• by Arielle Illia

How to Render Lard



I still remember the day I came from work and Eric said "I have a surprise!" He led me to our unlit garage and pointed to the large dog crate in the corner, I could vaguely make out two small dark critters standing eerily still. Scared at that instant, I asked "What is it?" To which he replied "Pigs!"


I proceeded to put my hand near them and their sweet little snouts touched my fingers followed by tiny grunts in excitement. We quickly made a more accommodating pen for our new friends.


There were not many days I didn't spend with them over the next 7 months, in fact, I had a whole dedicated wardrobe called my "pig clothes" that I wore when playing with them.


Over the course of raising these teeny piglets to large hogs, I cannot deny that I completely fell in love with them, they were the most sociable and intelligent animals I have ever had the privilege to own and care for.



Now throughout the process we knew we were raising our pigs for food, so I made it a point to research what comes from pigs and to my delight I discovered every single part is usable, though not common to american cuisine, we planned to honor our pigs and make good use of all that they gave to us. This is where lard comes into play, and since our pigs pushed the scales at 375 pounds right before processing, we received a large amount of lard from the butcher, the next step was learning to render it.


When it comes to lard, diet, vaccinations, and medications the pig receives in its lifetime plays a large part in their fat layer, since this is where toxins are stored. Ideally if you are looking to source lard, it is best to come from pigs that you are informed on how they have been raised and/or come from a trusted source. Another important note is the difference between leaf lard and back fat that come off a pig, you can also render fat from trimmings however we use this for sausage making. Leaf lard is the purist fat on the pig, which means it is the least pork tasting and can be referred to as "mild", which is great for pie crust and baking. Back fat has a lower meting point and a stronger flavor once rendered.


Back Fat v Leaf Lard

When rendering lard we always combine both because you will find there isn't a large amount of leaf lard harvested from a pig in comparison to the back fat. We have found that through slow processing the lard comes out a creamy white and has a very mild pig odor that works well for all our needs.


Before you get started on rendering lard, I might forewarn you that this is a time consuming process, and although there are other methods out there, the name of the game is low and slow for this one. It's best to start this process when you have a full day around the house and will not be doing much multitasking, at least until you get the hang of it.



You will need:

  • leaf lard and back fat from 1 whole pig


This recipe renders 15 pounds (approximately) into 17 pints.


Instructions


1. Chop lard into manageable size chunks for grinder (optional), or chop lard into small chunks if a grinder is not available.


It greatly helps to use partially frozen lard for ease of cutting and if you will be using a grinder, there is a decreased chance of the lard getting too soft for the process.


2. Grind the lard into a mixing bowl using coarse grinding plate.


3. Add a small amount of fat to the base of a dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet.


We do not add water when starting out our lard, we have found it unnecessary if you start out on low heat and closely watch the process.


It is best to use a heavy bottomed pan for the rendering processing as it decreases your chances of scorching the lard. We use a 5 quart dutch oven and a 12 inch skillet, deeper sided cookware is preferable.


4. While heating the lard on low stir occasionally, and once partially melted add another handful of ground lard and let it begin to melt.



5. Repeat this process until you have a good layer of liquid in the base of the dutch oven, the majority of the lard will not be melted at this point however you can now add the remaining lard you have to render. Stir occasionally on low to medium heat.


Plan for the volume to increase as the fat melts, we stay at least one inch down from the top of the dutch oven.


There are a few stages you will note during the rendering process, as the majority of the fat melts you will see more liquid compared to the chunks of fat, through the whole process the liquid will be slightly bubbling and bubbles will form on the top. As the process goes on smaller bubbles will form and there will be less and less. These bubbles indicate the water is boiling out of the lard. The small chunks of fat will eventually become what are called cracklings, they will turn a light golden color and typically sit at the bottom of the dutch oven with the occasional crackling rising to the top.




6. Once the liquid has very little bubbles remaining and the cracklings are a golden color, strain the cracklings with a metal slotted spoon and set aside.


We always find ourselves with far too many cracklings for daily consumption but they are tasty to eat as is, on salad, with peanut butter, or our personal favorite, in cornbread.


7. Once all the bubbles are gone from the lard and the surface is completely still, leave the heat on for an additional 10-15 minutes to be sure there is absolutely no moisture remaining and then turn off the heat.



This entire process varies in length dependent primarily on the volume of fat and the size of the chunks being rendered, our full dutch oven takes 5-6 hours to be completed. During this time it is important to pop in on the lard and stir occasionally, it is most crucial to keep a close eye during the beginning and ending stages.


Although tempting try not to rush the process by heating the fat too quickly at a high temperature, if you do all is not lost, the lard may turn out a darker color and have a stronger flavor but is still plenty useful.


8. Prepare mason jars and new canning lids by washing with warm soapy water and dry them well, or heat in the oven on low for 10 minutes (jars only) to ensure dryness.


9. Carefully strain hot lard through cheese cloth (double layered) or muslin cloth over a metal strainer into a large metal bowl.


(I have a special muslin cloth reserved for this task as it becomes stained through the process.)



10. Carefully pour the hot liquid using a glass measuring cup into the mason jars and leave 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with vinegar, place canning lids on the jars and fasten with bands, these jars will self seal in a matter of a few hours and be ready for storage once cool.


They do not need to be processed by water bath or a pressure canner. Pure lard won't go rancid and can be stored in this manner at room temperature for years, we continue to leave ours on the counter once it has been opened but on occasion we will chill it for making tortillas and pie crusts.


Lard generally will harden and range in color from pure or off white to a slightly yellow color. The finally color ultimately depends on where the fat came from on the pig. It will have a slight pig odor, and be relatively soft when scooped.



Lard is the most wonderful creation and incredibly versatile, you may even find that butter just doesn't compare.


Enjoy!


How To Render Lard


Ingredients

Leaf lard and back fat from 1 whole pig


This recipe renders 15 pounds (approximately) into 17 pints.


Instructions

  1. Chop partially frozen lard into manageable size chunks for grinder (optional), or chop lard into small chunks if a grinder is not available.

  2. Grind the lard into a mixing bowl using coarse grinding plate.

  3. Add a small amount of fat to the base of a dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet.

  4. While heating the lard on low stir occasionally, and once partially melted add another handful of ground lard and let it begin to melt.

  5. Repeat this process until you have a good layer of liquid in the base of the dutch oven, the majority of the lard will not be melted at this point however you can now add the remaining lard you have to render (not exceeding more than 1 inch below the cast iron cookware's top). Stir lard occasionally on low to medium heat.

  6. Once the liquid has very little bubbles remaining and the cracklings are a golden color, strain the cracklings with a metal slotted spoon and set aside.

  7. Once all the bubbles are gone from the lard and the surface is completely still, leave the heat on for an additional 10-15 minutes to be sure there is absolutely no moisture remaining and then turn off the heat.

  8. Prepare mason jars and new canning lids by washing with warm soapy water and dry them well, or heat in the oven on low for 10 minutes (jars only) to ensure dryness.

  9. Carefully strain hot lard through cheese cloth (double layered) or muslin cloth over a metal strainer into a large metal bowl.

  10. Carefully pour the hot liquid using a glass measuring cup into the mason jars and leave 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with vinegar, place canning lids on the jars and fasten with bands, these jars will self seal in a matter of a few hours and be ready for storage once cool. Lard will harden into a soft, mild, off white end product and is safe to store outside of a refrigerator or freezer.

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