Winter is approaching and our backyard birds are coming to the feeders for more than just social hour. They are caching seeds and bulking up to keep warm on those cold and windy Illinois winter days. Suet cakes are commonly used as high energy bird food. But be careful! Some of the commercial suet cakes contain allergens such as milk, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and soy. In this blog, we provide recipes and a video to guide you as you make your own Clean Label Suet Cakes. Check out our video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kep7korKv5s and be sure to give us some love by Subscribing and Liking the video. We appreciate all the views!
Making suet cakes is very easy and is an awesome project to complete with children if adults handle melting the lard. Our children started helping with suet cakes in preschool, but you can judge how much “help” you want and when your helpers are ready. Children can mix and pack the suet into familiar squares or dip open pinecones into the suet mix to hang in trees.
The recipe that we use in the video is pretty simple:
16 oz (1 pint) of Lard
¼ cup Crunchy Peanut Butter (Skip if you or your helpers have peanut allergies)
32 oz (1 quart) total of Dry Ingredients
16 oz Prairie Melody™ Sunflower Seeds
8 oz Instant or Quick Oatmeal
8 oz Mealworms to taste
Put Lard and Peanut Butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat 3 minutes on med-high power. You want to liquify the lard and dissolve the peanut butter into the lard. Don’t get the lard too hot or it will scorch. It will also be too hot for little hands to work with.
While you are melting the liquid ingredients, place your Prairie Melody™ Sunflower Seeds, oatmeal and other dry ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. The desired ratio is 2:1 dry to wet ingredients and precision isn’t necessary. I use a lot of oatmeal to soak up the lard.
Add the melted lard and peanut butter to the dry ingredients and mix well.
Place suet mixture into forms and freeze for two hours to solidify the lard before placing in suet feeder.
You can use almost anything for a form. I use quart freezer bags because they are easy and inexpensive. I should probably come up with another option that doesn’t rely upon single-use plastic. A 4x4 cake tin or a cookie sheet with sides will work well. If you have a suet plug feeder, you can use toilet paper rolls as forms.
Some personal preferences and experience:
I don’t use corn meal in my suet because it attracts grackles, blackbirds and sparrows. Corn meal is often made with GMO corn if that concerns you.
If small furry mammals are an issue, put your suet feeder under a baffle. Bird species that feed on suet easily fly under the baffle and eat at the feeder. Woodpeckers, flickers, nuthatch and other species regularly feed at our suet feeder under a witch’s hat baffle.
I have never made suet with vegetable shortening such as Crisco. I’m sure it would work, and I have seen some videos that substitute vegetable shortening for the lard. The objective is to provide the birds with high calories and high fat. Check the label to make sure your liquid ingredients are providing what the birds need.
Keep it simple. I use a quart jar to keep my ratio of dry and wet ingredients pretty close, but I don’t actually measure anything. This also helps to keep the dishes to a minimum.
Good luck and be sure to post a picture of your suet cakes in the Comment section of this blog. Remember that every backyard can make a difference!