Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rendering Lard

This weekend we finally got our hog picked up that we have purchased from Sequatchie Cove Farm. They are a local, grass fed and organic farm that raises beef, lamb and pork. We have bought grass fed beef before but never pork and of course we raise our own lamb. Maybe someday our "mini" guinea hog will be able to supply us with babies to eat but currently---it's a no go. So we buy from others when we can.
And though this post is about rendering lard I just wanted to say that the pork chops and their surrounding of heritage pig fat---was outstanding. To die for. Magnificent. I ate all my meat along with every bite of the edging of fat---which I usually hate. The flavor was mmm mmm good. I don't know if I will ever be able to go back to store bought pork. I can't wait to eat them again. I never knew fat could be so darn flavorful and delicious. I could get fat with my new enjoyment of grass fed pork.

Originally when we put in our order for our hog, I was asked how I wanted my hog cut and at that time I put in a request for the lard from my hog also. They thought it an odd request but hey---the customer is always right aye?
My thought though was what better substitute for the crisco in my baked goods. Yes, I know some people just can't imagine eating "lard" (leaf or other fat) in their baked goods but our farming forefathers did for eons. It's natural and good for you and something we shouldn't be scared of. Remember the same "organization" that tells us raw milk is very very bad for us also was the original that told us fat was too. The health industry now realizes if that if ingested within moderation that it may not be as bad for us as originally thought. Of course there is a large difference between grain fed and finished meat/fat versus pasture raised meat/fat which we need to keep in mind when discussing this topic. Supposedly grain finished livestock fat and meat is not as good for you. A topic that has much written about it.
I was curious though about how bad my lard was for me compared to butter or crisco, which would be my normal substitute, and here is what I found out.

1 Tbsp of butter has 0.4g polyunsaturated; 3g monounsaturated; 7.3g saturated.
1Tbsp of lard has 1.4g polyunsaturated; 5.8g monounsaturated; 5g saturated.
1 Tbsp of olive oil has 0.5g polyunsaturated; 3.3g monounsaturated; .6g saturated
1Tbsp of crisco has 4.6g polyunsaturated; 5.2g monounsaturated; 2.3g saturated

Olive oil wins overall but you can't use it to make great flaky biscuits or pie crusts. However when it comes to using the lard instead of Crisco---the benefits in my opinion are obvious. Another thing to consider is that my information was taken from the USDA site. Did they use grass fed cows for that butter? Or grass fed pork for that lard? I doubt it. Crisco also now has "trans fat free" crisco but we are still talking about a corn product which is absolutely GM corn and not organically grown versus a fat from an organically raised pig. There is nothing gross about that at all---but there is something gross about that corn product.

So, now a short tutorial on rendering pig lard. Leaf is the best lard---it is from the area around the kidneys of the animal (beef and sheep also have this nice fine lard but it is called suet for them) and is the best most "flavor free" lard. Then there is also lard from other parts of the body. If you use the other fat from a pig, it can potentially give you a slight "piggy" flavor so be aware of this when choosing and buying your fat to render. Some things are fine with that bit of flavor---but maybe not your apple pie.

To render lard, just chop it up the best you can (smaller pieces will render faster) and put it in a heavy pot with a bit of water on the bottom. Put the pot on low heat or in the oven on about 225.

Stir as often as you can remember. It will take hours to render. You can speed the process up a little by squishing the whole bit with a potato masher once it’s started to melt. (their funky when you squoosh them---but watch out don't get burnt!)

During this part don’t be tempted to turn the heat up---you could burn the fat or make it strong tasting. Nice and slow is the key here. By the way this is good for a cold day to help warm your house.

When the un melted bits start to sink, strain off the nice, clear lard using cheese cloth and put it into some jars. Canning jars are great for this. Fill to within about an inch and half and then cool. You can store them in the fridge for a few months or in the freezer pretty much indefinitley. Better yet---give some as gifts and remake a new batch a couple times a year.

If it looks like there’s still a lot of fat on what’s left, put it back on the heat to render some more. This second batch will be stronger tasting than the first (the first batch is your pie crust batch) but still useful for things like cornbread and greens—and frying, of course.

I forgot where my cheese cloth was so I don't have any strained pictures to show---I will finish tomorrow :-) Also, though you can use all the "leftover" bits for breads, soups, greens etc (many ideas abound for making use of every last bit) your chickens or other feathered friends like them just fine too. So feed away!


Woody said...

We picked up our hog last week. My daughter had named him Snickers and wasn't to excited about eating her buddy. I was frying up some of the bacon and she asked if that was Snickers. I told her yes and asked if she wanted some. She sheepishly accepted. After chewing on the bacon for a minute she said "Snickers sure is a good pig." That's my little girl.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Mmmmm good isn't it Woody :-D
I can appreciate needing to "think" about it for a while though---I had problems the first few rabbits (we don't have them anymore) and the first lambs. It's too good though---so it's a lot easier than it use to be.
Have a great day