lard does not have a very happy connotation in this country. since we went fat-obsessed in the 80s, anything even remotely fatty has gotten a bad rap. instead of using animal fat like butter and lard, we’ve been stuffing ourselves full of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (i’m looking at you, crisco and margarine) and sugar (i’m looking at you devil’s syrup). guess what? turns out fat isn’t that bad for you after all.
add in the “use the whole animal” and locavore movements that are taking hold, and it so happened that when i bought a half a hog, i said yes to the fat. rendering lard, it turns out, is not that difficult, and the end result is some awesome fat you can use in your baked goods in place of shortening. most times, its taste is better than shortening.
pie crust that is half butter and half lard is DIVINE.
i had two and a half huge tubes of fat, and it took me all day to get the lard rendered from them. prep work: getting out my cake and pie pans for the lard to harden up in.
i decided to do this in my dutch oven since it retains heat better. the things i had read online said to cook the fat over medium heat, but with the DO, i was able to heat it over medium-low to low heat. i tried medium, and the fat burned. 🙁
it started to cook down. every 20 minutes or so, i would strain off the fat that started to melt off. i had my strainer in a pot lined with 4-5 layers of cheesecloth to catch all the nasty bits you don’t want floating around in your lard.
the first few times i strained off my fat, the fat was really nice and pure. after a while, it got a little ruddier. i chalked this up to the fact that they had probably given me a whole crapload of different types of fat. apparently if you want purest of the pure lard, ask for the fat from around the kidneys, then the backfat.
no worries for me; i just separated the two types of fats i was getting. after a while, your fat just stops rendering, and you’re left with cracklins.
after letting the lard firm up a little, i stuck it in the freezer to completely harden up so i could cut it up into pieces for my big freezer downstairs.
this is the good stuff! this is what i’ll use for baking. the ruddier fat i put into muffin tins and my silicon snowflake molds so i can grab one and throw it in the pan for frying stuff (chicken strips, brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.). it’ll keep indefinitely in the freezer and fridge, as long as it stays there. unlike crisco, this is not shelf-stable (the reason crisco is partially hydrogenated).
i should have more than enough lard to last me a while!