Usually in the winter, we like to give our feathered visitors a variety of feed, a buffet if you will, since cold weather can be tough on those poor little rascals! One of the treats that we like to offer is a suet cake...packed with rendered beef fat, all natural peanut butter, seeds and dried fruit, it is sure to increase flight traffic in your yard and it just might become the local hot spot for birds far and wide!
To make this suet treat for your feathered friends, you will need: all natural peanut butter, bird seed, ground corn meal, dried fruit (I used cherries and raisins), chunks of beef suet that you will render down (you can purchase this at a butcher shop and it is quite cheap to buy)...if you wish, you can use lard (such as "Tenderflake" found in the baking section of your grocery store) and an empty, clean milk carton, a thin, wooden dowel and some kitchen string.
If you are using beef suet from a butcher shop, cut it up into chunks and toss them into a medium sized saucepan. Melt the fat chunks over low heat until most of it has turned to liquid...there will be some solid pieces of fat and debris left. Next, carefully pour the contents of the pot through some cheesecloth into a container. Discard the cheesecloth and it's contents.
While the beef tallow is rendering (melting), prepare your suet mold...wash out an empty, 1 litre milk carton and cut about 2 inches off of the top, just below the spout...
...next, cut a piece of kitchen string (long enough to double up) and knot the end...this will be your "hook" to hang on a branch or feeder hanger (it should be about 12 inches long when you are done),
...and finally, cut a thin, wooden dowel in half...you will use these as little perches for the small birds visiting your suet cake (the wooden dowel should be about 12 inches long before it's cut in half).
This is the rendered beef fat that you will use in your suet cake.
In a large bowl, add 1 cup of rendered beef fat or 1 cup of melted lard...
...a 1/2 cup of all natural peanut butter,
...1 cup of ground cornmeal...
...a 1/3 cup of dried cherries...
...a 1/3 cup of raisins...
...and 2 cups of mixed wild bird seed.
Stir mixture together until all is incorporated.
Working quickly before the mixture hardens, spoon it into the prepared milk carton, packing it down as you fill it...if the suet hardens, like mine did because I was "lollygagging" around and not thinking it would harden as quickly as it did, you can just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds until it is manageable again.
Next, tuck the knotted end of the string into the suet, about 4 inches down...
...then smooth the top over with your spatula, so that the string looks like this sticking out of the top.
Using a sharp knife, poke a hole into the carton on both sides, big enough to fit your wooden dowel into, then insert the dowel through the suet and out the other side...do this again with your other piece of dowel a few inches higher...
...like this! Pop the carton into the fridge for several hours or overnight to harden.
Remove from fridge when ready and peel away the carton, being extra careful that you don't pull out the wooden perches.
Hang your suet from a tree branch or a feeder hook, sing "Feed the Birds" with gusto like Julie Andrews did in "Mary Poppins"...
...and watch blue jays,
...woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals and lots of other hungry birds visit your feeder this winter!
Homemade Suet Cakes for Birds
1 cup of rendered & melted beef suet or lard (such as "Tenderflake")
1/2 cup of all natural peanut butter
1 cup of ground cornmeal
1/4 cup of dried cherries
1/4 cup of raisins
2 cups of mixed wild bird seed
1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, then spoon into an empty, clean (1 litre) milk carton, packing it down as you fill it.
2. Make a hole about 4 inches down into the suet and tuck the knotted end of about 12 inches of doubled up kitchen string into the hole (you will use this to hang the suet from a branch or feeder hook).
3. Then use your spatula to smooth the suet over the string where it has been inserted.
4. Use a sharp knife to poke a hole on either side of the carton then insert 1 piece of dowel through the suet and out the other side...repeat steps using the other half of dowel, a couple inches higher than the first (this will be the little perches for the birds to land on).
5. Put the carton into the fridge for a few hours or overnight to harden.
6. When suet has hardened, remove from the fridge and carefully peel away the carton. Hang your suet cake on a tree branch or from a feeder hanger.
* any combination of dried fruit can be used
* suet can also be put into various molds instead of a milk carton...you can make it into balls, spoon into muffin tins, lined with paper cups, hollow out an apple or even drill large holes into a log and fill with suet...the ideas are endless and the birds will love it either way!
* suet cakes made with animal fat should only be offered in the colder months as they may become rancid in the sun.