The lost skill of using fat

A few months ago I spent a while wondering to myself and to Favourite Handyman what early people did with their fat 500 or 1000 years ago. It doesn't do anything for the compost or the garden. I concluded that they must have had less fat than us due to eating undomesticated, hunted animals with lower fat content.


Last night, months after my serious pondering, I was reading Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's books (Meat, which I own, and River Cottage Cookbook, which the library kindly lend me several times each year) and I suddenly remembered what my mother did with fat when I was a child. She doesn't now - the doctors have fed Mum and Dad up on cholesterol fright and now they have margarine on their bread and I haven't seen dripping in Mum's fridge for years.

Mum had a jug in the fridge and after a roast, she poured off the fat into the jug for re-use with other foods later (back then she used to add dripping to a roasting tray befoer cooking - divine roast veges). With the remaining bits on the roasting pan she made gravy. As children like to do, I publicly preferred the packet gravy.

Shows how easy it is to lose knowledge in just one generation.

I'm going to do some experimenting with keeping my own fat and using it to roast veges with and maybe some other cooking uses. (Of course I won't do this when my vegan sister comes to visit, Joe!!) One less thing to go off the property and into landfill. HFW seems to think pig fat is the tastiest. Today's roast in the oven is chicken. I guess chooks aren't too different to geese and goose fat is supposed to make divine roast spuds, so that will be the first experiment.

We don't generally do a traditional Sunday roast. It feels like something that only makes sense if you get dressed up and go to church/Mass first. As a child, some special Sundays Mum put the roast on before we went to Mass at 10am and then afterwards we all had a drink (alcohol for the adults and lemonade for us kids) before the roast was served. There were never arguments during this time and the weather always was lovely on these days. Treasured memories.

But today is a roast day because hopefully it will give me a pile of protein for my boy for school lunches for the next couple of days. I have spent more on groceries in the last four days than I usually do in 2-3 weeks. Some of it is bulk buying - the Piko wholefoods order will last me all year and some of it is the cost of restocking the pantry differently and the higher cost of protein than carbohydrates. We are still doing potatoes and I can see they will be cheaper than our usual bread. Bread is the main thing I am keeping to a minimum - aiming for Fionn to have none at all some days and just 1-2 pieces others. I am also keeping pasta meals to a minimum. I'm glad I already had a box of organic avocadoes - they are great for good oils and nutrients and fit well with our current focus.


Heather said…
Hi Sandra,

We don't eat much meat (1-2 times per fortnight), but on the rare occasions we do roasts the fat is precious and hoarded!! I use it with vegies in later roasts (as your mum did), but also in pastry for meat pies and occasionally in kidney bean bread (an American recipe I have). I expect it'd be good in things like dumplings and corn bread, but we tend not to get enough for it to get that far. As it's a bit of a rare treat I tend to want to keep it too long to just keep it in a container in the fridge as my mum did, so I pour it (while still quite hot) into ice cube trays then keep the ice cubes in the freezer and bring it out for special occasions.

As well as roasts, our other source of animal fat is fatty trimmings off meat. I chop these up rraw, put them in a pyrex container and microwave them, covered, until it sizzles. Pour off the fat, then continue microwaving in bursts until no more fat comes out. You need to do this in pyrex (or maybe ceramic) - it gets really hot and plastic 'microwave safe' cookware will get melted through.

Have fun!

--Heather :-)
Heather said…
PS Chicken fat is my least favourite, pork and beef are middling and mutton is amazingly super yummy!
Gillybean said…
Hi Sandra, I remember my Dad doing similar to your Mum, a tin full of fat near the stove. He did legendary roasts and veges. He also use to wash the dishes afterwards and would drink the water which the green veges had been cooked in claiming to us skeptical children it was "delicious, put hairs on ya chest!" ( Lost on our generation I'm afraid)
Of course antother use for fat is to make soap, I've tried without much success but I met a neat lady up by Granity who made her own beautiful soft soap.
Corrine said…
We confronted this very issue last year after killing a cattle beast.
My husband is a butcher by trade, and we ended up with like 1/2 a wheely bin full of fat.
I rendered most of it, meaning to use it in cooking, but actually found that I don't really like the taste any more.
I've been feeding it to the chickens and birds bit by bit. and kept some back to use on the bar be que. (great for cleaning off the plate before cooking.) I think way way back fat was used for candles. (I must try soap)
Ah, soap. Takes me back to Laura Ingalls Wilder. It's hard to imagine soap made from animal fat being drying on the skin in the way that mainstream modern soap is. Hmmm.

Thank you for all of your comments.
Mary said…
Oh I know what you mean about delicious roast vegies in fat! Takes me back to our Sunday roasts.

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