Hello! We’ve haven’t written in a long time because we’ve either been planning a wedding, working in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, getting married, or traveling through South America, but no more excuses! We have a few posts we hope to write in the coming weeks but we’ll be driving up to Alaska again (a 4,000 mile drive from here!) so who knows when we’ll get to it. For now, here is a post about rendering lard. A few people have asked us about this lately and since we spent all of yesterday rendering lard we thought we would share our process with you.
Rendering lard is a fancy term for slowly heating pork fat until it is liquefied, then straining out the “cracklins” or little pieces of meat, muscle, or skin that find their way into the fat. We want to strain out these “impurities” so that the lard is stable for longer. It is a very simple process, but we’ve taken a few photos to make it even simpler for you.
Perhaps the first question is: why lard? We choose to cook with lard almost exclusively, along with coconut oil and butter. Lard that has come from healthy pastured pigs is delicious (once rendered it turns white and has only a very subtle pork flavor), is healthy (high in Omega 3’s and monounsaturated fat, vitamins, minerals, and Vitamin D), perfect for cast iron (keeps our cast iron pans perfectly seasoned and our eggs slippery) and has a high smoke point (does not turn rancid in high heat). You can spend all day reading articles on the web about the benefits of lard. Here is one nice summary written by the owners of Mastadon Valley Farm: “Lard is the New Kale”. The key is to find and use lard from pastured pigs. If you do not raise your own pigs, ask your local pastured pig farmers and you may be able to buy a bag of fat from them. Tony and I rendered a lot of lard after we slaughtered our pig in the Fall of 2015 and used it for about a year before running out. So recently we were fortunate enough to buy a big bag of fat from Mastadon Valley Farm, where we know the pigs are rotated on lush pastures. Just begin asking around!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Your big bag of pastured pork fat
- mason jars and lids
- a sharp knife
- a stainless steel funnel, mesh strainer and some cheesecloth
- Either a double boiler setup or a crockpot
It is also worth mentioning that there is a difference between back fat and leaf fat. We have photos below of the two. Leaf lard comes from around the kidneys and in the loin. This fat is said to be purer and a little sweeter. We like to separate them when we are rendering and will use the leaf lard for baking.
Ok! So the first step is to chop up all of the fat into small cubes. Chopping them gives more surface area for melting, and will speed up the rendering process dramatically. It can be easier to begin chopping while the fat is frozen. If the fat is fully thawed, it will be a little greasier and softer, but still works.
It is best if the skin is off of the fat, although we’ve rendered lard with fat on before, and you will just get some extra tasty cracklins.
Now, get chopping!
Just keep chopping until you’ve got a nice pile of small cubes of fat.
Once you’ve got some fat cubed up you can begin the rendering process. We have used two methods: a double-boiler and a crockpot. For us, the crockpot method has worked better. With a double boiler we keep the water on a low heat to prevent it from boiling up and into our fat so it takes a very long time. In a crockpot, set on low, it takes much less time (but still up to 24 hours). We usually set the crockpot on high, and it has worked for us, but make sure the heat isn’t too high.
Place your fat into the crockpot or double boiler. You can add up to a 1/4 cup filtered water to prevent burning at the beginning or just be watchful and stir frequently at the beginning. The goal is make this a slow process to prevent burning or altering the composition too much.
You can render lard in the oven as well, although we have never tried this.
After a while, the fat will begin to sweat, and melt. Use a stainless or wooden spoon to stir it every so often, especially at the beginning to prevent burning and distribute the heat. We leave the lid off to allow evaporation.
Eventually, the fat will begin to melt into liquid and once there is a significant amount, you can begin straining it off. We have found that it will go faster if we periodically strain off the liquid, instead of waiting for all of it to melt.
Once you have enough liquid lard, wash mason jars in hot soapy water and heat/sanitize them by placing them in the oven at around 250 degrees for at least 10 minutes. This not only sanitizes the jars, but heats them to prevent broken glass and hot lard all over your kitchen. Always heat your glass jars before adding hot liquids. I have learned this the hard way by allowing my huckleberry juice to cool too much before adding to my hot jars. It took us a while to clean up the purple juice.
Once you’ve safely removed a hot glass jar, use your sanitized funnel, fine mesh strainer, and clean cheesecloth. You can now begin scooping out your hot lard.
Once you’ve filled your jar, cap it with a sanitized lid and allow it to cool. The hot liquid will have a brown color, but once it has cooled it will have a lovely white color.
Store your lard in a cool dark place and use it every day!
Don’t forget about the cracklins too. They are pretty tasty while they are still hot. You can snack on them or place them on a baked potato or salad. Once they cool off I find them to be unappetizing.
Also note that this process may take from 12-24 hours, depending on how much fat you have or how fast you heat it. If we need to keep it going overnight we keep it in the crockpot on low.
With our roughly 13 lbs of fat, we ended up with 9 pints of lard.