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Auntie Dee’s Wholesome Suet Cakes

This Suet Recipe for wild birds will fit in an 8” square cake pan and can be cut into 4 cakes that will fit into small-sized suet baskets. You can use many ingredients that would otherwise go to waste, such as drippings from bacon or chicken thighs that collect in the drip tray of your electric grill! If you have leftover nuts or seeds from baking, these may be added to your suet before they have a chance to go stale in the cupboard. Sesame seeds that have fallen off your hamburger buns or bread sticks can be saved until needed. Save seeds from vegetables such as bell peppers to add when you're ready to make this recipe. Visit our page on bird feeders . . .
 

1 cup animal fat (lard or drippings)

1 cup peanut butter, high-fat natural preferred

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats, not quick oats

1 cup cornmeal, fine or coarse

1 cup chopped peanuts or halved

1 cup shelled sunflower seeds and/or bell pepper seeds, squash seeds, fennel or dill seeds, etc.

2 tbls crushed hot chilis or cayenne pepper

Collect fat drippings from meat and store in the freezer until you’re ready to prepare the suet.  Fat must be melted twice and allowed to cool completely in between to render it to a firm consistency.  Lard may be substituted for all or part of the fat. Bacon drippings give extra flavor to the peanut butter mixture.

Melt the fat in a large saucepan at medium-low heat and add the peanut butter, stirring until smooth.  Natural peanut butter is best.  Remove from heat and stir in the chilis and flour.

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Crush the rolled oats slightly and add to the mixture along with the cornmeal.  You can use cracked corn from a feed store or coarse cornmeal from the supermarket.  Chop birdfeed peanuts or other unsalted peanuts or other nuts and stir into the warm mixture.

Unsalted shelled sunflower seeds make up the rest of the recipe, but you may substitute other things you have on hand, such as crumbs from baked goods, crushed popcorn, buckwheat berries (kasha), bulgur wheat, seeds from vegetables (like bell peppers and squash), or herb seeds like fennel and dill.  If you have seeds from hot peppers, they won’t hurt the birds but will help to deter squirrels. You can replace the flour with breadcrumbs if you add extra fat and perhaps a little more peanut butter.

Downy Woodpecker & Suet Basket

Line an 8” cake pan with waxed paper or parchment and fill with the warm mixture.  Avoid pressing into corners.  Chill until firm, then cut into four equal sections.  Secure in suet basket and hang in a dry, sheltered location where squirrels won’t be able to reach it.  Unused cakes may be frozen until needed.

Suet baskets are available at many supermarkets and hardware stores for a few dollars.  The most important difference between the baskets is the spacing of the wire bars.  Find a basket that has narrow spaces between the bars because this makes it more difficult for a squirrel to eat all of the suet.  (You may find that some squirrels develop a taste for spicy food!)

Things to Avoid: Many suet recipes call for shortening or recommend it as a substitue for animal fat; however, studies have shown that vegetable shortening acts as a laxative in birds. This is counter-productive because birds need to retain all of the calories they get from the suet in order to stay warm in the winter and to produce healthy offspring over the summer months.

We eat vegetable seeds like pumpkin or squash seeds that can be found roasted in the supermarket. However, we don't eat fruit seeds; these contain toxins and have a bitter taste. Birds know better than to eat them! Birds will avoid bitter tasting seeds and can even vomit to get rid of toxic things they've swallowed. Of course, there are harmless exceptions like kiwi and pomegranate seeds.

A suet basket will attract clinging birds like Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers to your property. These birds eat insects, so despite having suet available to them, they will continue to control pests like wasps, earwigs, and houseflies. I've had far fewer problems with insects in my home since I began offering suet and black oil sunflower seeds, and I've watched a Chickadee snatch a wasp out of the air right next to my feeder and devour it with gusto!

Visit our pages on bird feeders for a review of some available types . . .

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