After an unusually warm start to winter (temps have been around 80º!) we are now having what we consider really cold weather (anything below 40º). For me that means I don't go outside unless I have to. But I will go outside to check the bird feeders. I enjoy watching and photographing the little feathered beauties and I know that in the winter they can really suffer. Wild birds can use all their energy stores just to survive in very cold weather. During this time of year they need and want fat!
You can buy pre-made suet blocks if you wish although they are pricey for what they contain. Still, they are convenient and if you are only trying to supplement a few birds, this may be an option for you. But making your own is very easy and requires just a few ingredients.
The main ingredient is suet. Suet is the fat usually found around an animals kidneys or loin. You may have to ask your butcher for it and even then, they may or may not have it. Guess there's not a big call for animal fat these days. If you can't find any you can use lard. BTW, this is NOT the same as shortening but you will find it in the same place in the grocery store. Lard is animal fat and shortening (like Crisco) is vegetable fat. You can use shortening, and as far as I know it won't harm birds, but it may soften in milder climates and fall out of the feeder.
Next you will want a few things to add to your suet block. Good quality wild bird seed and/or sunflower seeds is necessary. Fruits like raisins, cranberries. chopped apple (NO APPLE SEEDS) can be added. Also raw nuts can be chopped and added as long as they are not salted.
A word about adding peanut butter....I see many suet recipes with peanut butter added but in my opinion this is not a good option. Commercial peanut butter usually contains a lot of salt and sugar as well as preservatives. What you can do however, is grind raw unsalted peanuts in a food processor until they reach a peanut butter like consistency and use that instead.
Last you will need something to put your suet mix into to harden. I am using muffin cups with liners which I will transfer into a feeder later. You could also use a plastic container like yogurt comes in or you could put it in something larger, for one big hunk, and slice it later.
The technique is simple. First you will need to melt the lard or suet in a saucepan over low heat then add your other ingredients. Finally pour the mixture into whatever container(s) you are using a let it harden.
Today I used:
1 pound lard, melt in saucepan.
2 1/2 cups mixed wild bird seed
1 cup chopped peanuts
1 small chopped apple (no seeds)
1 cup raisins
Mix well after adding all ingredients.
I poured / spooned mixture into muffin cups and set outside to harden.
Once the blocks have hardened you can remove the paper liners and put the suet blocks into bird feeders or tie with twine and hang from tree limbs, Take whatever is left over and refrigerate until ready to use.
- 1 lb. lard
- 2 1/2 cups mixed wild bird seed
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped peanuts
- 1 small cored and chopped apple (no seeds).
- Melt the lard slowly using low heat in a saucepan.
- Add fruit and nuts. Mix well.
- Pour into lined muffin cups to cool and harden.
- Place in your feeders.
Yeild: 18 muffin cups