the suet up now, bacon grease isn’t pretty when the temperature starts rising.  I’ll experiment with beef tallow later on, so I’ll share my experiences with that when I do.  First I have to find a butcher or grocery store willing to give me the fat cuttings, or at least sell them to me for a reasonable price.


wpid-wp-1425901357869.jpegIf you’ve ever bought a suet cake, keep the plastic container that it came in, since that makes a great mold for making new suet cakes at home.  I have a simple recipe below.  It can work with quick oats too, since honestly the only thing quick oats are good for is feeding to horses and birds.


But first, here are some foods that are great for birds:
-Sunflower seeds
-Corn meal
-Bread crumbs (I don’t like the heel of the bread loafs, but rather than throw them away, I freeze them and when I have enough for a batch, I put them in the food processor to make my own bread crumbs.  They’re great for mixing with flour and making chicken tenders or fried chicken.)
-Old sugar cookies (use sparingly, too much sugar is bad for birds)
-Peanut butter

Now honey can be really easy, since everyone has experienced the crystalized honey at the bottom of their jars.  I’ve tried heating them in warm water baths or scooping it out and microwaving it to get it to de-crystalize.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just makes a hot crystalized mess.  In the latter case, don’t throw it away, but use it in the suet recipes.

Here are some foods to avoid (some of these may seem obvious, but so does looking both ways before crossing the street…)
-Apple/pear seeds
-Uncooked dried beans
-Coffee grounds

Without further ado, here is a really quick and easy suet recipe:

1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups melted bacon grease
1 cup corn meal
1 cup steel cut oats
Mix all the ingredients together and press into leftover suet cake molds.  I kinda tossed the ingredients together, so you can play with the amounts to fit into the mold correctly.  If you want to be able to pop the suet out, freeze the suet for a few hours and it should come out easily.  If you want to ensure it comes out, spray some Pam in the tray and then dust with flour before filling.


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