Bluebirds rarely eat seeds. The unusual exception is sunflower
crushed peanuts/nuts, and occasionally black sunflower seeds in the hull and safflower seeds. They may learn to eat these after sampling
suet mixtures containing them. They usually need to be trained to come to a feeder (although some bluebirds seem to figure it out on their own).
While bluebirds prefer insects, mealworms and
after much persistence (years) they sometimes sample or even gobble
up peanut butter mixtures. Suet may be a lifesaver in hard winters after Starlings and Robins have stripped all available berries from shrubs.
Bluebirds may be more likely to try suet
if it is placed in a feeder next to or mixed in with some mealworms,
or during the winter (<40°F
or after the first freeze, when insects become inactive) or early
spring. They seem to prefer it crumbled into small, pea-sized
lumps. There have been reports of bluebird parents feeding suet to their nestlings. In the meantime, these recipes will
be adored by Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees,
titmice, nuthatches, juncos, Carolina Wrens, etc.
To introduce bluebirds to suet, try cutting limbs from bushes or trees loaded with red berries that bluebirds like, and place them near the suet to attract bluebirds. You can also put some
on top of a fence post, or in a bowl covered with hardware cloth
(to prevent Blue Jay robberies) near where
they hang out, and then gradually move it closer and closer to
the feeder. You can mix suet in with some mealworms with suet (toss to coat the worms) in a mealworm feeder, gradually reducing the mealworms until only suet is offered (otherwise they might only eat the mealworms). If you're lucky, the bluebirds may just follow other birds to your suet feeder.
Never put food in a nestbox, as the babies will not know how to eat it. Do not put suet on top of a nestbox (unless it's just one little crumb to try to get them to try it) as it could attract predators or competitors.
Jump to RECIPES found below (those in bolded font are my favorites): All
Season Peanut Butter Pudding, Bird Bread (doesn't melt in hot climates), Bluebird
Monitor's Guide, Bluebird
Nut Cafe, Bluebird
Super Mix, Cottonseed Meal, Country Gardens Pinecone, Eggshell Suet, Eva's
Frozen Mealworm Cakes, Garden Grapevine, Gourmet Bird Delight, High
Protein, Janie May, Malinda's
Mix , Marvel Meal, Miracle
Meal, Peanut Butter Yummy, Recovery Wing, Simple Cornmeal, Stokes, Virginia
Bluebird Society, Winter Feed, Winter
Winter Recipe, Z
Combo. Bluebirds may also eat commercial suet cakes, however in my experience they prefer homemade.
Also see beef tallow preparation , and suet terms. Tip for removing peanut butter from jar.
Most recipes contain:
- rendered suet (e.g., Simply Suet available at
Wild Birds Unlimited (pricey) or bulk tallow (unadulterated beef tallow for 80 cents a pound) from Columbus Foods, or lard (in the grocery store next to
butter or vegetable shortening, or in the Mexican food aisle
of the grocery store, or from the butcher), or vegetable
shortening (like Crisco - a 0 trans fat product is available) or bacon drippings. If you use beef
tallow (rendered beef fat), see preparation information. (Some birds like
woodpeckers and robins may like plain beef tallow.) You may be able to get raw suet [beef kidney fat] from a butcher in the grocery store in 1 or 2 lb. packages.) A suet dough has a higher melting point and is better during warmer temperatures.
- crunchy peanut butter
(note that cheaper peanut butter has more oil in it), and
- cornmeal (NOT cornmeal mix which has baking
powder in it. Try to use stone or water ground cornmeal [available
in health food stores] if you can find it, instead of degerminated
cornmeal (e.g., Quaker) which has improved shelf life but
lacks germ oils, taste and fiber.)
- Other common additions are:
- unsalted chopped nuts (peanuts, pecans or other nut meats)
- chopped (and
sometimes stewed) raisins, Zante dried currants,
chopped dried cherries, or apple bits (mockingbirds like
dried apples, prunes and raisins)
- sunflower seed
chips (shelled). (Preferred by cardinals,
chickadees and titmice.) Bluebirds may eat them on occasion, or may enjoy them if ground up (e.g., in a food processor.)
- rolled oats
- flour (whole wheat for more protein/white)
- eggshells: crushed cooked eggshells (consider
using oyster shells available from poultry feed stores
as a calcium source for stronger bird bones and eggs.)
- Cook eggshells in an oven (dry and bake at 250 degrees for 10 minutes) or in a microwave (2 minutes on high, covered because they explode a bit) until brittle.
