Saturday, January 1, 2011

How to Make Suet Snowmen

I had seen a suet snowman similar to these on a blog somewhere a couple of months ago, a gift the author had received and she was showing him off.  A little searching on the internet turned up no further useful info, but I figured they couldn't be that hard to make.  Something akin to working with playdough?

I am cute, aren't I?  Please don't feed me to the birds!
 You will need the following:
  • a large pot, a cookie sheet, a spoon and a rubber spatula
  • 15 oz. of tallow (or a block of pre-made suet, with or without seeds, etc in it)
  • 3 cups, any combination of:  birdseed, black oil sunflower seed, raw peanuts, raisins
  • 3 bamboo skewers
  • wire cutters
  • paring knife
  • one small carrot
  • small twigs for arms
  • scraps of fabric to make hats and scarves
  • needle and thread -or- fabric glue
  • hot glue gun
Weigh out your 15 ounces of tallow.  I used tallow that I rendered from a very fat doe my dad brought us during deer season.  Or you can buy beef fat from the butcher and render it for tallow.  Or you can skip that messy part altogether and just buy a couple blocks of pre-made suet anywhere you buy your feed for the wild birds.  Sometimes you can get it plain, but usually it will already have the seed or other goodies in it.

In a large pot, melt the tallow gently over low-medium heat.  Don't let it boil or simmer.  You want to remove it from the heat just as soon as it has all turned to liquid.  Tallow is flammable.  Be careful not to spill it on your burner. 

Measure out your 3 cups of seed.  If you are using raw peanuts or raisins, chop them coarsely.  I used the blender and powdered mine a little too fine, which gave my snowmen a peanut buttery appearance.  If you don't overdo this part, the suet will present itself much whiter.

Add your seeds, peanuts, etc. to the liquid tallow and stir it in.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Now, you wait.  Set your pot in the fridge for a bit to let it cool and thicken.  I set mine outside on the porch and later caught the barn kitties taking a sample!  Check it frequently and give it a stir.  You are watching for it to reach a cookie dough consistency.

Once it has firmed up enough so that you can handle it, use the palms of your hands to roll out 5 sets of balls:  small, medium, large for your snowman's body.  If it is sticking badly to your hands, put it back into the fridge a little longer.  It won't be messy if it is firm enough.

Pop your cookie sheet of balls into the fridge for 10 minutes or so before proceeding.  When you take them back out, you can roll them a bit smoother if you like.  Stack them to look like a snowman.

Take your bamboo skewers and impale them from the head all the way to the bottom of the snowman.  This will keep him from toppling over.  Cut the skewer off, leaving at least an inch sticking out to later secure his hat.

All five snowmen assembled:

Use a few more black oil sunflower seeds for each snowman's features and a sliver of carrot for his nose.  Poke in the twigs and trim to size for his arms.

At first, I thought I wouldn't bother poking seeds in for a mouth, but then I realized these snowmen were looking kinda somber.  Perhaps they were contemplating their fate and weren't happy about it.

A few more seeds for a that's better!

Pop your tray of happy-looking snowmen into the freezer to chill while you work on their hats and scarves.  I bought a remnant of fuzzy, warm, red flannel and had some scraps of wooly, white, cotton fabric on hand that was left over from the stuffed toy sheep I made for my daughter's mobile she had as a baby.  Use whatever you have on hand or whatever colors suit you.  Have fun with it.  :)

You can sew your hats on a sewing machine if you like, or by hand, or to be quick - just use fabric glue.

Scarves are easy.  Just cut 12" long by 3/4" wide strips of fabric and fray the edges.

A half an hour later, I go to retrieve my snowmen from the freezer where they are just chillin' and relaxin'.  They like this kind of weather.

Try on your hats and trim the bamboo skewer a little shorter if necessary.  A drop of hot glue will hold the hat firmly in place.  Tie their scarves snuggly about their necks.

These guys are finished and ready to be gifted to my friends and family.  I gave them as Christmas presents, but as easy as they are to make, why not make a few for yourself (well, for the birds, really) or as a nice surprise gift anytime during the wintery season.

I enjoyed the different reactions they got from their recipients.  My grandma was tickled pink and ready to put hers on the birdfeeder for Christmas day.  While my husband's grandma at first thought it was a cookie or something edible (for people) as it did smell a lot like a peanut butter cookie.  She loves snowmen and decided she'd keep him in the fridge to enjoy for years to come - hers will never be sacrificed to the birds!  These cheerful little fellas will bring a smile to whomever is lucky enough to receive one.

I don't believe they will last long once set before the birds!

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