I know what you’re thinking: “what-in-mason-jars is schmaltz?!” When the word “rendered” flashes through out minds, we think of melting down fat, right? Schmaltz is rendered poultry fat, whether it be waterfowl or land-loving birds! Chicken is most commonly used, closely followed by turkey. Waterfowl fat is used by brave souls; the flavor tends to be a bit oily and holds a not-so-commonly accepted flavor.
Why render bird fat? Because it will dress up many a food dish in a wonderful way! Are you dairy free? Try this in the place of butter! It can be successfully used in biscuits or mock cornbread, as oil for oven-baked vegetables, flavoring for mashed potatoes, rice, noodles and more! While I don’t necessarily recommend using it in sweet foods (like fruit pies), it compliments almost any basic, unsweetened hot dish.
The best fat producers are old birds (usually layers) that no longer fulfill their duty! Old hens pressure-can beautifully; in fact, it was while helping me prepare birds for this purpose that my friend wondered aloud: was there anything that could be done with the voluminous amounts fat? Her musing made me stop and consider. Why not? We render pig and beef fat, even that of wild game! Why hadn’t I ever heard of rendering poultry fat? Of course I had to check it out! Popping online, I quickly discovered that yes, longer ago folks used to render poultry fat on a regular basis and consumed it too! It’s a common staple in European countries and well-loved by the French. Even those within the Jewish culture consume it.
How to Render Poultry Fat
Save the fat found while gutting the bird (usually the gizzard has a good lump surrounding it). If skinning old birds for pressure canning, you’ll have access to layers around the flesh. Place chunks in a zip-loc bag and freeze for rendering at a later date, or, if ready to render immediately, cut into pieces and place in a small pot over low heat (2-3 on an electric stove). No need to add water; slowly melt it down.
You can pour off fat as you go, or wait until it all melts and reaches a higher heat. If using in an un-cooked state such as a topping for mashed potatoes or pasta, be sure to bring oils up to high temperatures or you may run the risk of contracting Salmonella. If you plan to use only for baking/frying where fats reach a high temperature, the pour-off-as-you-go method is safe.
Rendering is finished when there are crispy bits left in the bottom of pot. These are the most delicious cracklings! Really and truly, they taste like poultry bacon. Turkey cracklings are particularly wonderful in flavor!
Pour the melted fat into muffin tins, almost filling each cup. I’d recommend measuring the amount of liquid each muffin cup holds so you know approximately how much fat is in each. Freeze, and when solid (1-2 hrs) pop them out of the muffin tins and transfer to a container. Return to the freezer for keeping. Unless frozen, poultry fat won’t solidify. It remains liquefied at room temperatures and even when refrigerated, doesn’t get thicker than pudding. It melts incredibly fast.
Collecting Schmaltz from Broth
If making a broth with leftover bones and chunks of poultry meat, skim the fats that rise to the top of pot. Or, if you aren’t in a hurry, refrigerate the finished broth until fats harden on the surface. They may then be scooped off with a spoon. Note: consistency won’t get harder than pudding.
It’s delicious stuff, but be sure to keep it frozen unless ready to use. Schmaltz lasts for approx 3 months in the refrigerator and a year + in the freezer. That is, if you can keep your hands off of it! It renders a hint of chicken flavor without the overpowering taste of some fats. And it makes for a delicious homemade, whole grain biscuit!