Guest Article: © The material on this page is copyright by Ellen Ussery, July 2008. It was part of her article “Making Duck Confit”, published in the August/September 2008 issue of Backyard Poultry Magazine. It was posted to the site December 12, 2008.
Rendered fat is a supremely valuable addition to the cook's store of ingredients, and to the diet. We render the fat of our ducks, geese, and chickens. Those who raise other livestock are well advised to reserve and render fat from other farm animals as well—tallow and suet from steers, lard from pigs, etc.
I always process the fat as soon after butchering as possible. Rendered fat will keep in the fridge for a long time, and in the freezer at least a year. To render duck, goose, or other fat, cut it into cubes about a half inch to an inch square. It helps to make them fairly uniform, and smaller rather than larger, so they will melt evenly and quickly. Fat from the body cavity melts more quickly than fatty skin. So if I have enough of each, I make them in separate batches.
Set the diced fat in a heavy pan. (I always use my cast iron, as this helps re-season the pan). Add a few tablespoons of water to prevent the fat from burning. Set it on a very low flame until most of the fat has melted into liquid. Strain and store in glass jars in the fridge or freezer.
If you have used skin, you will have “cracklings” (bits of crisply cooked skin) floating on top of the cooking fat in the pan. They are good to eat either plain with salt, or on top of a baked potato or a salad. Harvey's grandmother added them to cornbread batter before baking. They can be stored in the fridge or freezer and heated up before use.