Harvest and butchering season is upon us. Given that, its a good time to brush up on some skills that may come in handy after the harvest, and maybe even learn some new ones. Lard has a number of uses as a cooking fat—from baking to frying, and everything in between. Ever wonder how to render it yourself? Read on for more.
Kinds of Fat
As everyone knows, lard is made from fat. This fat is generally from the fattiest animal, which is, of course, the pig. Get every bit of fat you can off the animal, there’s no need to be picky. This will mostly be concentrated in the back, and around the kidneys. If you separate the kidney fat (also called Leaf Fat) from the back fat, it will render up pure white—perfect for pie crusts. If this is general use lard however, no need to get so fancy; you can render it all together just fine, and will simply look more yellowish, with a stronger pork flavor.
Start by refrigerating your fresh fat for a few days, as you want your fat cold to begin. When its nice, firm and cold, cut off any remaining bits of meat, the chop or grind all the pure fat down until it is in small bits. The smaller it is, the more pure it will render, and the whiter/cleaner it will look.
Take a quarter cup of water, pour it into a slow cooker and set the cooker on low. You can place the ground fat in there at the same time. I recommend a slow-cooker over a stovetop as its easier to keep the temperature ultra low. The lower the temperature, the longer the cook, and the longer the cook the cleaner the taste.
Let the mixture simmer for hours. As meat particles (cracklins) rise to the top, spoon them out, as these are what lend a more porky flavor to the taste. Some folks will also eat these as a snack. Stir the mixture frequently, to prevent burning and sticking
Once your lard has reached a desirable consistency (some like it thicker, some thinner), let it cool, then strain it into jars using a cheesecloth. I like to refrigerate mine, as an extra precaution against going rancid.
Nothing makes better pastries, or serves as better cooking grease, than good, homemade lard. Enjoy!
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”