For the Birds, of Course.[This is so not what I want to post today, but I already have it written, and so up it goes! Suet is hardly what I want to be thinking about on our first nice day in weeks. I want to write about dandelions and asparagus and seedlings and spring-type stuff! But I can’t. Why? Because I have to work on soccer. Stupid soccer. Endless soccer. Thankless soccer. No, that’s not true. People thank me. They really do. So I’ll stop complaining now. And you can’t complain about this stupid, seasonally inappropriate suet post, Deal?]
Am I the only one who seems to invest hundreds of dollars a year feeding the birds? Suet is the worst. Honest to Pete. A buck and change for one block and it’s gone in about three days — less than one if I’ve got a raccoon lurking about, which I do right now. Or, just one Pileated Woodpecker visit (so cool and fun) and the whole thing is about gone in minutes!
This winter a friend who I am doing some work for paid me with bird feeders from her online store, feathersdelivers.com, and suddenly I’ve got these new suet feeders to fill. Circular holes need special suet plugs and guess what? They cost more! So maddening. But since I absolutely love the suet feeder and don’t want to part with it, I decided to make my own. Pretty easy, really.
I bought a big bag of beef suet, some cheap peanut butter and peanuts, and about three pounds of cornmeal.
I read online that the beef suet can be so strong smelling that you’d want to melt it outside. I didn’t. I piled it into my crock pot and turned it on high. When I lifted the lid of the crock pot the first time a few hours later, it was with some trepidation that I took my first sniff…
Strong? It smelled DELICIOUS! Like a nice, big, fatty steak! It was all I could do not to reach into the bubbling cauldron of fat and snag a gelatanous piece for myself. The birds be damned.
What? You think I’m kidding? I love fat. Love it. And I’m not ashamed to say it. Well, not anymore I’m not. I figure, who cares? Fatty loves fat. And that pot of pure fat bubbling away for hours was a lesson in restraint. [Yuck. It even sounds gross to me as I write this, but it’s the truth.]
I expected the beef suet to melt completely, but it didn’t. I suspect what you get from the butcher or grocery store contains some small bits of muscle or tendon. I don’t know. I let it cook for hours. Then I strained it and pressed it and poured it back into the pot. I stirred in the peanut butter, the chopped peanuts and almost all of the cornmeal.
I’m lying. My dad took over. He stirred it all together because he’s done it before and because he loves to do that kind of stuff. He gets all bossy and opinionated. We yell at each other and throw our hands in the air. It’s fun. He also did it because I was busy making the Peruvian Pleasures meal for later that night.
We let it cool enough to roll it into logs. We’d certainly like to tweak that process for next time, as it was messy and we kept thinking of ideas that might make it easier. My dad’s ideas, always complicated and intricate — like having molds made (?) and to pour the hot suet in to… Mine simpler and more ‘make-shift’, like “let’s just let them cool more” or “let’s just use the Silpat mat”.
It took us about 30 minutes to roll them. I let them cool a bit more then cut them and put them on a sheet in the freezer. After they were hard we put them into zipper bags for storage. I’ve used them already and they work great.
The best part? We made about 75 plugs for $13. The plugs you buy in the store go for anywhere from $1 to $1.75 each ($3-$5 a package). That’s a savings of about 85%!
Someone should probably check my math. I skipped 8th grade math and percentages have always escaped me. That and absolute values, though I find lack of absolute value skills to be less crippling in real-life.
I don’t think the raccoons have figured out how to devour the suet plugs yet, but I’m sure it’s coming. I might try to trap the big momma tonight. If I do, I’ll post a picture. Raccoons are so cute from afar and like Satan’s evil twin up close. A video might be better.