If you enjoy mincemeat and/or British puddings, you’ve no doubt seen suet on an ingredient list. An easy-melting, mild-tasting fat taken from the kidney region of a steer, suet is akin to leaf lard on a pig. Brits of yester-year employed it as an inexpensive fat for enriching sweet baking.
It’s actually still used quite a bit, especially during the holidays, which is why you can still find commercially-shredded and packaged suet in the British Isles. Here in States the only kind of suet we can get comes straight from the steer, so we have to do the shredding ourselves.
But why shred suet? Why not just chop it? The answer is because suet isn’t pure fat. It’s suffused with tissue. Chopped into cubes, the pieces will want to hold their integrity even as they get hot. Shavings of suet incorporate into a mincemeat or pudding mixture much more readily.
Shredding is an easy thing to do. The only critical bit is the angle at which you hold your knife. A cleaver-like implement is best for this job. You want to hold it at a roughly 45-degree angle. The stroke is down-and-away from the mass of suet. It ends in a near scrape.
Do it two or three times and you’ll have a small pile of flakes and shreds, like so:
Five minutes and you’ll have a good-sized heap, as well as some slightly sore fingers. Indeed the steady rapping of the knuckles that shredding entails is the reason matrons of yore hated this job.
When you’ve got as much as you need — this is about half a pound — go over the pile and chop it to ensure there are no lingering chunks or strings in there.
Refrigerate your shredded suet until it’s ready to use!