Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rendering Lard

As time goes on I have been pondering more and more the role of vegetable fats in paleo/primal eating. The only vegetable oils I use are extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and to a much lesser extent palm oil, but I use them a lot - especially the olive oil. I cook just about everything in it and I also pour it all over my salads and steamed veggies. Before paleo I used to joke there was butter in my veins - now I joke they run with olive oil! Is this a good thing though? Olive oil is far more processed than animal fat and has a far different fatty acid profile. I have a hard time imagining vegetable fats being a big part of our ancestor's diets unless they happened to be lucky enough to live in the land of coconuts. Anyway, I'm not about to give up olive oil for salads, but for general cooking purposes I've been considering making the switch to animal fat.

I joined the Polyface Farm buying club recently and I was excited to see that they had pig fat for sale for $1/lb. Perfect for making lard! I thought I read it came in 5-lb bags so I placed an order for one. Well, when it was delivered, I ended up with a 14.5 bag of fat! Turns out they come in approximately 10-lb bags (not 5-lb) and the one I happened to get was a little overfilled. Folks, this is a lot of pig fat.

My package of fat taking up half the sink!

My sister (who you may remember from her guest post) came to visit me this weekend and we decided to have ourselves a lard rendering party. Fourteen and a half pounds is a lot to render at once, so we let it thaw just a bit and peeled some pieces off the top to work with and put the rest back in the freezer.

First, my sister diced the fat up.

Then I took my enameled cast iron Dutch oven, put it over very low heat, and poured in about 1/4 inch of water (to prevent scorching) and started adding the diced fat. We started out with adding just one layer across the bottom, and when it started melting we added a bit more, repeating the process until finally everything was in the pot. After a little time and some stirring, the fat started rendering out and looking like this:

This bubbling pot of wonderfulness smells FANTASTIC. You can't imagine how good it smells unless you've done it yourself! We left it over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the cracklings started to sink to the bottom. Once that happened (it took several hours), we poured it through a strainer into a container to cool. This stuff is pure liquid gold.

After chilling out overnight in the fridge we ended up with a container of pure white lard ready to be used in any and all cooking applications. We also have an incredible snack - the leftover cracklings!

For her help in the endeavor, my sister is going back to school with a jar of our delicious pastured pork fat lard with which to cook and scandalize her low-fat roommates. :D


Anna said...

I'm so jealous, I wish I lived close enough to Polyface to be in a buyer's club.

I love lard and have been rendering it for about two years. I store it in pint jars in the freezer and use it for cooking all the time, esp to brown very lean bison and venison and to caramelize onions.

I also bake bacon slowly in the over over a rack and save the drippings - great for flavoring braised cabbage and other foods that are enhanced by bacon-y essence.

I reserve olive oil mostly for salads and uncooked or lightly cooked foods now.

Shamana Flora said...

yes lard! yes! Now you can make lard mayo!! The bacon fat mayo reigns supreme, but lard mayo is a very close second! I got a big huge bag of free range grass fed cow fat last summer, not lard, but still renderable and still delicious for cooking with! It's way beetter than coconut for cooking eggs! And greens cooked in lard....Drool! You will NOT be sorry!

Nourished Kitchen said...

Good post! I'm hoping to get some leaf lard from the same people we get our milk and eggs from. I've never rendered it before.

Anna said...

There's a super recipe for bacon fat mayo in the highly recommended book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by Jennifer McLagan.


Elizabeth said...

Anna and Shamana - I actually have some bacon fat I've been saving in the fridge to make mayo but I just haven't gotten around to it. You've inspired me though! I think I might make it tonight after the food processor comes out of the dishwasher.

Nourished Kitchen - I was intimidated by making lard for a really long time, but when I actually just buckled down and made it it was surprisingly easy. You'll love it!

Chris Freeland said...

Wow, I am SOOO going to try this!

TrailGrrl said...

Wow that didn't look too hard! I buy lard from the organic meat vendor at the farmers' market.

Any idea about making beef tallow?


Tarlach said...

You cooked it too hot for good lard as it appears very dark. The choice is good cracklings and bad lard or bad lard and good cracklings. When we render lard it comes out nearly clear (and tastes more neutral, giving you more cooking options), but we have no cracklings (as the fat is completely rendered and only slush is left over).

You also don't need to use any water, just start with very low heat and stir regularly. We throw about 20lb into a big steel pot on a flame tamer (on minimum) and stir every 5-10 mins (at first).

Kim said...

I just moved to Northern New Mexico and went to the Santa Fe Farmers Market last weekend where I was pleasantly surprised to find leaf lard.

I rendered in the crockpot on low - so easy and yielded very clear, pure lard. We made the best. refried beans. EVER. with the lard. Never thought about making mayo with it - hmmmm

Lauren said...

Elizabeth, I am SO jealous of you and your sister right now! :) If you're ever in Durham NC, hit me up so we can grab lunch or something. I'd love to talk primal cooking with you! What are you gonna do with all that lard?

Elizabeth said...

Lauren, if I'm ever in NC you bet I'll hit you up! Same to you if you ever come to the DC area.

I've used up most this batch of lard just as an all purpose cooking fat. It's hard to break my olive oil habit though!

Yummy Gatherer said...

Thanks for the detailed instructions. I'm doing this next weekend with some pork fat I got. Woohoo!

Dazy said...

I have never tried this on my own. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as good as your picture!

Amanda said...

Leaf lard is the fat that surrounds the pig's kidneys. It is of very high quality and, when rendered, makes some of the best tasting and flakiest crusts ever!

Sophie said...

How can I make lard mayonnaise, if lard is solid at room temperature? I've made very stiff mayo (the way I like it) with vegetable oil, and it definitely had to be a liquid oil so it could be added drop by drop.


Anna said...

Warm the bacon fat until it is pourable (not hot). The resulting mayonnaise does become very stiff when refrigerated, so either make a very small batch and use it up all at once or let it sit at room temp a few minutes to soften up.

bradotts said...

I don't know who you are or where you are from, but you might one of my hero's. This is the sexiest blog posting I think I've ever read. Yep.

Bleu Cheese said...

@Tarlach: Seems like a good idea to render leaf lard on the super low heat you are talking about so that you can use it in things like pie crusts where you really want a neutral taste. I would, however, still render on the higher heat for some oil that I was just going to use for frying anyway, and then get me some gooood cracklings!

@TrailGrrl: Tallow (rendered beef fat) is the same basic procedure. This makes some awesome french fries, but make sure they are not going to get cold (who likes cold fries anyway?) as tallow can lend food a greasy mouth feel if it is not eaten right away while hot. Lard french fries are of course the bomb as well. :)

Anonymous said...

Re: using lard. I want to make enough to last us for about 2 months, so i was going to make a quart. I thought I would make it lacto fermented with kefir whey.I also am concerned about it being rock hard stored in the fridg and I know my husband will not want to wait to build a sandwhich for the mayo to soften enough to spread. I do have about 1/2 cup of duck fat, maybe I should use both? Would that reduce the amount it will solidify? What about a blend of grapeseed oil (bland flavor) and the lard? The lard is free but the duck fat is expensive and hard to find, I have to order it, so the lard and grapeseed oil would be my choice. Suggestions advice, comments, greatly appreciated!

Pricille said...

OMG! Looks so fattening! but i will still try doing it for the sake of my boyfriend. he loves lard!

A World Quite Mad said...

@Pricille, dietary fat is not fattening. Carbohydrates are fattening. You can eat all the lard you want and if you never eat carbs you will not be fat.

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