- Cool, and put
in a paper towel and crush it in your hand into dime-sized pieces (or smaller), or into a plastic bag and crush them with the bottom of a glass
or a rolling pin, or put them in a blender (pulse on the crumble setting in small batches until a powder/very fine crumble consistency) to put it in a powder form.
- white/brown sugar, honey or (karo?) syrup
- For more protein, you could add
ground dry cat food, dog biscuits, or monkey biscuits
birdseed for non-bluebirds, make sure it's fresh.
- Bird chilies (powdered Thai chili to keep squirrels away - inexpensive and better than cayenne pepper or dry mustard. Add VERY carefully - dust is hot enough to cause a human grief).
- Balanced diet: Don't worry too much about creating a totally balanced suet diet for outside feeding - the birds will get food from other sources as well.
These recipes aren't hard to make, and can be a fun project to involve children in (just make sure they're not allergic to peanuts). For recipes that call for melting suet/lard and peanut butter
together, you can
pour the suet mixture into cupcake papers in a muffin tin to harden. Remove
the papers, and the cakes are ready for the birds. If using a pan,
refrigerate the mix, then cut (a pizza cutter works well) into
a size that will fit into a suet feeder, separate with waxed paper,
and store in the freezer in a freezer Ziploc bag or sealed container. This makes suet
easier to handle. Crumbles can also be stored in the freezer/refrigerator in a sealed container. If you made cakes with a peanut butter recipe and want crumbles, just warm to room temperature and break up with a fork. Otherwise there is no need to thaw before serving. It's good to only keep homemade suet out for 2 days so it doesn't go rancid - then fresh. And please keep your feeders clean!
Note: if you're making these recipes with children, make sure they don't have peanut allergies.
Note: You can also buy inexpensive, large chunks of plain, natural raw beef suet from butchers, cut it to size for your suet cages, freeze it in ziploc bags (which will make it easier to handle), and then just take it out whenever you need a refill. Do not leave raw suet out in temperatures over 70 degrees F, as it can turn rancid, and get on feathers, causing inflammation of follicles around the bill or loss of feathers. Use rendered suet instead, which has a higher melting temperature.
- Suet can be placed in a container (e.g., cat food tin or jar lid) and offered inside a specially
designed bluebird feeders (with 1.5" entrance holes, or jail-style grids spaced 1.5" apart"). (See feeding mealworms.)
- Stick a stick or branch on your feeder or into the suet to invite them to perch.
can also be offered in suet cage feeder, so squirrels and large
birds don't take off with it. Hang suet feeders on or near a
tree, on a wooden post, or from your seed feeder. Some people
use double suet cages (a cage inside a cage) to keep out mockingbirds,
starlings, and other large birds and squirrels. Use a toy carabiner clip to keep outer container closed, preventing access by dexterous raccoons. During nesting
season, a suet cage makes a handy holder for offering nesting
materials such as dog fur, straw, coconut fibers or feathers.
squirrels aren't a problem, you can feed suet in a log. Take a
nice thick section of a branch/log and drill 1-3" holes in it. Then attach an "eye" ring at the top and a flower pot bottom at the bottom. Those birds who don't like to cling will eat from the bottom bowl, or you can drill small holes and glue in wooden dowels for perches. (To deter starlings, leave off perches and bottom bowl.) In cold weather you can just smoosh suet balls on to the logs, but when it's warmer you need to use the holes.
- You can also stuff it into a sturdy pine cone (Loblolly works well.)
- Do NOT use a synthetic nylon onion bag as a suet holder. If a bird gets caught in it, in most cases it cannot escape. The onion bags of yesterday were made from a fiber that tore easily, but the nylon will not.
- It is best to keep suet in the shade or in a covered feeder so it doesn't melt or turn rancid. If suet gets wet (from rain/snow), replace it. Avoid feeding beef suet when temperatures are around 80 degrees, as it will go rancid, drip, and may damage feathers.
- Put your feeder near perching spots/trees they can go to in order to feel "safe" (versus in the middle of a large open area), but not close enough to a tree where a squirrel/raccoon can get into it.
- For pole mounted feeders, use a baffle to keep climbing critters out of the suet.
- Deterring Starlings: Upside
down feeders (with a roof, where the bird has to hang on the
bottom of the cage) may deter starlings somewhat, but are acceptable
to woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and nuthatches (they probably won't be used by bluebirds).
- Bill Stump recommends tying a piece of monofilament line about six inches long with a small weight on it from the center of the underside of the feeder. The starlings get annoyed with the string and weight because they can't "hover" but the woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice don't seem to have a problem with it.
