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Making Homemade Suet

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A bird eating suet out of a feeder.

You can attract many birds by putting out suet cakes. You can easily make suet cakes at home and vary them to your local bird species. This is a guide about making homemade suet.

Solutions: Making Homemade Suet

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Tip: Homemade Suet

Keep an old coffee can and drain your beef or bacon grease into the can. When you have enough, melt it down. Add a little flour, some sunflower seeds and even a little peanut butter, and then refrigerate. When it goes solid, you can put in a suet cage or nail to a tree for the birds. ;)

Source: My husband

By Gooby from Straughn, IN

Tip: Suet Substitute

Suet SubstituteI always give the birds stale bread slices PLUS I feed them seeds and suet cakes but today (since I ran out of store bought suet cakes) I put them all together! I buttered the slice of bread with chunky peanut butter on each side (one side at a time) then dropped the bread into my bag of bird seed!

Each slice fits into the pre-made suet holders perfectly!

If you love BIRDS vote for me!

By Donna from NE Pennsylvania

Article: Homemade Suet for Backyard Birds

Birds have very high metabolisms and demand high amounts of energy to maintain their daily activities. Suet is a great way to help them replenish the energy stores lost during nesting, migration, and cold weather. It's also a great way to lure bird species to your backyard that might otherwise ignore your seed feeders. Suet balls and bird seed.

Basic Fruit Suet Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beef fat
  • 3/4 cup millet (red and white mixed, if possible)
  • 1/3 cup cracked corn
  • 3/4 cup safflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup chopped cherries, raisins, or crab apples
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey (optional)
  • mesh bags, or small plastic containers (margarine, sour cream, yogurt, etc.)
  • waxed paper
  • glass jar

Directions:

  1. Chop the fat into small pieces (or run it through a meat grinder). Melt the fat in a saucepan over low heat until it turns to liquid. Once the fat is melted, strain and remove any floating particles, including any remaining traces of meat.

  2. Let the liquid fat cool slightly and stir in the other ingredients. Don't worry about exact measurements. Just add in whatever you think is needed to make it look good.

  3. Line small plastic containers with waxed paper and pour in the mix.

  4. Refrigerate containers filled with suet until they start to harden, and then store them in the freezer until ready for use. For ball-shaped suet, remove the suet from their containers while still slightly warm and shape it into balls with your hands. Place the balls in plastic bags and store them in the freezer.

Yields about 4 cups of suet

Variation #1: Cracked corn suet Increase cracked corn to 1 cup. Replace fruit pieces with 1/4 cup black oil sunflower seeds.

Variation #2: Sunflower suet Decrease cracked corn to 1/4 cup. Replace fruit pieces with 1 cup black oil sunflower seeds.

Variation#3: Peanut suet Decrease cracked corn to 1/4 cup. Replace fruit pieces with 1 cup of unsalted, bird food grade peanut halves.

Tips for Finding Inexpensive Ingredients

Birdseed: If you feed birds all year round, then you are probably already buying bird food in bulk from farm or feed stores to save money. You can also mix in seeds from flowers going to seed in your garden. Some good choices are cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, poppies, asters, black-eyed Susan, coneflowers, and sedum.

Fruit: If you (or perhaps your neighbors) grow cherry or other fruit trees, collect fruit with insect holes or bird damage, and cut it into halves or quarters. Other good choices for fruits include native berries like chokecherries, juniper, elderberries, mountain ash, and service berries. Store fruit in the freezer until you make the suet. It can be added to recipes while still frozen.

Fat: If you eat meat, one way to acquire fat for suet recipes is to trim the excess from meats before cooking them, or save the drippings. Freeze fat in labeled plastic bags until you are ready to use it. Scraps of fat can also be sourced from local butchers. It's also available in the meat section of some grocery stores. Experts disagree about whether birds digest pork fat as easily as beef fat, but most agree that lard and vegetable shortening are not good substitutes.

