Monday, June 14, 2010
I’m talking about rendering animal fat. Depending on which nutritional school you follow, this is either a fantastic idea or absolutely horrible. Since I’m going to tell you how to do it, you can be certain that I’m in the fantastic idea camp!
Rendered chicken (and goose) fat is also called schmaltz, schmalts, schmalz. It is a golden yellow color and works just like butter does in your cooking. In kosher cooking, meat and dairy must be kept separate so, for example, schmaltz could be used instead of butter in meals that contain meat.
In rendered animal fats, the protein and water have been removed; therefore it does not spoil easily. In France (and other places) meat is preserved by submerging and cooking it in rendered fat, allowing it to cool, and storing it in a cool dark place for up to several months. Confit of goose and duck are common in Southwest France. I’m not sure about this, but I’m sure that fresh, it is tasty! How can you go wrong with cooking something by submerging it in fat?!?!
If you make the investment in quality organic poultry, either financially or by raising your own, then I’m sure you want to make the most of that investment. By saving the fat from your broth making, you can get a large amount of schmaltz. A little goes a long way when it comes to adding flavor and it helps keep money in your pocket by not buying cooking oil or butter.
This may sound like a very foreign concept, rendering fat, but if you have ever saved the grease from cooking bacon, you have rendered fat. If you have ever used ghee in Indian cooking, it is rendered fat. The “rendering part” is cooking out the water and removing any particles so you have a pure fat product that will keep indefinitely with proper handling.
Here are the step by steps...
Collect your fat. I spoon it from the top of my stock pot into a tall container. Let it rest until room temperature, this allows the liquids and particles to sink to the bottom. Carefully cover and move to the refrigerator, chill overnight.
Another method is to save any little bit of chicken skin and fat that you come across. Keep it in a bag in the freezer till you have enough, then fry it all in a skillet as you would bacon, until the skins are a deep golden brown and the fat has crispy bits in it. Strain all the particles and store in a sterile glass jar in the fridge. You might consider adding a chopped onion with the raw skin and fat, which is traditional.
So what do you do with schmaltz?
Use it anywhere you would butter or oil… to sauté veggies for a risotto, mixed with oil for fried rice, mixed with butter or shortening in a pie crust for a chicken pot pie, to brown onions in for bean soup, in place of butter when cooking rice, fry up left over mashed potatoes shaped into patties… anywhere you need a form of fat and chicken flavor would be welcome.
Notes about fat in general: Fat is an excellent carrier for flavors, which means that whatever was in the pot at the time the fat was collected will be a flavoring in your finished product. If you make a broth that is heavy in ginger, the schmaltz will be heavy in ginger. Not that this is necessarily bad, just something to be aware of and maybe used to your advantage. Fat can also be a collection point in the animal’s body for toxins, which is why this is best done with chicken you know the history of from a butcher you trust.