Emad's DIY design for a woodpecker-only feeder reportedly deters
blue jays, starlings, crows and squirrels ~95% of the time. He
also designed a bluebird
jail-style feeder to prevents starling
- Ed Mahoney uses a regular suet cage (see photo) suspended from a square foot sheet of hardware cloth, with pieces of electrical wire attached to the edges, about 1" apart, hanging down. The starlings were unable to fly between the hanging wires, but other birds had no trouble.
- A cage within a cage feeder will keep larger birds out, but will allow access to smaller birds like bluebirds, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers. The Bluebird Nut sells a design made specifically for bluebirds.
Commercial vs. Homemade: Most birds prefer homemade suet mixes to store bought. One person reported that bluebirds in her yard eat Kay Tee Orange Suet Dough. Linda Janilla Peterson reported bluebirds eating Blue Robin Crumbles, and Bluebird Delight (when crumbled), but indicated they consistently preferred homemade mixtures. Paul Hawkins of TN finds that his bluebirds like Peanut Nuggets made by C&S Products (available at some hardware stores like Lowes), even during the summer. There are "no melt" commercial varieties of suet dough that are less greasy and can withstand warmer temperatures.
(Beef or Sheep) Suet
vs. (Pig) Lard vs. Vegetable Shortening (Crisco, etc.):
All work in suet recipes, as long as you adjust the dry ingredients
(e.g., flour) to keep the texture crumbly. Vegetable shortening
has a longer shelf life. Suet in its raw form should be avoided.
Beef suet may turn rancid when temperatures exceed 70 degrees. When melted and clarified, beef suet is called "tallow." Tallow
is less likely to go rancid over time; however it is not easily
digested by birds because it is high in saturated fats. Some
birders are concerned about the health impact of using vegetable
- A nutritionist at the San Diego Zoo indicated
that there is no health risk associated specifically with vegetable oil.
- Dr. Sean Pampreen,
an avian vet in Marlborough, CT, indicated he did not think that vegetable shortening used as a binder in suet (which is only a supplemental food for wild birds) would cause digestive problems, especially since sunflower, millet and peanut are about 45-56% oil.
- Bill Whittaker of Four Nature's Keepers
says saturated fats (such as in suet) are more difficult/require more energy
for birds to digest than unsaturated fats (such as in vegetable
shortening). They also found in field tests that after a
familiarization period, birds prefer vegetable shortening.
- Dr. Kirk Klasing, Professor of Avian Nutrition at UC Davis, said that very high amounts of fatty acids are difficult to emulsify by the bile, lowering digestibility. Adding a source of unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oil or lard, improves digestibility (e.g., 80% tallow, 20% vegetable oil or lard is a good combination - you can adjust the proportions to give the melting point desired). Peanut butter also works to increase digestibility of tallow because it is high in unsaturated fats. He was not aware of any evidence for a laxative effect of vegetable oil. Like tallow, vegetable shortening is solid at room temperatures. However, the hydrogenation used to make shortening results in lots of trans fatty acids. Though we don't know for sure, it is likely that the trans fatty acids are less healthy than "natural" cis fatty acids (unhydrogenated oils).
In chickens, high levels of trans fatty acids deplete antioxidants in the tissues. It would be best to avoid high levels of vegetable shortening.
- As of January, 2007 Crisco's regular shortening was reformulated to 0 grams of trans fat per serving. However, it is made of more fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil and much less partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil. The new shortening is flagged with a green trans-fat-free banner.
- Another alternative is soybean shortening without additives,
at as low a melting temperature (less saturation) as you can
use to make an acceptable food.
In terms of protein content, suet has about 0.4 grams of protein/oz. in it; lard and vegetable shortening have none. Both suet and vegetable shortening have about the same amount of calories and fat content. Beef suet has more saturated fat which may be harder to digest.
JL Peterson found bluebirds preferred recipes made with suet. A friend reported bluebirds in her area preferred Crisco-based suets. If you're concerned about using either of these ingredients, you can replace them with extra peanut butter until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
Vitamins: According to Dr. Klasing, adding additional vitamin E and other vitamins could be useful for any "suet" cake, because the primary problem with these cakes is that they go rancid over time. People who feed suet usually also feed seeds. Domestic seeds are low in most vitamins, including vitamin E. Adding a multivitamin to the suet mix could be useful. Shoot for about 25 IU of vitamin E per pound of cake. Don't use a vitamin mix that contains trace minerals, because they promote oxidation.
