Market trimmings vary with the customs of the locality and the character of the cuts bought, but it is certain that a saving can be made if the trimmings are brought home and used in cooking or for other purposes.
* Bailey, E. H. S. The Source, Chemistry and Use of Food Products. Missouri Agr. Exp. Sta.
After being tried out and clarified, all sweet suet from market and home trimmings of beef and mutton, drippings from roasts, bacon fat, fresh pork fat, and sausage fat can be combined or used singly in cooking. For frying croquettes, breaded chops, French fried potatoes, and the like, a mixture of various fats, such as beef, mutton, and bacon, is excellent. The cracklings from tried-out suet are good for shortening in corn cakes and suet puddings.
In buying suet separately, it should be remembered that fats from all parts of the animal do not melt at the same temperature. For example, cod suet melts at a lower temperature and is, therefore, a softer fat than is kidney suet For some kinds of cooking the softer fat is much to be preferred.
In general, fats are almost completely digested, although experiments indicate that fats with low melting points, such as butter and olive oil, are digested more completely than those with high melting points, such as mutton fat and beef fat.
More important, however, than the kind of fat eaten, is the method of treatment of fat in the process of cooking. Fat foods that are badly cooked or other foods that are poorly cooked in fat are often unsuspected sources of digestive troubles. Overheating fat, that is, heating it to the point where blue smoke is visible, causes decomposition with the formation of substances that are irritating to the digestive tract. It is suggested that the absorption of certain of these materials into the blood stream may cause disturbances more far-reaching than is yet known.
On the other hand, cooking food in fat at too low a temperature is not without ill effects, as it causes the fat to be soaked up and the food to be covered with layers of fat; this retards the action of the digestive juices and causes delay in the reasonably prompt passage of food from the stomach.
Two objections are usually offered to the utilization in cooking processes of the harder fats, such as beef and mutton, namely, the flavor and the hardness. The hardness may be overcome by mixing them with softer fats, such as lard and cottonseed oil. The flavor may be modified by careful rendering and by disguising it as in savory fat.
Various combinations of fats may be used; for example, one part of bacon fat and two parts of mutton fat, one part of lard or fresh pork drippings and two parts of mutton fat, one part of sausage fat and two parts of mutton fat. Many housekeepers say that they do not have time to mix the fats together in accurate proportions; they therefore mix their hard and soft fats in any amounts that happen to be at hand, generally with good results. Of course, such a mixture is softer than either mutton or beef fat alone.
If the harder fats are used for shortening, they must be kept in a warm place for some time before they are used, in order that they may become soft; otherwise, extra time and strength are expended in order to work them into the flour for biscuits and pastry and to cream the shortening and sugar for cake. Under any circumstances, it seems a little more difficult to work them into the flour than is the case with butter. In ginger cookies and gingerbread, where the shortening is melted before it is added, this difficulty is not apparent.
If other fats are substituted for butter, salt must be added to take the place of the salt in the butter.
Mutton fat combined with the softer fats is most satisfactory for all kinds of biscuits, muffins, and cakes that are to be served hot, or at least on the same day on which they are baked. The "furry" feeling in the mouth that comes from eating hard fats is less noticeable if the products are eaten with hot drinks or fruit sauces. Lemon juice added for part of the liquid in cakes also lessens this "furry" feeling.
Mutton fat is excellent in all cases in which a small amount of shortening is used and when spices and molasses help to mask the mutton flavor. In cakes made with mutton fat, vanilla and chocolate are successful flavors. Cakes do not have so fine a grain and do not keep so well when they are made with mutton fat as when they are made with butter.
Certainly mutton fat can be utilized to a greater extent than is generally thought. If handled skillfully in the preparation, the products are not only satisfactory but excellent.
Tests for the use of mutton fat gave the following results: * " It would make for economy if mutton fat were more commonly used in the kitchen. For this reason, tests were made of different ways of modifying the flavor so that the mutton fat might be more generally used in cooking. The most satisfactory method found was to mix some leaf lard with the suet and render with milk. The suet and leaf lard mixture was finely divided by passing it through a meat grinder, and was heated in a double boiler with about one-half of its weight of whole milk. The fat was quickly released from the tissues, and, when allowed to cool, formed a cake on the surface of the liquid, which was easily removed. Mutton suet and leaf lard, fresh and of good quality, 'tried out' in this way, possessed little, if any, of the characteristic mutton odor and flavor. The best results were obtained with a mixture of two parts of mutton suet and one of leaf lard, finely ground, rendered with whole milk in proportion of one-half pint to two pounds of the mixed mutton and lard. This fat had an exceptionally good odor and flavor, which it retained when kept for weeks in an ordinary refrigerator. It was also of good color and texture, being softer than the mutton fat alone, owing to the milk fat and lard which it contained. If such fats are rendered in an open kettle, a moderate heat is desirable, since they 'burn out' very readily. Rendering in a double boiler is much more convenient. In numerous tests, such fat proved satisfactory either alone or with a little butter for use in cooking vegetables and for other purposes."
Various methods are used to clarify' fat. A pinch of baking soda whitens the fat and also helps to keep it sweet. Baking soda is used to whiten lard in the proportion of about 1 1/2 ounces to 100 pounds of lard. It is stirred into the hot lard after the cracklings are strained out.
* Langworthy, C. F., and Hunt, Caroline L. Mutton and its Value in the Diet. Farmers' Bull. 526, U. S. Dept. of Agr.
The following directions may be found useful in clarifying fat:* "Excepting when the purpose of clarifying fat is to remove flavors, a good method to follow is to pour boiling water over the fat, to boil thoroughly, and then to set it away to cool. The cold fat may be removed in a solid cake and any impurities clinging to it may be scraped off, as they will be found at the bottom of the layer. By repeating this process two or three times a cake of clean, white fat may be obtained."
"A slight burned taste or similar objectionable flavors often can be removed from fat by means of potatoes. After melting the fat, put into it thick slices of raw potatoes; heat gradually. When the fat ceases to bubble and the potatoes are brown, strain through a cloth placed in a wire strainer."
"Savory fat may be easily prepared. For each pound of the carefully rendered mutton fat, allow an onion, a sour apple, and a teaspoonful of ground thyme or mixed herbs tied up in a small piece of cloth. Cook these in the fat, at a low temperature in the oven or on top of the stove, until the onion and apple are thoroughly browned. Then strain off the fat, which will be found well seasoned and may be used in place of butter or other savory fat for seasoning or for warming of potatoes, cooking vegetables, and in other ways. Winter or Hubbard squash cooked in the mutton fat until it is brown was also found in this laboratory to impart a savory flavor. The savoriness produced by the use of fruits and vegetables in this way seems to be due to the solution in the fat of specific flavoring bodies present in the fruits, vegetables, or herbs, and to the fat taking up some of the caramelized carbohydrate formed when the fruit or vegetable browns."
* Langworthy, C. F., and Hunt, Caroline L. Economical Use of Meat in the Home. Farmers' Bull. 391, U. S. Dept. Agr. Farmers' Bull. 526.