My friend Gwen asked me yesterday if I had ever heard of saving the grease from bacon and other meats to reuse in cooking. She said she had a memory of her grandmother having “a little ceramic container at the back of her stove into which she would put leftover grease when cooking. It would harden, and then when she needed a little grease for cooking something, she scooped some out of there. All sorts of different meat flavors got mixed up in it.”
She wanted to know if I’d ever heard of it and what I thought of it. I have a feeling that this has something to do with the fact that Gwen’s daughter won “half of a half of a pig” in a raffle recently.
Yes, I have heard of it. My mom used to keep bacon grease in a coffee can in the freezer. She didn’t reuse it for cooking but it didn’t go to waste. Keep reading to find out what she did with it.
Bacon grease and other animal fats are reusable. As a culture, we’ve gotten away from reusing them, although I think in the South its still a common practice. I think it’s part health reasons, part ick factor. It’s much healthier to fry things in olive oil than animal fat. There are a fewer calories when you fry an egg using non-stick spray than bacon grease.
Plus, we’ve become so separated from where our food actually comes from, that we don’t want to actually think about “animal fat.” It’s one thing to know in the back of your mind that it’s the fat in the 85% lean ground beef that makes your burger taste better than one made with 93% lean ground beef. It’s another thing to actually have a scoop of animal fat staring you in the face. Ewwww.
Animal fat, particularly bacon fat, can add some wonderful flavor to foods, however, and when used sparingly, I think it’s something that those of us who look it and say “ewwww” may want to add back into our diets. It is all natural, after all. Once in a while, fry some potatoes or eggs in it or use it to fry green beans that are particularly tasty when fried in grease.
There is one recipe that I make, usually in the summer that has bacon in it. After the bacon is fried, the grease is used to sauté the vegetables. It’s Corn and Zucchini Medley
I understand if you’re not willing to start adding animal fats as a staple in your diet. Neither am I. But don’t dump them down the drain. You can do what my mom did with her bacon fat. Feed the birds.
Bacon attracts bluebirds, crows, jays, ravens, starlings, woodpeckers, and Carolina wrens.
In the old days when bacon was a regular part of breakfast, cooks were happy to share the leftover grease with their feathered friends. In today's fat-conscious society, many people have sworn off bacon, but birds don't need to fight fat! Bacon grease is still a great food for backyard birds.
The simplest way to package bacon grease for bird feeding is in metal tuna or cat-food cans. Punch a hole in the side wall of the can with a nail. Use pliers to bend the tip of a wire into a knot that won't slip through the hole, and thread the wire through the can for hanging. Fill the can to the brim with cooled, but still liquid, bacon grease, then stick it in the refrigerator to solidify. Once the grease is no longer runny, hang the can from a branch.
Bluebirds, jays, woodpeckers, and Carolina wrens readily accept this source of fat, whether you offer it straight or use it in bird-treat recipes. Bacon grease also draws crows, starlings, and even ravens.