Monday, September 7, 2009

Lard: the new health food. Rendering lard

I'm going to confess. Fat tastes good. It tastes good in ice cream, it tastes good on a steak, heck, it even tastes good in a stir fry (whaddya think olive oil is?)

I've been a fan of fat for a while, and I do that for the taste, but it turns out that animal fat, far from being the demon we've been led to believe, is actually not as bad as the most-common forms of vegetable fat.

Here's a couple of articles comparing animal fat and vegetable fat.
That said, as with any food, moderation is the key.

Now for the process: How to render lard

When I slaughter a pig and have it cut-and-wrapped by someone, I ask them to save all the fat trim. They'll discard it by default, so I make sure I'm clear that I want them to save it. It usually comes in 25lb bags, frozen.

I'll cut the fat into chunks about a pound each, for easier handling mostly. You can just throw the slabs in if you want. It doesn't make any difference in the final product. After filling the pot with chunks of fat, I put in two cups of water, and put the pot on the stove at high heat until the water boils. I'll reduce the heat then to a bare simmer and let the lard render very slowly. It'll bubble and ping while it's rendering -- that's the water being evaporated out of the fat.
Slow rendering is the key to producing paper-white lard, which is your goal. For this particular batch I started with 60lbs of raw fat from two pigs.
After the fat has rendered for a while, I ladle off the lard. I use small, square loaf pans lined with aluminum foil, and strain the lard through a paper towel as I ladle it out of the pot.
Here you can see the lard in the loaf pan. It's a light yellow color at this point, but it'll turn white as its refrigerated. If you overcook your lard, it'll be brown when cooled. Remember, slow render. For this batch it bubbled on the stove for 3 days. I'd periodically add more chunks and ladle out the finished lard.

While you're doing this it's often worthwhile to remember how delicious foods are that are fried in lard, how tender pie crusts are, how great refried beans are with a bit of lard and so on and so on.

The small square loaf pans result in 2lb blocks of lard, which are a handy size for home cooking uses. You can pull out a block, cut off a hunk, and put the block back into the freezer. It keeps for a year or so. I take the aluminum foil packages, dip them in hot water to free the lard, and then put them into 1 gallon ziplocks which are the closest size to the block. You take as much air out of the bag as you can as you seal it.
I should probably figure out how folks package butter because this is basically the same product, and the waxed-paper might work well too. I always end up with a big ball of lard-covered aluminum foil after this.
I always label stuff with the date of production/slaughter/cut and what it is. You can see that the overall color of the lard is pretty close to paper white. The 48lbs of lard produced from the original 60lbs of fat will last me this coming year.

4 comments:

aeholly said...

We kept the leaf lard from our slaughter. We've never extracted lard (along with a lot of "we've nevers". I hope that leaf lard rendering process is the same as with the regular fat.

Bruce King said...

The basic process is the same. Leaf lard is usually a little finer "grade" than backfat lard. It's prized by bakers.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Wide mouth quart canning jars work well for freezer storage, and I can just keep one jar in fridge for cooking use.

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