Thursday, February 6, 2020

Embellishing Plain Millet Suet Cakes

We feed the birds.  Anyone who knows us, knows we love watching the birds dart in and out of the feeders.  It's especially important to supplement food in the winter when natural food is scarce in Wisconsin.  There are many birds who don't migrate and need the fuel to survive the cold temperatures and snow.  I blogged about a recipe more than a year ago.  I have made this many times.

Recently I didn't have all the ingredients for this recipe, but I did have a bunch of pre-packaged suet cakes.  We pick up a box now and then when they are on sale.  Sometimes they can be as inexpensive as $.50 each.  I checked my supplies and saw I had two boxes on hand.

If you look carefully, these are two different types of food.  The box on the right states it is No Melt and is marketed as Woodpecker dough.  I learned the hard way that these do not melt just as it says on the box.  It's perfect for the summer heat but is not suet.   The cakes look similar but are not. I did break up these blocks and put them on a platform feeder for the birds to enjoy that way.

Woodpecker Dough

I have a spindle feeder, and I wanted to melt the suet cakes so I could reshape them into the cylinder shape.  The cakes look slightly different from the woodpecker dough.  They feel greasier, and you can see seeds mixed in the product.  The ones I have only contain millet and millet is not a favorite of the birds.  Some birds will eat them, but most of the birds will not unless they are starving.  My remedy for this situation is to first melt the blocks.  I put three of them into a microwavable bowl and microwaved for two minutes.  I have also put them in a saucepan on low heat.  It is your choice as to what method works best for you.  When melted, stir them together into a greasy, seedy slurry.

At this point I stir in sunflower seeds and/or peanuts.  Stir until the suet cools to the point where the seeds incorporate as opposed to floating.  It cools in a couple of minutes.  At this point, I pack the ingredients in a container sprayed with cooking spray.  Spraying makes it easier to release.  Make sure you pack it tight to get all the air pockets out.  I used a five pound cottage cheese container.  While it is soft, I put a large metal bolt through the middle to make a hole in the center so I can fit it over the spindle feeder I have.  It isn't pretty, but it works.

I let it firm up overnight.  In the morning or after a few hours, remove the metal piece and turn the container over like you would a layer cake.  The embellished suet cake pops right out.  A bonus is the cost savings.  A pre-made suet cake of this style and size runs about $12.00 whereas my home made cakes cost less than $2.00.

The birds love these.  It attracts all kinds of birds.  The cardinals and all types of woodpeckers especially like them.

Red Bellied Woodpecker 
Male and Female Northern Cardinal 
White Breasted Nuthatch 
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
As you can see, the old suet cylinder is nearly gone.  The new one is ready to go.  Most of the sunflower seeds have been picked out of the old one, so the new one will be welcomed.  It's like I am making them finish their main course before bringing on the dessert. 

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