Rendering your Own Lard
I’ll never forget when I started this process and my mother in law looked at me like I had lost my mind. “You’re doing what? You’re going to cook with that?” Here I was, dumping globs of fat into a crock pot to make into a cooking oil. During my grandparents generation, animal fat was vilified here in the states and we lost the age old art of rendering cooking fat. Here’s a fun fact for you. Lard is the national food in the Ukraine. Yeah, my mind was blown, too.
So, here I am. Hoping to bring it back and hoping, if you’re reading this, that you’ll consider adding this to your pantry staple. Let me address something first though. Once rendered, this fat isn’t going to flavor your food like pork. Sadly, its not going to give those brussels sprouts a bacon-y (is that even a word?) flavor. Gah, if I could bottle that goodness, I would be on the couch right now eating all the bacon flavored veggies. It is, however, going to help add more vitamin d to your diet. Pastured lard in particular is just a healthier fat. The animals get to live out on pastures like nature intended and you reap the benefits of their healthier diet.
And, the second thing, animal fats are MUCH healthier for you than the plant based alternatives like canola, rice bran oil, or just plain old vegetable oil. Any far better for you than crisco, a plastics based food product.(yup. Plastic. YIKES!) Animal fats are lower in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids and don’t contain any trans fats which you want to avoid at all costs! I could go on and on about the benefits of adding animal fats to your diets but I think you get the point.
Want to know more about the benefits of lard as a cooking fat? Here’s one of my favorite articles, Taking the Fear out of Eating Fat, about how beneficial it can be from one of my favorite go to’s on nutritional advice, the Weston Price Foundation.
I should also put out a disclaimer here that I am no expert. I just found that this method works well for me to get that snow white lard I’m after. Now, let’s get rendering.
I love doing this in a crock pot as I can just turn it off if I need to leave the house to pick up kids or just get sidetracked. Burnt lard doesn’t taste so great so using a crockpot really helps.
The pork fat we get from our butcher comes from the pigs we raise here on the farm. It has been skinned and sent through the meat grinder so that it’s smooth and breaks down easily. I dump a whole crock pots worth of it into the pot and place on low. If you’re someone who doesn’t get easily distracted, you might be able to get away with high. But, I tend to empty the laundry, play checkers with the kids, get roped into a tea party….all while I was supposed to be watching paint dry…I mean fat boil. ;) You get the point. Low. Set it on low.
You’ll begin to notice that its separating into a liquid and a solid. The solids are cracklings and can be used later but what we’re after is that liquid gold. Skimming it off, I’ll strain it right into a warmed mason jar for easy storage.
Straining isn’t difficult as I use my milk strainer with a filter attached. Butter muslin is another great alternative! Be sure that it’s NOT plastic. It will melt it. Remember, this is a boiling hot oil.
The lard will be clear when straining and as it cools, will turn the beautiful snow white you’re after.
Continue this process until you’re left with the solids remaining, being careful not to burn them! It is easy to burn the lard once the crock pot is nearing the bottom so be diligent. You’ll know if you burned it. The smell and smoke is undeniable. I often will turn the pot on and off during this process to keep it from getting to hot. I’ll share more on what to do with those let over solids or “cracklings”, soon!
Lard will store in a cool pantry for quite a while before going bad. We usually render the pork fat twice per year and the back fat lard we get from a single pig will last us about 6 months. The leaf lard, however, comes from the fat around the kidneys of the pig and is less abundant, making it more valuable. It's quite literally one of the healthiest fats you can cook with.
You can find pork fat or pork belly for rendering at just about butcher or better yet, talk directly to your farmer so you know exactly how the animal was raised and support the family behind the product! You can purchase our leaf lard for rendering here.
Place 3-4# of pork fat into a crock pot on low. Spoon off the liquid as it slowly boils down. Strain into mason jars & close with lid. Store in a cool pantry for 6-12 months.