In my last article, I covered the basics for how to render wild game fat. If you’re new to the process, check out that piece before you proceed with this one.
Most hunters don’t utilize fat from waterfowl, deer or pigs, and that’s understandable. There’s generally a lack of knowledge in the hunting community for how to do it, or even if it’s worth the effort.
I can definitively say it is worth it, and I think you’ll agree after trying this recipe. After much experimentation, I’ve found that one of the best ways to use tallow is by creating a soft, spreadable butter.
If you’ve ever rendered fat from a deer or pig, you’re familiar with how it cools rapidly and takes on a rigid, wax-like texture that coats and sticks to the mouth. It can be rather unpleasant, which explains why most people toss fat out with the scraps.
Typically, ruminant animals like deer and elk produce more hard, saturated fat than pigs do. Interestingly, I discovered after rendering boar fat into lard that it was very hard, similar to deer tallow. This is because wild hog fatback is significantly more saturated than domestic pig fatback, which creates that dense texture. For most of my life, I’ve been ditching tallow because of this dilemma. The tallow’s enticing aroma didn’t allow me to ignore it for long, though.
My goal was to find a way to make wild tallow and lard more useful in the kitchen. To do this, I needed to further my understanding of wild game fat.
Every animal has a specific fatty acid composition composed of triglycerides with different amounts of saturation. The hardest culinary fat, like suet found near kidneys, is the most saturated. The more saturated a fat is, the higher the melting point. Conversely, the lower it is in saturation, the softer it’ll be. Duck fat is an example of soft fat, which feels cushy at room temperature.
Highly saturated fats, such as tallow and wild lard, take longer to melt but cool very rapidly. When cooking, this reaction happens quickly, and if you don’t eat while it’s piping hot, you will feel it stick to the back of your tongue.
Blending tallow with a type of fat that is less saturated, such as butter, will transform it into something more palatable. Because butter is 20% water, it needs to be emulsified when mixed with rendered tallow or else it will break. Follow the steps below to guide you in that process.
The saturated fat in the wild tallow and lard increases the smoke point of butter slightly, which makes it easier to cook without burning. At room temperature, it is soft enough to spread across toasted bread.
Blending wild game fat into butter creates a rich and delicious product that works beyond just being spread on toast. Think of this basic recipe as the foundation upon which to build by adding a variety of ingredients to make a compound game butter.
1 cup butter
1/4 cup rendered wild tallow or lard
Also works with
Deer, elk, antelope, hog, bear
Makeshift double boiler and ice bath
- Create a makeshift double boiler by finding the right size bowl to fit over a pot. Fill the pot halfway with water and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and a little water.
- Add the butter and tallow or lard to the bowl on top of the steaming pot of water. Allow to gently heat and melt both until both are fully liquified. Use a whisk to mix well.
- Remove the bowl from the steaming pot of water and place it in the ice bath. Continuously whisk as it begins to cool to keep the two fats emulsified. The tallow cools at a faster rate. You might feel it try to stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl that are in direct contact with ice below. Keep whisking to prevent this. Within a minute or two, you will need to take the bowl off the ice so it doesn’t cool the butter too quickly, otherwise it will harden and crumble. The consistency should feel like buttercream: soft but still thick and viscous.
- Pour the tallow butter into a clean jar. It can be stored in the refrigerator for several months and will harden to the consistency of chilled butter. Use it for cooking purposes as you would plain butter.
If you want to use tallow for pastries, you will need a more dense consistency. Use the same method above, but change the ratio to half butter and half tallow. Keep it cool as you whisk to create a crumbled effect that is perfect for pie dough.