Tip for removing peanut butter from jar: Here's how to make it easier to get all the peanut butter out of the jar. Take a microwave safe bowl, and heat water in it (large and deep enough to submerge your jar of peanut butter about half way.) Remove the top and seal on the peanut butter jar, replace the top and then let the jar sit in the hot water for about 3 minutes. Poke a hole in the side of the jar (to let air in), then take cap off and squeeze. It will plop out like you've just eaten Mexican food.
Many of the recipes below are from the Bluebirding
Nut Cafe Forum, and the Bluebird_Listserv.
Brenda's Super Mix
- 5 pound can of Crisco
- 1 large jar crunchy peanut butter
- Melt over low heat and remove pot from stove
- Stir in 5 pounds of corn meal
- Add 3 pounds of white flour
Stir until mixture is a flaky consistency. You can add or subtract
flour as desired.
"I store this concoction in a large Tupperware holder on
my counter. I also freeze it. I mold this mixture into a standard
basket-type suet hanging feeder also." ... Brenda
Malinda's Mix (Another yummy recipe)
- 1 cup lard
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1 cup (yellow) cornmeal
- 3 cups oats ("Quaker" cereal type)
- 1 cup sugar (less is ok, but the full cup is great for a winter
calorie boost in cold climates)
Melt lard and peanut butter together (microwave works fine - keep
an eye on things). Stir until blended. In a large bowl, mix dry
ingredients, except for the oatmeal. Then, pour-in the melted lard
and peanut butter. Next, start adding the oatmeal 3 or so cups
at a time. The "suet" should be thick. Add extra
oats if it is not thick enough, until it is too stiff to stir.
Pour the mixture into a greased pan (or glass pans - no extra
greasing needed), cool in refrigerator and cut or spoon into the
proper shape for your feeder. If you don't use it up quickly it
can be frozen until needed. You can add extra chopped peanuts,
chopped raisins, chopped sunflower hearts, and powdered sterilized
gets boatloads of blues on her log feeder using this recipe.
Bluebird Banquet (Linda Janilla Peterson)©
- MIX 1 cup peanut butter
- 4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup unbleached or whole-wheat flour
- ADD 1 cup fine sunflower seed chips
- 1 cup peanut hearts (or finely ground nuts)
- 1/2-1 cup Zante currants (or raisins cut in halves, or chopped dried cherries)
- DRIZZLE and STIR IN 1 cup rendered, melted suet
Resulting mix will be crumbly and should have bean/pea sized lumps
from the drizzling of the melted suet. If too sticky after cooling,
mix in a bit more flour. If too dry, drizzle in more melted suet.
Refrigerate any mix you are not using to prevent suet from turning
You can use a commercial pure bird suet cake, or render your own
suet. Grind or cube butcher store suet. Melt over low heat. Watch
carefully as suet is a fat and can start on fire with too high
heat. A microwave can be used. Strain out the stringy bits (cracklings).
NOTE: This mixture is very popular with bluebirders. Some say you can use solid shortening in place of the suet and it
works fine. You may want to double up on the amount of suet if the recipe is too crumbly.
Nutritional analysis: Protein 12.7%, Carbohydrates 45.9%, Fat 32.7%, Fiber 5.9%
Used with permission. See information on study at Feeding Bluebirds. Folks report parents feeding this recipe to nestlings and fledglings.
High Protein Bluebird Suet Mix (Dan McCue)
- 10 lbs of yellow corn meal with 5 lbs of plain flour.
- Melt about 7 cups of lard and 3 cups of crunchy peanut butter.
Pour liquid mixture gradually over the dry mixture (ingredients),
blending it and adding more liquid until it reaches a fairly firm
- Add raisins, cracked peanuts, crushed eggshells, too.
Pack the mixture into pans (or wooden container) lined with wax
paper so the depth of the mixture will fit your feeder. Place in
freezer until firm (about 45 to one hour), cut with knife or pizza
cutter to fit in your feeder, and place back into freezer until
hard. Break apart the strips (about one inch thick x 1 1/2 inch
wide x 6 inches long.) and place into gallon freezer baggies. return
to freezer until needed. This should make about enough for a year.
This sounds like a lot of work but you only do it once a year!!
You will have flickers, all types of woodpeckers, as well as bluebirds.
A friend of mine in McKenzie , TN has a photo that won a national
wildlife award, showing 7 bluebirds all feeding off the same feeder
in one picture. This was the recipe he uses. Oh, yes, you can save
money by going to your local feed store for your corn meal. I buy
up peanut butter when on sale or at these wholesale 'bent & dent'
Miracle Meal recipe with variations (Elizabeth Nichols)
- 1 lb. lard
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 5-6 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 cup dried currants
Warm lard to room temp, mix with peanut butter and currants (or
finely chopped raisins).
