Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hello Tallow!

A few months back I bought half a cow. I'd done this previously - if you have the money up front and enough freezer space then it's an incredibly economical way to buy beef. This time I did something a bit different though. Instead of throwing away all the odd parts that Americans generally don't eat, I had the processor pack them up as well (which is why I have that well publicized cow tongue ... got do do something with that thing). This means that along with some really great beef I've got a lot of suet and "soup bones".

So late last week I took a package of bones out of the freezer to let them thaw, and on Sunday I put them in a big pot with lots of water (and onions, salt,  pepper, and rosemary) to make beef broth.  Everything went well and I now have the broth frozen in one cup portions for quick, easy use.

All pretty boring, really.

The interesting part started when I was disposing of the used bones and gristle.  I'd dumped the dregs in the sink and made my first discovery:  one of the large pieces of bone had a huge chunk of marrow in it.

Of course I was heartbroken.  I've got recipes that call for marrow, and here I'd let some go to waste.  I poked out the piece of cooked marrow and smooshed it and marveled at the quantity of soft fat still in it.  Neat, in a gross kind of way - or is it gross, in a neat kind of way?

Next I gave the pieces of bone a quick scrub and set them out to dry (I think a couple of people I know have been experimenting with bone carving.  If not then I can just pitch them later).  Back to boring ... until the next time I checked the sink, which is when I found that what I thought to be globs of fat that would easily be washed down the drain were in reality globs of tallow that had now cooled and cemented themselves to the sink.

I know they made candles out of tallow in the middle ages (they're supposed to smell like beef when lit), but I've never seen tallow.  I'd always imagined something about the consistency of beeswax.  Nope, this stuff is hard!  They should make toys out of this stuff, or maybe car bumpers.  It's a hard, brittle, yellow, plastic-like substance.  Softer than most plastics, but harder than candle wax.

So now I've got two things to watch for the next time I thaw out a package of bones.  Remove the marrow before cooking, and collect the tallow after.

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