Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wild DIY Projects – Sweet Homemade Suet

By: Brittany Friedel, Outdoor Education Intern

    Now that the snow has started to fly, it may be a good time to offer the birds in your neighborhood a nutritious suet feeder to help them through the coldest of days.  Suet feeders are a great resource for wintering birds that primarily rely on insects because of the high fat content.  The solid white fat found in the kidney area of cattle is called suet, but solid fat trimmings from any domestic livestock, as well as deer can also be included in this term.

   Suet feeders are made with varying ingredients, and it’s up to you to decide what works best for your budget and your neighborhood feathered friends. It can be fun to mix up the recipe and offer new varieties, discovering what is favored and what is not.  Optional additives can include: bird seed, peanut butter, dried fruits, oatmeal, cracked corn, chili powder (to deter squirrels), egg shells, honey, nuts, and even some kitchen scraps.  It might be helpful to make a large plain batch and then separate it into several smaller containers to make specialized assortments.  There are many varieties to consider, so experiment to determine what recipes disappear from your feeder the fastest.
     The creation process can also serve as a valuable educational moment for children.  Rather than buying a pre-made suet cake in a store and placing it outside for everyone to watch, children can make varying connections between wildlife and their food sources.  Why can’t birds just go to the store and buy food?  What ingredients are good for birds?  Are they the same for people?  Do all birds eat the same things?  Do some birds eat different foods in winter than in summer?  Why might this be?

     Making suet feeders with children is a great way to attract wildlife to your school or backyard and your feathered visitors will thank you for the necessary energy and nutrition that your feeder provides.

    This recipe will melt in warm temperatures (about 70°) and turn rancid, so it is recommended that this be used during the colder seasons.

Approximate time this project takes: 2 hours

Materials Needed:
Slow cooker with liner (or old saucepan – clean up may be messier!)
Large mixing bowl
Large mixing spoon for stirring
Muffin pan, old plastic containers, other small pans for forming the finished molds
Muffin liners (if using muffin pan)
Suet holder – cage, onion bag, etc
String for hanging

1lb of lard, suet, rendered fat, or vegetable shortening
Bird seed mixture
Peanut butter
Chopped apples
Plain yogurt

Step 1
Cut suet (or substitute) into small chunks and place in slow cooker (or old saucepan) and heat to 350° to melt.  Stir occasionally, but continually monitor.

Step 2
While suet is melting, chop up any ingredients (fruits, nuts, shells, etc.) that you may be using and mix in a large bowl.

Step 3
Once suet has reached liquid form, add peanut butter and melt.  Let cool for 5 minutes and carefully stir in other ingredients.  This ensures everything does not settle on the bottom.

Step 4
Place suet cake mixture into your selected molds and harden in the fridge for an hour

Step 5
Remove suet cake from molds and place into your suet holder.

Step 6
Enjoy watching the various birds that visit your feeder and take note of which recipes perform better!