Add flour and cornmeal until consistency of course pie dough.
May be divided into small plastic bags and frozen until needed.
Not mentioned in the article is the addition of any nuts, coconut,
dried fruit on hand which has been practically pulverized in processor.
Note: Another recipe from Bluebird, Journal of the NABS, Vol.21,
No.1, called Miracle Meal calls for
- 4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup lard, melted suet, or grease
- 1 tsp. corn oil
- Sunflower hearts, peanut hearts, chopped soaked raisins.
Melt lard and stir in sunflower and peanut hearts and raisins.
Mix in corn oil, cornmeal and flour. Let this set up, and then
cut into chunks. NOTE: If it comes out sandy,
pour more melted lard over it so it will crumble or you can shape it into balls.
Bluebird Meal (Bluebird, Journal of the NABS, Vol.21, No.1)
- 5 parts old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 part corn syrup
- 1 part peanut butter
- 1 part bacon grease, melted suet, or lard
Mix well and put into 1" holes drilled into a suspended log
Winter Feed (John Schuster)
- Peanut butter (crunchy of course)
- Chopped up raisins, nuts
- egg shells (after baking the empty shells for 25-30 minutes
at 275 degrees,
or microwaving rinsed wet shells for 3-4 minutes)
- Add extras: chopped up Cheerios, boiled chopped up dates, and
boiled chopped up citron fruits, chopped up sunflower seeds
He usually makes enough to put two layers in two 9x12" pans,
chill, and cut each layer into 6 pieces.
- 1 cup peanut butter, chunky or creamy
- 1 cup suet, chopped
- 1 cup raisins, chopped or dried currants
- 1 cup peanuts, chopped cornmeal
Combine first four ingredients.
Add cornmeal, mixing by hand until it reaches the consistency
of medium-stiff cookie dough. Crumble into an open tray feeder.
Bluebird Monitor's Guide (Page 75)
- 4 cups cornmeal, yellow preferred
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 cup peanut butter (without sodium and sugar added)
Mix well. Add:
- 1 cup sunflower chips
- 1 cup ground peanuts (unsalted, of course)
- 1/2 to 1 cup currants or stewed and chopped raisins
again. Then, add:
- 1 cup melted lard (preferred), or suet. Mix again.
The mixture should be somewhat crumbly and not
too moist. Store it in plastic bags or containers in the refrigerator,
or in the freezer for longer term.
This is a very nutritious treat which many songbirds love, especially
Stokes Bluebird Book
Mix in a food processor:
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup lard
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup
- Chopped raisins, nutmeats or peanut hearts.
dry ingredients. Melt
peanut butter and lard
together, and mix with dry ingredients. Press
into pan, cool, cut into squares and
freeze until needed.
- 1 cup
crunchy peanut butter
- 1 cup lard
- 2 cups quick oats
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Berries like
- 2 quarts water
- 1 cup margarine
- 4 cups grits (not instant)
- 1 cup peanut butter
- Raisins and peanut butter hearts (optional)
In a large saucepan, bring water and margarine to a boil. Slowly
add grits, stirring and cooking, until mixture begins to thicken.
Remove from heat and add peanut butter, raisins and peanut hearts.
Mix together well.
All Season Peanut Butter Pudding (Katherine
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 2 cups quick oats
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup lard (no substitutes)
- 1 cup white/wheat flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
Melt lard and peanut butter. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into
plastic freezer containers or forms (use previously purchased
plastic suet containers). Freeze or refrigerate until use (if use
is intended within a week - otherwise freeze). You can also add
various dried fruit and sunflower "meats" to this basic recipe
during winter months for woodpeckers, finches, and other grosbeaks
of all varieties. Expect squirrel problems with this nutty, intoxicating
stuff...hang the pudding in an "upside down" feeder, or location
you can provide some squirrel patrol. Double or triple the receipt,
but don't forget to use heavy duty utensils, this stuff is thick
Meal (Bluebird Journal of NABS, Vol.21, No.1)
Mix ingredients together to form a soft, doughy mix.
Can be offered in suet bags or rolled into balls and offered
in an open dish.
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- melted beef suet or bacon drippings
- 4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 1 cup of lard (melt
both for about 1 minutes in microwave).
- 1 cup of yellow
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 cups of instant
regular flavor oatmeal (comes in packets and takes
- Throw in some extra peanuts
if you want.
When stirring this, it should get very
thick and hard to stir....that means it's right! You
can form it into suet blocks and feed it in suet feeders
or put it in a bowl inside a bluebird feeder. I refrigerate
mine and it will last forever. I usually make
two batches at a time. The sugar is a good
energy source for winter suet feeding.
