Rendering is the same thing as clarifying. Are you familiar with ghee, or clarified butter? The idea is to remove the non-fat parts in order to increase shelf-life. Solid fats are extremely stable (which is why hydrogenation came into being). It's the bits of liquid, muscle, and connective tissue which decompose quickly.
Contrary to what those commercials wanted us to believe, the yellow fat in a chicken is the prime fat. The whitish skimmings from cooking chicken are of lower quality. When we butchered all those hens (about ten of them), I canned the meat, collected the yellow fat, and froze it for rendering later.
The process is a simple one, it just requires the time to hang around and keep an eye on it.
|Cut the fat into small chunks. Smaller = quicker melting|
|Put in a heavy-bottomed pot with a small amount of water. Heat gently.|
When it seems that no more will melt, skim out the unmelted bits.
The water keeps the fat from browning and evaporates as the fat melts.
It does not want simmering or boiling! It only needs a gentle heat to melt the fat. Not all the chunks will melt and can be strained out. These are the "cracklings." They can be used in cooking (see my recipe for Cracklin' Cornbread), or fed as treats to cats, dogs, or pigs. (Chickens like cracklings too but since feeding chicken to chickens may seem repulsive, let them have the cracklings from goat or pork.)
|Strain into wide-mouth canning jars and allow to cook in the fridge.|
|After the fat has solidified I put on lids. I always wait to put on lids|
to avoid condensation by capping a warm or hot substance. The small
amount of chicken broth in the jars will be well-preserved by the fat.
As you can see, those ten fatty yellow chickens gave me four pints (a half gallon) of rendered fat. It remains a soft fat and never becomes truly hard like lard.
So what does one do with it? According to Putting Food By, it makes great biscuits (and it does). It's also said to be the must-use fat for good matzo balls. Others like it in pie crusts. For me, it's mostly a matter of not wasting anything from the animals we process at home.
Other animal fats can be rendered too. For how to render goat fat click here.