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