Saturday, February 26, 2011
Here in Missouri, I'm lucky enough to have a farmer nearby who raises great pastured chicken. I buy all of my chicken from him at one time each year, and I also get a couple of other specialty things from him: organ meats and FAT. We real foodies tend to share a love of good fats, and the rendered fat from a chicken raised on green pasture is a thing of beauty. It adds a uniquely rich and savory flavor to anything from Spanish rice to the morning's fried eggs, not to mention various nutritional benefits arising from the pasture diet (B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, etc.). This is how I render it:
Matt (the above mentioned farmer) picks out the neck fat from each chicken when he slaughters them and saves it for me. I get it in gallon bags and stick them in the freezer until I have time to render the fat:
I do the rendering with my CrockPot, because it's a nice moderately low temperature way to set it up and forget about it for a while. In the past, I never added water to the mix. I heard that it keeps the flavor mild though, so I tried it this time. I'll let you know if I can tell the difference in flavor, but as far as convenience goes the no-water method wins (there is no need to separate the fat from the water at the end). Here's the fat as it goes into the crockpot:
After a few hours of cooking, the big globs of tissue will shrink considerably and will be floating in a golden pool of delicious rendered fat. You can see a little bit of scum floating on top here, just skim it off as you pull out the tissue. My dogs love the leftover bits as a little extra breakfast treat:
After skimming, the fat will be clear and a deep golden color. The fat is lighter than water, so it floats on top. All you have to do to separate it is dip it out with a ladle, being careful not to go below the fat/water boundary.
Here's the fat after spending the night in the fridge to solidify. Straight out of the fridge, the texture is somewhat like whipped butter. If you leave it on the counter it gets very soft, or will liquefy at about 70 degrees.