Suet, It's What"s For Dinner
What is Suet?
Suet could be called candy for birds, they love it. The true definition of suet is raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys.
What are the benefits of Suet?
Suet is a high energy food that is an excellent supplement to your back yard seed feeder. Suet helps birds to generate body heat making it especially beneficial during the colder months of the year. The further north you go the more important it is that you add suet to your back yard menu.
Presenting suet is a great way for bird watchers to attract additional birds that do not always visit back yard seed feeders. Some of the birds that enjoy suet are Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Wrens, Titmice, Creepers, Chickadees, Cardinals, Bluebirds and more.
When should you use Suet?
Suet can be presented year round, but is best used through the colder months of the year. When temperatures go above 60 degrees suet will go rancid and give off a bad odor. If you would like to include suet as a food source through the warmer months of the year buy commercially made "No MELT" cakes.
Where do you get Suet?
Suet can be collected by trimming the hard white fat from steaks and other cuts of beef or mutton. You can purchase packages of suet from your local butcher or from the meat department of your local grocery store.
How do you prepare Suet?
Raw suet can be put out directly and will be readily accepted by birds. If you have been saving suet scraps you can stuff them into a wire suet feeder that can be purchased from any store that sells wild bird seed, or you can hang the suet using a mesh onion bag. If you purchased the suet from the meat market, cut it into chunks and fill your wire suet feeder or put into a mesh onion bag and hang near your seed feeder.
If you would like to be more creative and make your own suet cakes, here is how you render suet. Once the rendering is finished making suet cakes can be a great project to do with your kids.
- Grind suet or chop into very small pieces
- Heat suet over low heat until melted
- Strain melted suet through fine cheesecloth and let harden
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 (if you do not process a second time suet will not cake properly)
- Pour into forms or place in refrigerator until suet sets-up to a point it can be worked with.
The melted suet can be poured into small to medium paper cups and then placed in the freezer to harden. Once hardened remove from the freezer and dip the paper cups into warm water and the cups will easily pull off.
You can pour the melted suet into a pie tin. Place in the freezer to set up. Set-up takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Once set remove from freezer and cut into 8 pieces. Return to freezer and allow to harden completely.
If you don't want to use forms you can take the set-up suet and roll it into balls or smear it directly onto tree bark or into pinecones. You are limited only by your imagination as how to form or place your processed suet.
Don't forget to add a string to be used as a hanger. Use a heavier piece of twine approx. 12 inches long and tie a knot on each end to help it hold in the hardened suet.
If you would like to spice up the cakes you can add some of the following ingredients:
For every pound of suet you can add 1 cup of any of the following ingredients. The ingredients can be used alone or they can be mixed and matched.
Yellow Cornmeal, Rolled Oats , Mixed Wild Bird Seed, Raisins, Raw Peanuts Chopped and Unsalted, millet, or Black Oil Sunflower Seeds.
If you use the dry ingredients place in a bowl and mix well. Add the melted suet to the mixture and stir until well blended. Place into forms and follow directions for set-up. If not using forms, once the mixture is set-up you can roll into balls or smear into pinecones.
If you make more than you plan to use immediately place extra in the freezer and use when needed.
Suet feeders can attract unwanted birds, such as Starlings, Grackles or Jays. If this happens, you can purchase a suet feeder that is protected on all sides except the bottom. This will only allow birds that can feed while hanging upside down such as Nuthatches and Woodpeckers.