Offering Suet to Backyard Birds

Suet cakes can be set out for birds while still frozen. Pop it out of its container and if necessary, cut it into smaller pieces before dropping them into a mesh bag (or wire suet cage). You're your feeders from tree branches at least 5 to 6 feet off the ground. You may also want to try smearing the suet directly on the bark of trees. This will be especially welcome to bird species accustomed to clinging onto bark in search of insects.

Tip: Making Homemade Suet Cakes for Birds

Nuthatch on suet feeder.

For those who enjoy feeding backyard birds, suet is a great choice for attracting a variety of beautiful species. "Suet" is a word referring to the hard fat from beef (or sheep), generally around their kidneys or loins. But for bird-feeding purposes, "suet" has now come to mean a rendered fat which hardens into a cake, and to which different things can be added and served to wild birds. Thus, a "suet cake," which is usually offered in a small wire cage. Yet even this can be misleading as suet is sometimes offered in plug feeders, in mesh bags, spread on tree bark or special ridged feeders, or crumbled on a tray feeder. Despite this, I will use the term "suet cakes" in this article. Before making your suet cakes, you will need to determine how you will serve it, and any of the above ways are fine. But using a "suet cage," which can often be found cheaply (about $2) and easily (even at some dollar stores) is the usual way to start.

Suet cakes attract a great variety of birds, especially in winter when birds are in special need of fats. These can be bought, but it is easy and economical to make them at home and birds usually prefer the homemade variety!

To make suet cakes, you need a rendered fat which will harden when cooled. This could be actual beef suet, bacon grease, lard, or even vegetable shortening. For a small batch, use about 1 cup of one of these fats, melted. Mix in one cup of peanut butter, cheap is fine! I buy my peanut butter for birds from discount (bent and dent) grocery stores, and I try to find chunky peanut butter because the birds like the peanut pieces. The fat and peanut butter will be melted together in the microwave or a saucepan.

I almost always use a little bit of cornmeal here, to create sort of a "dough" that will hold its shape well. To the one cup each of melted fat and peanut butter, I will add about 2 cups of plain cornmeal as a "binder."

Now is the time to get creative with additives! I look through my pantry to see what I have: bread crumbs, stale cereal, stale crackers, dried fruits, and nuts. Almost anything that birds would like can be added to the suet cakes. These will bulk up the cake, help it hold its shape and firmness, and be a treat for the birds. I usually only use things which I can buy cheaply, or this would not be "thrifty," and I often use items which no longer appeal to humans, but which would be fine for birds (thus the stale crackers and such). Chop any big additives up so the birds can handle them easily, and stir them in well so they don't settle to the bottom. Mix in the additives only to the point that the suet dough is still malleable so it can be packed into containers for hardening.

Many people choose to add bird seed to their suet cakes, but I do not. I already offer bird seed in other feeders. I like for the birds to be able to eat this suet without having to shell seeds. So the only exception is when I have "shelled" seeds, such as sunflower hearts.

After mixing your ingredients, pack into small containers to harden. Almost anything can be used, including the plastic shell left from commercially bought suet cakes. I use plastic food containers that are generally the same size as my suet cages. I have also used foam egg cartons to make small suet hunks that I can add to a suet cage as needed and which also fit nicely into a plug feeder. Pour into the molds and let harden in fridge or freezer. It's now ready to use!

If you are offering your suet in another way besides a suet cage, you may want to consider this before pouring into a mold. Suet "balls" have become popular and there are special feeders made to hold these tennis-ball sized hunks. You may be able to find a mold which can make this shape if desired. Or, you may choose to spread some of your still-warm suet on tree branches or a ridged feeder. I keep pieces of heavily ridged tree bark wired on our feeder tree for this purpose.

I have found that our yard birds prefer homemade suet cakes "by far" over the store-bought variety. However, this homemade suet is best served only in cooler weather, as it can melt or turn rancid in warm weather. I offer homemade suet from October to April here in Tennessee. For warm weather suet feeding, choose the store-bought suet cakes marketed as "no melt." It is still important to check these often in warm weather, as they can also spoil if left outdoors over prolonged periods. But despite common misconception, birds will eat suet all year round!

