Monday, November 10, 2014

Render Lard at Home


I love lard.

Not only does it have a distinct and in my opinion totally different flavor than bacon fat (which I keep in a mason jar, too) it's not as bad for you as you think. There is a lot said about the benefits of lard on the internet so I'm not going to get too far into it. Right or wrong, it's best in moderation.

Without question though, home rendered lard is better than store-bought. Store bought lard is hydrogenated for long shelf life. Some have trans fats as well and many are treated with bleaching agents and other weird chemicals for odor control. Bad. I like to avoid all that.

When you make it at home, you don't have to worry about additives, shelf life or stability at room temperature, and you'll love the porky aroma.

You can definitely find better fat out there like from a farm or something, but I just use fatback from my grocery store (for a DOLLAR) and stash it in the freezer until I need to render some lard.

Render Lard at Home
(I followed this recipe)

1-2 pounds of pork fatback
1/4 cup of water

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This particular pack was only a pound. I've done like 2-3 pounds before but this amount will fill up a standard 16 oz mason jar.


Depending on how well they cleaned the fat up, you'll see some lean meat there. You can trim it up if you want, but it's not that big of a deal. If you see a huge chunk of pink meat, cut it out. The goal here is to have the cleanest fat possible as the lean will darken the finished lard.


The recipe I followed says to get best results you should grind the fat.

I have a grinder and I have a food processor and I've tried both for this application. It's just too much work to clean them after! Every part is covered with a layer of grease and I find just taking a big sharp knife to it and dicing it up works out better for me.

Just slice it thinly and dice it up.

It works best if it's slightly frozen and your knife is super sharp.


You can mince this up for better results but I was being lazy.


A cast iron dutch oven works really well here. You can use a large cast iron pan or even a large non-stick pan. We're going to be cooking on the lower end of the spectrum so we're really looking for even heat distribution and nothing's better than cast iron for that job.


Add 1/4 cup of water to your lard in the COLD pot.

This helps distribute the heat evenly and avoids hot spots.


Fire up your heat to medium-low.

If you have a ton of time, low is best but I tend to rush these things. You can even do this in a crock-pot but I've never done it, so you'd have to research how long it'd take, but it will work.


Cook until the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.


Over the next 30-45 minutes the process will be much faster.

You'll see a bunch of the fat begin to render and you'll get those "soapy" bubbles you see when cooking bacon.

Keep stirring every-so-often for about 30 minutes. Even heating is crucial.

Some people like to pull it at this point.

I've done it both ways, stop now before the cracklin's (chunks of fat) are crisp, and I've waited until the cracklin's are golden brown and delicious.

It's kind of up to you. If you want the lard COMPLETELY white, stop now (before the cracklins turn brown), if you don't mind if it's got an ever-so-slight straw yellow tint to it, let it go.

The benefit of letting it go is that you get more fat from it. If you pull it early you get better looking lard but less of it. So that's the trade-off.

This is about as white as it gets while being "done":


I let mine go from this (which would give you a nice finished lard):


To this:

Which if you look at the finished pictures is just slightly yellow. In my opinion it's completely fine this way, so this is the way I've been doing it, but purists may scoff. So whatever. 



Anyway, get yourself a clean mason jar or two just in case you go over. 


You'll need a heat resistant bowl and a fine mesh strainer.


Strain the fat into the bowl.


Mash the cracklins so you get all the fat from them.


There's not much left!


You'll notice some sediment in the lard. It's fine to consume like this but I like to strain it again.


I have a cute little strainer that works perfectly for this type of thing.


Get a double layer of cheesecloth over your strainer.


Strain away!


Leftover bits:


Nice clean lard.

Notice that it's yellow. It'll cool to white.



Cool on the counter until you can handle it comfortably then store in the fridge.


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You can eat those cracklins, btw!

I tossed them into a small pan to render out a bit more and seasoned with a touch of salt.


Drain on paper towels and serve with salads, on potatoes or whatever. They're kind of like bacon bits but not smoked.



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After your lard as cooled it will take on that nice white hue.


As I said above, you can see that it's just ever-so yellow. I don't care because it tastes identical to the snow white kind and I wanted the most lard I could get from my fatback.


==

Anyway, I've talked enough about lard. I love it. I use it all the time. You can bake with it (pies, biscuits, etc) and you can add it to nearly any savory dish to add a real nice porky flavor.

I use it for roasted potatoes, sautéed veggies, beans, stir-frys, whatever.

It's not a lot of work to make and it'll last forever and I promise, you'll use it all the time once you taste it.

Give it a try! Get on the lard train!

That's some sexy lard.
Enjoy!

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