Bluebird Nut's (Cherie
- 2 cups crunchy
- 4 cups quick cook oats
- 4 cups cornmeal
- 2 cups lard
- 2 cups white or whole-wheat flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Optional: chopped nuts, raisins, dried
fruit, up to 2 cups.
Melt lard and peanut butter in microwave, add remaining
ingredients. Form into softball-sized balls. Store in
freezer until ready to use, then microwave for 15-30 seconds,
and crumble into dish or on platform feeder.
Yields about sixteen softball-sized balls from
a double batch.
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup unbleached or whole wheat
- 1 cup fine sunflower chips
- 1 cup peanut hearts(or finely ground nuts)
- 1/2 to 1 cup
Zante currants (or raisins cut up)
- 1 cup rendered, melted
suet, and then cool - drizzle and stir in.
The mix should be crumbly & should have bean/pea
size lumps. If it is too sticky, add in a bit more flour;
if too dry, drizzle in a bit more suet. Refrigerate
Bluebird Food (Howard Malone of Marion, MS)
INGREDIENTS (The cheapest available. BB's do not recognize
- 4 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup cottonseed meal (replaces peanut butter called
for in other recipes)
- 1 cup applesauce (experimental addition)
- 2 cups lard, barely melted in microwave (substitute
vegetable for some of the lard in colder climates)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped raisins
- 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (e.g., pecans)
With the steel blade of a food processor, finely chop the
raisins in one cup of cornmeal. This prevents the raisins
from forming a gooey mess. I do several batches at a time
to minimize cleaning the processor. Freeze the extra batches
in a plastic sandwich bag. Count the cornmeal as one of
the four cups.
Finely chop the nuts in the same processor. I also make
several batches at one time. Freeze as above. Combine all
dry ingredients in a large pan. I use a 10 qt plastic dishpan
from Wal-Mart. Mix thoroughly until a well blended. Mix
in the applesauce. It begins to get lumpy, so more effort
is required to get a smooth mix.
Pour most of the melted lard into the mix while stirring.
I use Miss Anne's heavy duty hand held mixer. The going
gets rough here; I finish the mixing with my hands, squishing
the mixture through my fingers. The mixture can now be formed
into a ball which will stand alone, similar to making biscuit
dough. If it is too dry, add a little lard. If too greasy,
use less lard next time, or dust on a little flour. By dividing
and sub-dividing, this make 16 balls the size of a handball.
Place on a cookie sheet, freeze, and store in a plastic
bag. Defrost in microwave (15 sec) and use as required.
Simple Cornmeal Suet (Mary Ann Strawchecker, from Sialia Winter 1996)
- 3 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 lb. lard (not shortening)
- Optional: peanut butter or peanut hearts
Mix to form a firm ball, then make into pea-sized pellets. Store in refrigerator.
A Winter Recipe (Arnette Heidcamp, from Bluebirds in My House)
- 3 lb. can of vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
- 2 cups peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
- 5 lbs. white flour
- 2 24 oz. containers of cornmeal
- Optional: add raisins, currants, sunflower or peanut hearts
Melt the shortening in a large pot until it is liquid, taking care not to allow it to burn. Add the peanut butter and let it melt thoroughly, stirring till blended. Add the flour and stir till blended, then add the cornmeal and stir.
Pack it into plastic cartons about the size of a suet holder and freeze, or stuff into milk cartons and refrigerate to be later cut into slices.
Eva's Frozen Mealworm Cakes
- 1 cup lard
- 2½ cup crunchy peanut butter
- ½ cup crushed egg shells
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup peanuts
- 6 cups corn meal
- 5 cups flour
Melt lard and peanut butter in micro for 1-1½ minutes
on high. Stir in egg shells, sunflower seeds
and peanuts. Mix together cornmeal and flour and add
to lard mixture by cupfuls. Mixture will be stiff. Put
in 'store bought' containers or what ever you wish. Store
in refrigerator or freezer until needed. (Make a
few balls of it and hang it in an onion bag)
Note: Eva adds 1/2 cup of cracked
corn, but I've deleted it because HOSP like corn.
- 1/2 cup live mealworms
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (completely thawed and drained)
- 1/4 cup hot beef tallow
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Submerge mealworms in hot tallow, then add blueberries
and creamy peanut butter and mix thoroughly. Spoon it into
a form to cool. If your tallow does not set up solid, put
it into a container and freeze it.
(Note from Zimmerman: crunchy peanut butter may be preferable.)
