I finally did it! I took pork fat and turned it into lard! Why, you ask? I have been reading a lot lately about a trend of health people turning back to consuming lard! Crazy, right? Not really! How many times did we think something was the "greatest" and the "next best thing" only to find out, it really wasn't? Artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated shortening, MSG, margarine, high fructose corn syrup, ......and the list goes on. This post explains how to render pork fat into lard and why you might want to do it. Future posts will have some recipes using rendered lard....so stay tuned!
I must admit, making lard did bring out the Ma Ingalls in me....made me feel right in the midst of Little House on the Prairie. Okay, so if I really was Caroline Ingalls, I would probably be cooking this outside in a giant cast iron pot over a wood fire. Well, I used a cast iron pot....does that count?
What the heck is rendering and why would you want to spend all that time doing it? First rendering is taking fat (in this case, pork fat) and cooking it over a very low, slow heat to get just the very, very purest of the fat (think clarified butter.) The excess water and other impurities in the fat are removed. This helps make the lard pure which prevents spoilage and any residual taste. You don't want your lard to taste like pork. In the end you get a buttery smooth, spoonable fat that is perfect for cooking and baking!
My mom says she remembers my grandma using and making lard. She said when vegetable shortenings came out, they were touted to be much healthier because they were made from vegetables! Makes sense right? Everyone stopped using lard and shortenings became the go-to fat! Then we learned about trans fats and why hydrogenated shortenings just aren't that good for us. Before you just go out and purchase a tub-o-lard, be careful. I bought some a few years back to use in tamales. It did make amazing tamales, but when I read the label, it was hydrogenated lard! What??? Well, that just isn't what I am talking about! My mama always said, "If you want something done right, then you need to do it yourself!" Sooooo, my mom didn't actually say that, but somebody did and they are right!
This lard was made from pork fat. This is often made with beef fat as well, and the process is the same. The most important thing though, is knowing you have good quality fat from a good quality animal raised in organic ways. We have a local butcher/farmer that raises all their animals. We got our fat from him. Your animal is what he eats and the fats store the worst of it. You want to get the very best, not just some random, mass produced animal fat. We do raise our own pigs, but Rod uses that fat to add to his homemade sausage so we had to purchase some extra fat in order to make lard.
Plan a good three to four hours for rendering your lard. Slow and low is the key...did I already say that? I started with 5 pounds of pork fat and cut it into 2 inch pieces and threw it into a large dutch oven pot. Turn the heat onto the lowest setting and watch the fat begin to melt. When you have a good amount melted, start scooping it off and straining. I used a sieve lined with cheese cloth for straining. This helped make certain only the liquid made it through. I then poured the liquid lard into smaller jars. This whole process took about 3 hours.
In the end you are left with little brown bits, called cracklings. Many people salt these and eat them. I didn't really care for them so all mine went straight into the garbage. Lard is supposed to be able to be stored at room temperature without spoiling. I was a little nervous so mine is stored in the fridge and freezer. I didn't want all my hard work to go to waste!
Rendered Pork Lard
- 5 pounds pork fat
- Cut pork fat into small pieces
- Place in a cast iron pot over very low heat
- As fat begins to melt, scoop out liquid and strain over a sieve lined with cheese cloth.
- Remove solids and discard. Put liquid into a storage safe container. Once cooled it should be a pure white lard.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and should only be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. To obtain the most precise nutritional information in a provided recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the exact ingredients you are using when preparing the recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Don’t throw out the left over bits cook them until they are crispy drain well then grind them up with some cooked pork I used about a 1/2 pound of ground pork cooked and if fatty drain it too (I’ve also used a hunk of cooked pork roast) add onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and you’ve made a wonderful spread for on toast or bread just add some mustard! It’s delicious my very French mother in law taught me to make this for her son it’s her version of French creton!!
Thanks for the tip! Sounds like a great way to use every bit up!
just got 2 heritage guinea hogs
plan to butcher 1 and get one to breed excited to learn how simple rendering lard is and knowing a heritage lard hog will not be a wasteful new adventure.
Good luck with your new venture! There's nothing better than raising your own meat.
I rendered pork fat once...outside...in a slow cooker. It went fine and the lard was wonderful. I haven't repeated the process as I don't use a lot and I do save bacon grease which works for most of what I want, i.e. savory things like tortillas.
I don't make a lot of pies but I will second your Mom's opinion...lard as in real lard!! makes the best crust and any flaky pastry item that calls for a fat other than butter. That said, good butter makes a darn good pie crust also!
And really...fat rendered as you did, it is stable, but I refrigerated mine also :)! Fun to read this.
I love that you have done this before and know just what you are talking about! I want to try the slow cooker next. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a message!
I grew up in an Eastern European household....we would spread this on medium rye bread & sprinkle a little salt. Have to admit it is delicious!!
Now that sounds interesting! I haven't heard it used as a spread, but why not?
I might be late to comment this, but in Spain there's a spread that's made out of lard combined with 'pimentón' (sweet paprika), we call it 'manteca colorada'.
Sounds interesting. Thanks for your comment! 🙂
As children, we would be given bread with the rendered fat from a roast, no need to add salt, and so full of flavour. Yummy!
I render hog fat all the time. Nothing better for roasting, pastry making, frying, etc. It also supplies us with pork scratchings and meaty bits for salads.
Wow, such an interesting post! It's funny, this is something my Ukrainian grandmother would have totally done. They used to eat lard and more lard and were never fat and leave to the end of their 90's. Really makes you think about all those fake, phony ingredients that are touted as healthy alternatives. I can barely keep my husband off aspartame, I'm always freaking out about the fake stuff, but no wonder. I need to try this. Can I use this lard in a pie?
My mom says lard makes the best pie crusts. Very flaky. I haven't tried it yet. I'll keep you posted!
Count me as intrigued! I have always wondered how this happened. Might I be brave enough to try myself...?
You can do it!