Here at my home base in Boulder County Colorado snow and gusty winds are forecast tonight, with more snow tomorrow and expected highs in the twenties. When nasty weather hits I like to make sure some suet is available for my backyard birds. I've used lots of commercial suet blocks with success but it is kind of fun & satisfying to serve up some homemade bird treats. This is a little cooking project I like to do with my kindergarten-aged son, making a batch of Do-it To-it Suet!!
My recipe is derived from Mary Jo Ballator's & Julie Zickefoose's versions- click over to check out their versions. (Thanks, Mary Jo & Julie!) I was after a product firm enough to hold in a traditional suet cage feeder but also malleable enough to stuff into a dead log that I've drilled out for suet feeding. This is the first time I've tried to relate cooking instructions, so forgive me & be sure to comment if something doesn't make sense…
- Melt a pound of lard in a large glass bowl in the microwave. (Stove top would work, too.) I found blue 1-lb boxes of Snow Cap lard in the baking aisle near the shortening. I don't remember the time I used but I'd go in 1-minute intervals, checking to see when you have clear, melted lard (mmmmm….)
- Add an equal amount (about 2 cups) of crunchy peanut butter & stir well.
- At this point I transferred the mixture to my wife's Cuisinart Mixer. I guess it might not hurt to ask permission if you are using a spouse's mixer, especially when you see my last ingredient… If you are going to use a power mixer make sure it has the horsepower- by the time the mix is done it is pretty viscous.
- With the mixer on its slowest setting while adding dry ingredients, start with 2 cups of flour (I used whole wheat since that's what we had on hand & maybe is healthier for birds?)
- Add 2 cups corn meal to the mixer.
- Add 2 cups Flock Raiser crumbles poultry feed (or similar antibiotic-free poultry mix.)
- Add 4 cups quick oats.
- Add about 1/2 cup of Snackworms (roasted wax worms- I'm sure other roasted or dried wax worms or meal worms would also work!)
- As soon as the worms are well distributed shut down the mixer. Use a stout spatula to transfer the mix into two glass baking pans. If you want thick cakes (similar to commercial dimensions), this will fill two 9×9 pans & yield 8 squares. If you want thinner blocks try larger pans. Pop the pans in the fridge long enough to stiffen up, then cut the suet mix into the dimensions you want.
- I like to dust the pans with corn meal prior to pouring the mix to facilitate easier removal after cutting the suet blocks to size.
- If the mix in the glass pans is too stiff to easily spread flat, nuke it again in the microwave to loosen it up.
- I freeze the blocks in sandwich bags to pull out when I'm ready. This not only keeps the suet well but it is less sticky on the hands when doling it out if it is still frozen!!
Enjoy! -Bill Schmoker
Northern Flicker on homemade woodpecker/chickadee/etc. feeder. Metal baffle is to keep squirrels & raccoons down. Note hole stuffed with some Do-it To-it Suet. There are 4 other holes drilled higher up on the dead log that I salvaged from a tree-trimming project.
Northern Flicker on traditional suet cage feeder. The outer cage at least slows down pesky European Starlings. Note the curiously pale secondaries & tertials (but outer tertial looks normal)- a case of partial leucism, I think. Someone set me straight if I have these feather tracts wrong…