Other ingredients that can be added (all which may not
be of interest to bluebirds) are bird seed, cracked corn,
corn meal, cut up dates or prunes, ground dry dog or cat
food, crushed egg shells, trail mix fruit, orange squares,
chopped or ground nuts such as peanuts, and raisins.
PEANUT BUTTER YUMMY (Edwina Hall)
(FOOD FOR BABY BIRD'S TUMMIES)
- 4 cups plain cornmeal
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 cup solid Crisco
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
Using a mixer, combine cornmeal and flour. With the mixer running, add Crisco by the tablespoon. Then add peanut butter by the tablespoon. Goal: A mixture that is not too sticky or too crumbly, which you can squeeze into balls with your hand. Put these balls in a zip lock bag and pop into freezer. When ready to serve, put balls in microwave. Cook on high, 10 seconds per ball.
EGGSHELL SUET (Carol Nagy, Birds & Blooms)
- 1 cup lard
- 1 cup chunky peanutbutter
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup chicken scratch
- 1/3 cup washed, dried and crushed eggshells
Melt lard over low heat. Add peanutbutter. stir til melted. Add other ingredients and mix well. Line a baking pan with wax paper. Spread int/o pan and then cut mixture into squares. Freeze. (Good to use during nesting season because of extra calcium. Adapted by Nagy from a recipe in Birds & Blooms)
RECOVERY WING PEANUT BUTTER SUET
- 1 lb. lard
- 1 16 oz. jar peanut butter
- 3 cups flour
- 5 cups cornmeal
Slowly melt peanut butter and lard in a large pan (careful not to burn.) Once melted, add flour and cornmeal. If desired, add chopped nuts, raisins or hulled sunflower seeds. During summer months, you can add crumbled freeze-dried insects (crickets). Scoop into a container compatible with your seut basket, chill till hard. Mixture can also be scattered, placed on a platform feeder, or mixed with birdseed.
GOURMET Bird DELIGHT (Dottie and Fawzi Emad)
- 1 jar Crunchy peanut butter
- Corn meal
- Lard (big tub - $3.98 at Wal-Mart)
- 1 box of Raisins (or currants or cranberries - chop with egg slicer.
You can also add currants, cranberries, sunflower seeds, whole kernal corn or anything you think the birds would like to eat in the mix or alongside the suet in a feeder tray. Dump in as much as you want of each ingredient (get the cheapest brands), using enough oatmeal and cornmeal to make it stick together well. Mix everything together. Put big balls of the mixture into plastic grocery bags and freeze. Then put a ball or two on your feeder tray. You could also make it to fit a wire suet feeder.
Bluebirds and woodpeckers love it.
COUNTRY GARDENS PINECONE (Country Gardens, Fall 2004)
- 2-3 pinecones (big Loblolly pinecones are good)
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup lard or suet cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup birdseed (for non-bluebirds)
- 1/4 cup cracked corn (for non-bluebirds)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons cornmeal
- Lightweight wire
- Wire cutters
- Pan lined with wax paper
Step 1: Combine peanut butter and lard, microwave just until they are soft enough to mix together. Add seed, cracked corn, cornmeal and mix well. The consistency should be similar to thick oatmeal; if it is too runny, put it in the refrigerator until it thickens slightly.
Step 2: Wrap one end of the lightweight wire around the base of the pinecone and fasten it securely. Measure enough wire from the other end so the pinecone can be tied to a tree and still have a little room to dangle freely. Over the pan lined with waxed paper, pour the mixture onto the pinecone, turning slowly to cover it evenly. Leave a good portion of the top uncovered so birds have a clean surface to cling while they eat. Prop up the pinecones in the pan and put them in the freezer to harden.
Step 3: Once the pinecones are frozen solid, wrap them in a plastic bag until needed. When the weather turns chilly, hang them from a tree branch.
Bird Bread - Bird Watcher's Digest, modified by Liz Cooksey
(Peanut butter variety that doesn’t melt in the heat. Not tested on bluebirds yet. 2x this recipe makes 14 cakes)
4 cups melted peanut butter, bacon grease, or other fat (~36 - 40 oz. jar)
- 4 cups cornmeal or stale dry cereal, blended into crumbs (you can use breadcrumbs if you have them)
- warm water (20 oz. per recipe works well)
- 3 cups wild bird seed
- 3 cups raisins or other dried fruit (~15 oz.)
- Melt the peanut butter in a microwave safe container in the microwave (~2 min. per 40 oz. Be careful! 3 min melted a plastic container of peanut butter).
