Sunday, March 14, 2010

Making lard into.......lard.

I have about 10-15 pounds of lard in my freezer from our last butchered pig that needs to be rendered. Since I'm going to be in the kitchen for several hours this afternoon, I decided to take care of this chore today. I rendered lard in two cast iron kettles last year in my oven . But I usually bake for the week on Sundays so I don't really want the oven dominated by melting fat. So I decided to render the lard in my crock pot. (I was going to try the crock pot last time but I had dinner already slow-cooking.)

After reminding myself of the how-tos and the many directions of rendering lard from my plethora of old cooking books, I began by placing several pieces of frozen fat in the bottom of my crock pot with a little bit of water so the lard wouldn't stick before it began to melt.

After the small amount of fat began to soften, I loaded the pot with the rest of the lard.

Some of the directions I read suggest letting the fat melt with the lid off. I prefer the lid on. It seems to reduce the pork smell that permeates the house. At first the smell is nice.....kind of like simmering, smoked, pork ribs. But after 12-18 hours.....ribs get kind of old.

Anywhoo, after what seems like 2 days of melting fat the lard looks like amber colored juice with stuff floating on the bottom. The amber juice is the mild wonderful fat that you want. Strain the liquid lard through a piece of cheese cloth. Then pour into a clean canning quart jar. Do not
despair if the liquid looks different than what you'd expect. It will cool to a beautiful, creamy white. Just after I pour the liquid fat into the canning jars I put them into the refrigerator. (If you look, you can see that the lard is already beginning to cool and become white at the bottom of the jars where some of the liquid fat escaped and ran down the outside of the jar to pool on the counter.) Sometimes I put the jars into the freezer for a couple of hours for a quick cooling.

Now, here's the rub. The next step usually includes the yellow, puffy fat that sinks to the bottom of the pot and has not melted into liquid. These small pieces are considered the cracklings. As they are heated during the rendering, supposedly they puff up and become crispy. All my Southern life I have heard that the best part of rendering fat is the cracklings. But I have never had that luck. I think it's because the lard I have been given is not necessarily the "best" fat. Supposedly the "best" fat comes from the belly or back or around the organs.

But what I have makes great lard! Just no cracklings.

The final product of rendered lard can be used for baking. Just think, pie crusts so flaky that your grandmother will ask your baking secrets. Biscuits so light and wonderful that your children's friends will beg your kids to bring the biscuits to school so they can trade for them. It will be lard nirvana!

OK, maybe not. But it will be a natural alternative to: fully hydrogenated palm oils, partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides and TBHQ (what ever that is) which is........Crisco.

Happy rendering and if you are lucky enough to get cracklings, don't tell me. I don't want to cry in front of strangers.

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