Looking for a fun (inside) activity to do this weekend? Still need a gift or two for the holidays? Want to help engage children and adults in the wonders of nature? This is it!! Make your own suet cakes. This is a fantastically fun (albeit a little messy) way to create meaningful and inexpensive holiday gifts.
Simply put, suet is animal fat. This high calorie food is perfect for birds in the winter as they are expending a lot of energy trying to stay warm!
You can get suet from several sources. You can purchase rendered (cleaned) suet from a birding store. Or, for a less expensive option, contact your local grocery store or butcher to purchase the fat they trim off the meat. If you choose the second option, you will need to render it. To do this, grind or cut the suet into small pieces. Melt the suet in a large pot. Once it is melted, strain it through a cheesecloth or small strainer. Do this twice to ensure all the meat is out of the fat (this will help your suet remain hard once it cools… nothing is messier that suet that melts all over your backyard!).
Ok, not what you have your rendered suet, you can get going on the process!
What you will need:
- Rendered suet (at least 1 cup, but if you are going through the process, you might as well make several cakes thus you will need more!)
- Cornmeal, Wheat Flour, Oats (the non-instant kind)
- Chunky peanut butter (optional)
- Unsalted nuts – peanuts, walnuts, pecans, etc. (optional)
- Dried fruit bits – raisins, cranberries, etc. (optional)
- Bird seed – shelled sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, cracked corn, etc. (optional)
How to make suet:
- Melt the suet in a large stock pot.
- Add peanut butter and cornmeal/flour/oats. Stir together and continue to melt.
- Add whatever treats you would like to provide for your birds – nuts, dried fruit bits, bird seed, etc.
- Pour mixture into a pan… I like to use a Bundt pan as it makes a nice “wreath” to give as gifts. But, you can use a 9×13 pan and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes once it hardens. Some people like to use old plastic suet packages from store-bought suet as the size is perfect for a suet feeder. Really, any pan will work. If you want to be able to hang you suet with a nice ribbon (for a gift!), be sure to poke a straw or skewer to create a hole.
There are TONS of recipes for suet available online… some a basic, some are pretty complicated. Whatever you choose, the birds will love it!
Now the fun part! Hang your suet outside. Your backyard just became the “cool” spot for the birds to hang-out! And, you now have a great gift for a friend… and the birds!!