While it’s possible she did, I don’t remember my mom ever having lard in the kitchen. I remember Crisco and margarine for both making and “buttering” biscuits, toast, what have you. I guess it was only normal that I “feared” lard as an adult what with all the negative information about saturated fat and cholesterol.
It seems that skilled marketing statements like “a healthier alternative to animal fats” got us hook, line, and sinker because commercials and ads would never be misleading. Things are changing though, people are realizing that imitation foods like vegetable oils and margarine are not all they were cracked up to be. Even with a diet including “heart healthy whole grains” and “buttery spread” I managed to become a morbidly obese Type 2 Diabetic. Once diagnosed I was told to “cut the fat” even more. Little did I know at the time that in the absence of dietary fat my body was perfectly capable of making it’s own saturated fat in the form of body fat.
When we had the pigs processed there was an option for them to transform some of the fat into lard or save the fat at .20 cents per pound. Since I’m always game for trying something new to me, I opted for the saving of the fat and trying my hand at rendering my own lard. At $1.64 for 8.2 pounds of fat saved, I figured the worst that could happen was that I’d mess it up and toss it. Either way, it would be a learning experience and I’m always eager to learn new things.
I opted for the crock pot method of rendering lard. If you would like to try your hand at rendering lard, I would suggest you read up on the process and choose the method you prefer. If you’d like to try the crock pot method, I hope my lard rendering experience helps you to see that it’s really not that hard.
The pork fat saved for me from our pig was in the form of large strips or pieces. The first thing I did was get a sharp knife and a cutting board. Cutting a lot of fat tends to dull one’s knife, so I ended up using a couple of knives and even sharpening them both about half way through. I also ended up with a blister at the base of my thumb from all the cutting. A friend suggested that next time I just cut it into larger chunks, then toss it in the food processor. I believe that is a great idea and am going to do so next time.
Once you have your fat chunked into small pieces you can load it into the crock pot. My mom had given me a buffet style 3 bay crock pot that I used for my first time rendering. It was handy in that I was able to render all 8 pounds at once, whereas my single crock crock pot would only hold half the fat. (I added 1/4 cup of water to each crock along with the fat)
About 20 minutes in, the lids started to become steamy. I decided there was no time like the present and stirred the chunks. About an hour in, the chunks began to change color and texture, they were melting.
Next to cutting all the fat, the hardest part about rendering lard turns out to be that it is quite time consuming. Once the crocks got hot, I reduced the heat to low and stirred each hour. Little by little the chunks grew smaller and sure enough the level of liquid was getting higher. I had gotten a late start, so after 5 hours it was bed time and I reduced the heat to “warm”.
Upon waking the next morning there wasn’t much change in the chunks. I turned the heat back up and started again stirring each hour.
Once the chunks were kinda floaty, I removed the lids and let what little bit of condensation that was left burn off, then it was time to drain them. I turned off the crocks and used a spider to remove the chunks onto a paper towel lined pan. Using oven mitts, I poured the lard and little crumbs though a sieve into a stainless steel pan. Once the bigger crumbs were removed, I lined the sieve with a coffee filter and strained it again until no crumbs were left. I poured the hot lard into mason jars and placed the lids and rings on while it was still hot.
Out of the 8.2 pounds of fat, I ended up getting 5 1/2 pints of lard. It also made for 2 quarts of cracklins. Once the jars cooled a bit, I put them in the fridge. After a few hours they turned white and solid.
The lard ended up taking about 24 hours from start to finish. I guess it could have taken less time if I’d gotten an earlier start and not turned it down to warm at bed time. I think it may be in my best interest to test rendering lard again, only using 5:00 am as my starting time instead of 5:00 pm. I believe I will also pull out the food processor or the meat grinder to save time cutting the fat. Even with the time consumed, I am happy with the results. I learned something new and I learned that the best time to render lard is early (giggles).
The lard has already come in handy. Our sausage is 80/20 because that is how Yoder Bros. does it, so a spoon of lard in the bottom of the skillet not only keeps it from sticking, but helps the sausage to stay moist instead of dry like the first batch of sausage I cooked.