***One more note about suet. Many magazines and online articles will suggest that you "ask your butcher" for pieces of raw beef suet to render at home. However, many modern meat markets now receive their meat pre-packaged or at least partially cut and trimmed. My husband is a meat manager in a grocery chain, and most beef fat trimmings he does have are used in his store-ground beef. Because of this, many meat markets do not have excess beef trimmings. Feel free to ask your butcher, but please be understanding if they do not have extra beef fat to offer. ***

The bird in the photo is a red-breasted nuthatch, enjoying some of my homemade suet.

    Source: Feeding wild birds over the years, as well as ideas from various bird magazines.

    By Shawna [24]

    Recipe: Suet Treat Recipe for the Birds

    Put this mixture in a suet cage and watch your birds enjoy.

    Approximate Time: 15 minutes or less

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 mashed ripe banana
    • 1 cup regular grind cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup of fat scraps or suet
    • 1/2 cup of peanut butter

    Steps:

    1. Mix banana and cornmeal in a bowl.
    2. Add suet or fat scraps and peanut butter, mix thoroughly.
    3. Put mixture in a wire suet cage.

    By

    Tip: Homemade Suet

    Flicker at suet feeder.I just got done making suet for the wild birds. It is cheap enough to buy, but gets even cheaper if you make your own. The following is my recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup lard
    • 1 cup peanut butter (I like to use the chunky)
    • 1 cup flour
    • 5 cups cornmeal
    • add ins as desired - sunflower seeds, bird seed, raisins, dry fruit, millet, rolled oats, or nuts

    Directions:

    I pour into molds from suet that I bought in the past. After you have melted the lard and peanut butter and put in our add ins, you freeze the molds. They freeze well for up to 2 months. If you want you can make a small batch and smear on pine cones and dangle them from a tree.

    By Linda from Bellevue, NE

    Tip: Make Your Own Bird Feeder Suet

    This tip is for all you birdwatchers out there! This past summer I decided to start making my own suet. I make up a batch every month and store it in the freezer until I need it. Since it's warm out, I only use a small cylinder shaped wire feeder so the bigger birds can't get on it.

    I have had so much fun watching the baby woodpeckers feed on this and they really seem to like it better than the store bought kind. Of course, in the colder months, I will use bigger cages so all can enjoy. I use all generic products, so it's not as expensive to make.

    My grown children make jokes about Mom "cooking" for the birds, but that's part of the fun of growing older! We can be a little eccentric if we choose to be! I don't mind though, I'm enjoying myself. I found a recipe online and started with that, then tweeked it as I went along.

    By Robbie from IN

    Tip: Save Grease for Suet

    I am an avid bird feeder. In the winter I save my grease drippings, mix them with seed and pour them in a paper milk container. Put it in the fridge to harden and once hardened tear off the paper. I save my net onion bags and hang the home made suet in them for the birds.

    apm127 from Long Beach

    Tip: Not-So-Sloppy Summer Suet

    Ingredients:

    • 4 cups cornmeal
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup shortening

    Directions:

    Combine all the ingredients; mix well. Put in an onion bag or suet feeder, or pack in pine cones or into the bark of trees. Then watch the birds enjoy this hearty feast.

    By Mythi from Silverdale, WA

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    Questions

    Here are questions related to Making Homemade Suet.

    Question: Making Suet Cakes Without Peanut Butter

    Since peanut butter has increased in price, is there a substitute for it in making suet cakes?

    By Pat Z.


    Most Recent Answer

    By Sheilah Link [5]01/13/2012

    Birds love lard and it is sticky, but will melt in hot weather. They do not like other shortenings, as I found out.

    Archives

    Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

    Archive: Bird Feeder Suet Recipe

    Bird feeder suet recipes and tips from the ThriftyFun community.

    Bird Feeder Suet Recipe

    Here is a recipe I found online. It looks easy and I plan to try it myself.

    Not-So-Sloppy Summer Suet

    • 4 cups cornmeal
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup shortening
    Combine all the ingredients; mix well. Put in an onion bag or suet feeder, or pack in pine cones or into the bark of trees. Then watch the birds enjoy this hearty feast.

