Monday, November 28, 2011

The Thanksgiving Weekend

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This year was a good deal less stressful than previous years.  I actually stayed home this year.  I made a few dishes for our little celebration, but it was nothing near what I normally do.  We ordered a ham this year that was pre-cooked, so that saved an enormous amount of time.  We had scalloped potatoes and sauteed mushrooms with shallots and freshly made parkerhouse rolls.  Before dinner, we had grilled shrimp served with a sweet and sour sauce and an habanero relish.   I made a pumpkin cheesecake which I served with chocolate fig mousse and shaved chocolate for dessert.  It was all magnificent.  We ate around 5:00 and after dinner I spent the remainder of the evening parked in front of the tv watching favorites like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil from 1997 and multiple reruns of Murder, She Wrote from the late 80's.  A wonderful way to end a wonderful day.

But Friday morning came and I decided to get up and get busy.  One of the first orders of business for the day was to feed the birds.

I found this wonderful little suet feeder at Lowe's.  The birds really appreciate the extra care and attention this time of year and on into the coldest months of winter.  This feeder is actually double-sided, so there is another suet cake on the other side.  I primarily use the Garden Treasures brand of suet.  This is easily available to me at my local Lowe's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart.  The blend in this picture is the High-Energy Suet, but there are many different blends from which to choose.  You can choose Orange Suet, Peanut Suet, Green Apple Suet and Woodpecker Suet.  I get quite a variety of birds no matter which I choose to put out.  I keep different flavors on hand in the shed so that I can keep them fed at all times.  Some of you may be asking "what is this suet he is talking about."   Suet, simply defined, is animal fat that has been rendered to form hard cakes or balls.  Suet recipes do not need to be complicated in order to attract a range of hungry birds. However, it should be rendered to help it maintain its shape more easily.

To render suet:
  1. Chop the fat into small pieces or run it through a meat grinder. Make sure all traces of meat are removed.
  2. Heat the chopped fat on low until it is liquefied. Do not use higher temperatures to melt the suet more quickly, as this could lead to fires or scorching.
  3. Strain the liquid fat through cheesecloth or a fine mesh to remove any particles or contaminants. The suet should be strained several times so it is as pure as possible.
  4. Pour the fat into molds or containers and allow it to cool. The cakes can be chopped or cut to be fed to the birds.  You may choose to use containers that are the appropriate size to fit a suet feeder such as the one I have above.
Once the suet is rendered, it can be fed to the birds as-is or you can choose to add some ingredients to it to hopefully attract a wider range of birds.

Easy suet recipe:
  • 1 Cup rendered suet
  • 1 Cup chunky peanut butter
  • 3 Cups stone ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup white or wheat flour
Melt the suet and peanut butter together until they are smooth and liquid. Add the cornmeal and flour, mixing well. Allow the mixture to cool slightly to thicken, then pour it into molds or containers to use. Refrigerate or freeze suet until it is firm and you are ready to use it.

What You Can Add to Suet

You can add different ingredients to the mixture before it cools to make it more attractive to birds. Some popular ingredients are:
  • Chopped, unsalted nuts
  • Dried fruit bits
  • Birdseed
  • Honey
  • Kitchen scraps
These are the easiest items to add to simple suet to make it even more tempting for your birds. Take the time to experiment with adding other ingredients to discover what your birds find most appetizing, and you’ll soon have plenty of suet-eaters at your backyard buffet.
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