Rendering lard isn't all that hard, but you might ask, why do it? Lard has so many uses, and not that long ago, it was a staple in our households for baking and cooking. But it fell out of favor for the industrial Crisco. Some people have mentioned to me that they are afraid to render it. Fear not! This is one of the easiest and least skilled kitchen tasks you will do, but it is messy! Some of you have also mentioned, but what about the smell? Not much.
There are two types of pig fat-- back fat and leaf lard. This article summarizes the difference well:
"Back fat is just as obvious as it sounds, it comes from the back, this fat/lard has more porky flavor than leaf lard. Back fat lard is the go to for cooking and frying for your everyday kitchen cooking.
Leaf lard is rendered from the fat that collects around different organs. This fat is white, creamy and nearly tasteless making it the perfect fat for things like pastries."
Essentially, you are just liquefying a solid. To do this, chop the fat in roughly uniform cubes or chunks. It is much easier to do this when the lard is still slightly frozen. Once it warms, it becomes sticky.
There are a few ways to apply heat-- the slow mode in the crock pot or low-heat oven or the faster method on the stove top. I've tried all three. UPDATE: Crock pot is the most hands-off approach, but slower. Because the browner bits can influence the taste and color of your otherwise pure-white end product, so go easy on the heat if using the stove top, stir often and don't wander too far away.
Place a small amount of water in the pan, add the cubed fat and apply medium to low heat. Stir frequently. As a significant amount of clear, liquefied fat accumulates in the pan, pour it through a fine-mesh metal strainer into a bowl (I use a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup.) Then pour this through a cheesecloth. Twice. Here's where it gets messy. I use a wide-mouth funnel (from canning) with the cheesecloth rubber-banded to the bottom.
Once strained through cheesecloth a second time, this liquid product goes into a final storage vessel. For me, this is a wide-mouth pint jar. Place a lid on it and allow it to cool. [I have been utilizing used canning lids that I know cannot be re-used in a true canning process, but this gives a purpose to the metal lids that would otherwise be recycled. As it cools, it sucks the lid down.] Apply metal bands, if you are using a Mason jar, or just go with a regular jar/lid that you have saved from another product.
Lard can be frozen or kept in the fridge-- for a long time. Properly strained of any meat bits (which can cause it to turn rancid), it will store well in the fridge. Believe it or not, I just last fall used my last jar from 2013!
What could you use it for? Searing meat, making burgers (stay tuned for upcoming burger post), frying eggs (although I save tasty bacon fat specifically for making eggs), pie crusts and really, anything that calls for butter or shortening. My usual pie crust recipe calls for butter and shortening, so here is where l use lard for the shortening portion.
Recently, I discovered it could be subbed in my favorite chocolate cake recipe!
Lard from pasture-raised pigs is rich in vitamins and nutrients and can be sourced locally. Do you know where your coconut oil comes from? This is what bothers me about many vegan, Paleo or other alternative diets. How was the land treated that grew this product? What were the conditions of the workers? How far have those ingredients traveled? How could we possibly calculate the carbon footprint of those transportation costs? OK- off of my salt box. On to cooking!