Suet cakes and black sunflower seeds tempt birds to feeders in my backyard, as well as oily niger seeds for the goldfinches. But seeing the elaborate feeders set up by two nearby neighbors, I knew I would have to gin up my game to keep the birds interested. It’s a bit of a competition!
So I consulted my favorite bird feeding book, Feed the Birds by Helen Witty. It has a lot of interesting recipes for bird delicacies, along with bird poetry! My kind of book. Last week I made Apple Puddings for birds, and here is the recipe.
Apple Puddings for the Birds
2 cups lard
3 cups chopped apples, including cores and seeds
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped raisins
3 cups dry crumbs (bread, cake or cookie)
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter
In a large bowl, mix together the apples, brown sugar, raisins, crumbs, and oatmeal. You can melt the lard in a saucepan or skillet, but I found it easiest to do in a large (4-cup) Pyrex measuring cup. I spooned lumps of the lard into the measuring cup and melted it in the microwave, going slowly at half power. When melted, add the cup of peanut butter, and stir until combined.
Pour the lard mixture over the dry mix in the bowl. This is where it’s good to have a pair of disposable plastic gloves, because you’ll need to mix everything together with your hands. I used my bare hands, and it wasn’t horrible. If you use fine crumbs, such as commercial bread crumbs, the mixture will be compact, but if you use something coarser, like bread cubes, the mixture will be looser. Either way, when the lard cools, the puddings will be firm.
Spoon the mixture into paper-lined muffin tins to cool and firm up. This recipe makes 18 puddings, so you will need to have two muffin tins. I set the tins out on the porch to cool, keeping a sharp eye out for raccoons.
Then I took a mesh bags (the kind that onions come in), and cut through the side of the bag (near the top). I popped three puddings out of the tin, peeled off the paper liners, and placed them in the bag. I nailed the filled bags to a nearby tree. Calling all birds!
Suet info: Technically, suet is the white, leafy fat from around beef kidneys. You might find this at the meat counter around the holidays, but sometimes what they offer are chunks of beef fat. (Tallow is sheep fat, and lard is pork fat.) I have found that rendering any kind of suet can be a messy proposition, and that lard is more straightforward to use. I got my lard from a local Hispanic grocery store.
This male downy woodpecker decided to go with the commercial suet. It can take awhile for birds to find something new.
First customer: a squirrel. Why am I not surprised!
Second customer: a starling. Also not surprised!
I am always of two minds about starlings. There are a lot of them, but close up, they are amazingly elegant.
Peace to you. Fran