The peanut butter pine cones were such a hit with our feathery neighbors that we decided to try another treat for them. This time we made suet cakes, with a twist.
What you need:
- Suet, grease, or lard (melted)
- Wild birdseed
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit (optional)
- Square sandwich-sized plastic container
- Zip tie
- Wire holder for hanging suet cakes (purchased)
Suet is a mutton or beef fat that’s stored around the kidneys, and most grocery stores won’t have it. The butcher suggested checking with a locker plant to get the suet. Instead, I saved grease from bacon (about ½ cup). I’ve read that lard works just as well.
I researched what usually composed suet cakes and decided to add a few extra goodies. The basic recipe is even parts suet, peanut butter, oatmeal and two or three times that much wild birdseed. So it could be ½ cup melted suet (grease or lard), ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup oatmeal, and 1 to 1½ cups wild birdseed.
Measuring the birdseed is a terrific exercise in equivalents. Put the birdseed in one large bowl and have ¼, ½, and 1 cup measuring cups available. Younger children can play and learn with the birdseed and measuring cups a la Montessori. To provide some structure, have them compare filling the ¼ cup two times with filling the ½ cup once. Ask how many ¼ cups it would take for 1 cup. Vary the questions and measures. You can also have the children chart the measures and equivalents. Charting and measuring will especially help visual learners. The more senses we involve in any learning makes stronger, lasting connections.
I made the suet bird cakes like I make soup or a casserole. I see what’s in the refrigerator and the cupboard, then I improvise. In the back of the cupboard, I found some dried prunes and decided they would be good. I reconstituted them, which means I added ½ cup of water to the prunes and microwaved them for about three minutes until they absorbed most of the water. Then, I pureed them in the food processor, so they were the consistency of applesauce. For this batch of bird cakes, we mixed the melted grease, pureed prunes, and birdseed. Then I poured or pressed the mixture into the square plastic container. I let it freeze until set
We made another batch of bird cakes from ½ cup melted grease, ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup oatmeal, and 1½ cups of birdseed. We poured or pressed the mixture into a square plastic container that’s about 4” x 4” and placed in freezer to set.
We released the bird cake from the plastic container by turning it upside down and pushing on the bottom. We put the bird cake in the suet cake holder.
The holders come with a hanger, which means there’s a short chain with a hook. For me, the chain/hook didn’t work well. So, we attached a plastic zip tie to the holder, keeping a large loop in the zip tie. This made it easy to get the holders on the tree branches.
I used the telescoping pole we have to hang lights on the house. It worked great.