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A Recipe for the Birds!

by Jane Worthington-Roth

I love seeing wildlife around my house - it’s one of the wonderful benefits of living in the Berkshires where you can be so close to nature. One of the prettiest sights is having birds come to a feeder in late fall and winter. The contrast of brilliant plumage against the stark bare trees is gorgeous!

Although just about every grocery store and pharmacy sells birdseed and pre-made suet cakes, it’s a lot cheaper to make your own and is a fun project for a chilly autumn day. You’ll have great satisfaction seeing your fine feathered friends enjoy your recipe! The combination of seeds, dried fruit, nuts and suet helps the birds maintain heat and energy during the cold winter months.

Birdseed Cakes

5 to 8 1-pound plastic deli containers, or about a dozen (empty) yogurt containers
5 pounds mixed birdseed
2 pounds raw suet (ask for it at the meat department)
1 pound dried cranberries
1 pound shelled, raw peanuts
Twine (for hanging the birdseed cakes), cut into 1-foot lengths

Cut the raw suet into chunks. Place about 2 cups of these chunks into a heatproof container (e.g. Pyrex glass measuring cup). Cover and microwave on HIGH for 5 - 8 minutes. Be careful, the suet may splatter! Of, you can melt down the suet in a covered pot on your stove using low heat.

Strain the liquid into a heatproof bowl and set aside. Discard any residual “chunks” of suet.

Stir in the birdseed, dried cranberries and peanuts.

Take each piece of twine and tie a large knot at one end. Place the knotted end into the bottom of a plastic container. Scoop the birdseed mixture into the container, positioning the twine in the center. The extra twine that hangs out of the top will be used to hang the birdseed cake.

Continue placing the twine and packing the birdseed mixture into the cups until all is used. If you haven’t saved up enough empty plastic containers, the birdseed cakes could instead be molded into muffin tins, or even into cookie cutters on a baking sheet!

Freeze for at least two hours to harden, unmold and hang. Once the birdseed cakes have hardened, they may be kept in a cool dry place (or a refrigerator or freezer) until you are ready to use them.

Feel free to mix up the recipe by substituting other dried fruits such as blueberries, apples, or other nuts such as unsalted sunflower seeds or pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Make sure you choose unsweetened, no-flavor added, unsulphured dried fruits and unsalted nuts.