- Pour peanut butter into a large bowl; mix in the cornmeal/cereal/breadcrumbs
- Add the water (this is really important. The dough hangs together much better with it, and it’s less messy to handle)
- Add the seed and raisins (To get them really well mixed, you may wish to mix them in a separate bowl first.)
- Sprinkle bottom of mold with cornmeal so the suet will come out easily.
EITHER: Using one mold, make each cake. Lay them all on a large jelly roll sheet and freeze for a while. Then wrap each in plastic wrap and return to the freezer.
OR: Fill each of about 9 molds with the mixture, freeze them solid and then pack them into one or more freezer boxes (such as Tupperware breadbox) and return to the freezer.
HINT: Keep extra cornmeal at hand for easy adjusting the dough when your hands are sticky (if you use your hands to mix it).
Suet Recipe (Bet Zimmerman)
- 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy style)
cups yellow cornmeal
cup unbleached or whole-wheat flour (can use regular white
flour in a pinch)
- 1 cup oats - Quaker cereal style (quick cooking)
cup melted lard or Crisco (you can get big containers from Wal-mart)
cup of honey (warmed so it's more liquid) or sugar
OPTIONAL additions that make the suet more attractive or healthy
- 1 cup fine sunflower seed chips (or a high quality seed
mix like Lyric)
cup Zante currants (or raisins cut in halves). If you
can find dried blueberries, add them in.
- 1/2 cup ground oyster shells for calcium (available at feed stores for poultry)
- 1/2 cup chopped peanut hearts
You can melt the peanut butter and lard together first in the
microwave if you want (about 1.5 - 2 minutes on high). You can also mix together all the dry ingredients first to make sure they are evenly distributed. Sometimes I use less cornmeal, and equal parts peanut butter and lard/shortening. Amounts don't have to be exact.
together so it sticks (might want to use rubber gloves. If you can convince a spouse or child to mix it by hand, go for it - double batches are hard to mix with a wooden spoon. I make mine in a big bucket.) Add more
lard or honey if too dry, more flour if too sticky - it
should be the consistency of thick (but not dried up), crumbly
or cut into bird-bite size chunks for bluebirds (and store
in a Ziploc freezer bag), and put the crumbles in a separate
feeder for them. (You can throw some on the ground for the juncos.)
For suet cakes: Dump in more seed if it doesn't look like there's
much in there. Smush mix into a greased 9.5 x 11 brownie pan
and refrigerate. (I double the recipe and use a giant cake pan).
Then cut into a size that will fit into
a suet feeder, separate with waxed paper, and store in a freezer
Ziploc bag. Chickadees, Bluebirds, nuthatches,
downy woodpeckers and titmice will gobble this up.
BEEF TALLOW PREPARATION:
Ask your butcher to grind up kidney or loin beef tallow. (Limber
fat is less solid when processed and may turn rancid more quickly.)
To "render" one pound, put tallow (chopped into very small pieces or ground) in a deep pot that completely
covers the burner to reduce the risk of hot fat getting on the
burner and causing a fire. Heat the pot on LOW or medium flame, and monitor it until
the tallow has liquified. There should be nothing pink in your pan, only solid gray bits in a clear liquid. Strain out the gray bits by pouring the melted suet through a fine cheesecloth. Save the strained liquid fat and let it cool. Suet at this stage is still somewhat soft, but if you melt it and strain it again, you will produce a very hard suet. If you let the tallow
cool overnight and then reheat it, it will be harder when solidified.
Turn off the heat and allow it to cool somewhat.
Then mix in other ingredients. Spoon warm mixture into a container
(e.g., plastic freezer container the size of a suet holder. Store
in the freezer, or in the refrigerator where it should last at
least a month, up to a year. (Source: The
SUET TERMS: Suet is raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys. It is a solid at room temperature, and melts at about 70°F. (At higher temperatures, it can turn rancid.) It is a saturated fat.
The primary use of suet is to make tallow in a process called rendering, which involves melting and extended simmering, followed by straining, cooling and usually a repetition of the entire process. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration. It is used to make soap, for cooking, as a bird food, and was once used for making candles. The type sold in supermarkets is dehydrated suet. Vegetarian suet is readily available in supermarkets in the United Kingdom. It is made from fat such as palm oil combined with rice flour. It resembles shredded beef suet, and is used as a substitute in recipes. Lard is an animal fat produced from rendering the fat portions of the pig.
Rendering involves melting of a fatty material and removal of the non-fat components, and transforms suet into tallow and pork fat into lard. Unlike raw animal fats, rendered animal fats can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided they are kept in airtight containers to prevent oxidation.
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