Monday, August 22, 2011


I will post a tutorial on rendering lard, one that I posted last year on Kayla's Conversations. But first, I'm going to talk! :)

I am supremely happy today. Last time I made lard, I put in canning jars and thought it sealed. Well, I don't know what happened...maybe it just won't keep without being in the fridge...honestly, I just don't know. I need to do more research on the topic of proper and long-lasting lard strorage! I ended up losing over half of the nearly 5 gallons of lard I rendered from the last pigs we butchered. It was a real heartbreaker, to have to throw all that out. So, I ran out of lard waaay before I was supposed to, and I've been out for a long time now. Many moons of unhappy cooking for me. I don't use vegetable oils, and we try not to use a ton of coconut oil, due to the expense (we buy good, as in expensive,) and we aren't able to use a ton of butter either. I haven't fried a lot of stuff lately (like, this year) and we just don't eat quite like we used to.

I've been meaning to call our local butcher to ask about pork fat for the past few weeks, but I just never remember at the right time. I usually remember in the evenings, or maybe Sunday afternoon...times like that. However, this morning, I called. And you know what? I went and picked up 60 pounds of pork fat, at $1.10 a pound. SIXTY POUNDS. SIXTY POUNDS! :D

I didn't plan on getting sixty pounds, but that's the size box it came in, and the guy would have had to cut off some otherwise. There's a lot of lean meat in here as well, but we'll just eat that as it cooks out. Oh....YUM!

You know, I don't know what these pigs ate. I don't know if they were raised on concrete and had rings in their noses, I don't know if the folks taking care of them treated them good. We loved raising our pigs in the best possible way, we named most of them, moved them to clean ground often, scratched their bellies, and fed them good food.

But what I do know is that the lard I am rendering even as we (or, I) speak is a million times better for you than oils you can buy at the store. It's cheaper than coconut oil and raw, grass-fed butter, and it tastes good. It makes flaky pie crusts, yummy biscuits, and incredibly delicious chocolate chip cookies.

I can't wait to measure the amount of lard I get from these sixty pounds and see how much it cost me. I really would like to compare the cost with other oils...

By the way, my mother told me, while I was busy chopping and slicing lovely white chunks of pork fat, that this was the weirdest thing I'd ever done. Such a supportive mom... =))

Now, the pasted tutorial:

Originally written and posted August 1st, 2010.


I take it for granted that everyone has access to lard. I use it a LOT, and I really don’t know how I’d cook without it! I know you can buy the bucket of lard at Walmart, but it’s all hydrogenated and processed, so I don’t think that’s a good option. I think, but I’m not positive, that you can call a local butcher and get slabs of pork fat, to make your own lard. Of course, you won’t know how the pigs are raised…what they ate and how they were treated….so raising your own is the best option. However, I know that most people don’t want to raise a pig or two in their back yard, so call the butcher! I personally think that if I didn’t have access to our own pork fat, I’d call around and find some, instead of going without. So this post is going to assume that, some way or another, you’ve found yourself a bit of pork fat, and want to change it into something yummy and beneficial, something that will make the flakiest pie crusts, the best biscuits, and fried potatoes that are out of this world! In that case, you’re in the right place, because I’m going to help you! :)

This process (turning pork fat into lard) is really very simple, not too time-consuming, and is refered to as “rendering.” When we first had our pigs butchered, a few years ago, the butcher sent home these packs of fat. We didn’t know what to do with packs of pork fat!!! So I did a little research, and then cut it up and melted it. There are a few different ways to render lard, but I’ve only ever done it this way…it works for me, so I see no good reason to do anything different, for the time being!

You need to begin by cutting the lard up into small chunks. I slice each hunk of fat one way, and then chop those strips the other way, to make little squares. You’re doing this to maximize surface area, to help it melt more efficiantely. If you think about it. it makes a lot of sense…these little chunks will melt so much better than if you were to try to melt fat off of the large slab! Last time I rendered lard, I ground all the fat up in the grinder first. It melted MUCH faster, and I think I got more lard out of the fat, BUT it was a nasty process. I’d already gound all the meat I needed to grind last time, so I already had the grinder out and dirty. When I ground the fat, it came out in nasty, white, soft globs. Just….not so yummy looking, in my opinion! This time, I hadn’t ground anything yet, and I didn’t want to mess with that again, so I just chopped it. Another thing is, you want to make absolutely sure your knife is sharp. This will be a horrible process if your knife is anything less than razor-sharp. I stop every few minutes while chopping, to sharpen my knife again. It really does make a huge difference, whether or not your knife is sharp! Trust me, I know!

I start out with slabs of fat…

I slice it all one way… (the Headless Renderer)

So I have strips like this…

And then slice the opposite way…

So I have chunks like this…

Then I throw it all in our big roaster. I love using this to render lard, because I don’t take up the oven or stove-top that way! If you don’t have an electric roaster like this, you can put the chunks of fat in a pot on top of the stove, or in a roasting pan in the oven…

I put the temperature somewhere between 250* and 300* and cook for a few hours. During this time, I stir it every hour or so. After a while, there will be enough melted fat to ladle out…

When there is enough to scoop out, I set up a straining system. I use a very fine wire mesh strainer and a canning funnel, since I put the lard in quart jars. Then I start ladling the lard into the jars…

I fill the jars to within an inch or so of the top, then screw on the canning lids and bands. They will seal as they cool!

I refrigerate the jar I’m using, because I’d rather have the consistency when it’s cold. After this lard cools in these jars, sometimes it’s all white, and thick, and sometimes, if it’s warm in the house, it’ll stay liquid. In the fridge, it’s white and the consistency of soft butter…wonderful stuff!!!

When I searched my old blog to find this post, I also saw that a comment was posted not too long ago, but I had no idea it was there. (Again...I am SO happy with Blogger now!) So, my sincerest apologies to Amy, who asks "How long does the sealed lard keep? I plan on keeping it in the garage pantry - we live in the NW where it stays fairly cool most of the year."

My answer right now would have to be; I don't know. My lard that was kept on shelves in my kitchen went bad, even though it was sealed. It will take more research on my part to determine how to store lard long-term. For the time being, I plan on sealing mine in quart jars just as I showed here, and then keeping them in the back of the fridge. I have plenty of refrigerator space, and that way I know it will be safe. Maybe in my other lard, there could've been tiny pieces of meat that got through the strainer and wouldn't keep like lard does. Gag.

And if you ever open lard and wonder if it's ok...believe me, you'll know if it's bad. After you cap it quickly and control the gagging reflex, and answer the phone where the neighbors are asking what that smell is, there'll be no doubt. Really, it was so bad.

Hopefully it will be better and I will be smarter, this time around. Maybe experience is the best teacher... And you don't truly appreciate what you have until you don't have it anymore! I am so looking forward to having this new lard! I'm so excited, even Mom's complaining because "you're stinking up the house!" doesn't affect the excitement!

Again, my apologies for missing comments. Hopefully, now that I've switched to Blogger, I won't have that problem. My other blog system never sent notifications when I got new comments, and I could never wade through all the spam on every post!

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