    * From Birds and Blooms newsletter, July 2006

    By Kathy

    Corn Meal and Peanut Butter

    Mix corn meal and peanut butter together and form it in suet holders that you recycle. I do this all the time, and the birds love it, even better than the store bought one, they seem to like them better too.

    By Rosa

    Any Kind Of Nuts Will Add Protein

    The peanut butter is for added protein, so you can use any type of nut butters (almond, cashew, etc.), or make your own. You could also use sunflower or pumpkin seed butters, or try millet, flax or sesame seed butters. The birds won't mind.

    By Susanmajp

    Cheap Suet Cakes

    I don't make my own suet cakes, but our Kroger store sells some for 69¢, and I use them all summer. I store them in the fridge, but even in the hottest months they don't melt and fall apart, but they do get softer in the heat of summer. I was going to try making my own, but for the price, I just buy Kroger's. I do know that you have to use Beef Suet, it doesn't melt as easily as the fat you trim off steaks and roasts. But that means you have to find a butcher to supply you with Suet.

    By Harlean from Arkansas

    Feel free to post your ideas below.

    Archive: Save Grease for Suet

    I save all of the left over bacon grease, and grease from frying foods, put it in a jar in fridge, (dated of course). I also save the square suet container from feeding birds suet in summer. In the winter, I reheat the "saved" grease, add raisins, nuts, peanut butter, cornmeal, oats, cracker crumbs, birdseed, sunflower seeds, etc. Mix it all together and put in the saved suet holders from summer. Presto, homemade suet cakes for the birdies, that fit in the suet holders. The birds love it, and it saves a bunch of money in winter time, when the birds really need our help eating good food to keep up their energy in the cold, cold winter!

    By Rosa

    Archive: Home Made Suet

    ***

    Homemade Suet In An Onion Bag
    Homemade Suet In An Onion Bag
    *** One way to make suet is to save the fat cut off of your meats. If I don't have enough to make a large batch, I've frozen the fat until later. Then I render that fat and add to that various things such as stale cereal, bread, cracker crumbs, oatmeal, you name it, anything grainy. I'll add the ingredients to the rendered fat. Mix it up until it's rather thick then pour it into a sandwich container. Place it in the fridge and when it has hardened, I pop it out and put it in a wire suet holder.

    I've also used small muffin cups and then placed these in recycled onion bags.

    Have fun!

    The birds love this. I've never made anything and placed it out for them that they didn't eat.

    By Teena from IN


    RE: Home Made Suet

    Please explain "render" to me, I'd like to make some for the birds using this method. (02/13/2008)

    By Dede

    RE: Home Made Suet

    What a thoughtful idea! Rendering is cooking the fat and harvesting what rises to the top when refrigerated, right? (02/13/2008)

    By Nancy

    RE: Home Made Suet

    Render= cooking the bits of fat until all the grease is out of them and they are floating in the grease. I use bacon fat left over from frying bacon. I also add any of the following: birdseed, oatmeal, bits of fruit and nuts, cornmeal, etc. I also make these in muffin pans and put out "cupcakes"for the squirrels, away from the birdfeeders. Cuts down on the critters raiding the birdfeeders :0)

    Maggie O in Bloomington, MN (02/13/2008)

    By gardenlady58102

    RE: Home Made Suet

    Please do not use onion bags or any other plastic netted bag. I did this for many years until one time, in the cold winter months, a bird got its' leg tangled in the netting. I was home at the time and was able to cut the netting away from the bird's leg. It was very traumatic for me and the bird.

    If I wasn't home, the bird would have suffered and most likely died. So, please invest in the wire cages, they do last for a very long time. Please pass this information to any of your friends who feed the wild birds. (02/14/2008)

    By Brenda

    RE: Home Made Suet

    Here is a site that will explain rendering better than I can.

    http://waltonfeed.com/old/soap/soaprend.html (02/14/2008)

    By doccat5

    Archive: Bird Feeder Suet Recipe

    Would anyone out there know how to make homemade suet? We have lots of beautiful birds around in the winter and we try to keep them happy.

    Read More...