Friday, February 4, 2011

Fine-Tuning Methods of Rendering Lard, Part 1

I have written before on rendering lard here and here (and tallow here), but I continue to fine-tune my process in order to produce a better quality lard. I'm okay with what I have done in the past, certainly a far better product that what you get (Bleck!) in the stores, but I know it can be better. There are two upgrades to my process here. The first is a return to stovetop rendering for better control.

I have found that by using water in the bottom of the pot, and dicing smaller amounts at a time of pork fat into smaller cubes, I can use lower temps for rendering. This has the advantage of keeping the heated fat from taking on an over-cooked smell/taste. Shown above is almost a pound and a half of back fat in the pan, with about half a cup or less of water.

Once the water starts to barely boil, reduce the heat. As the water begins to cook off, it will make a froth on the surface.

As more water cooks off, you can see the fat pieces beginning to brown. At this point, you should start pouring off what fat has already rendered, to keep it from taking on a "cooked" flavor. With the pot shown above, I was side-tracked by the telephone so it all came out at one time. It was actually okay, partly because I chose to only render a small amount of fat.

Strain through a wire-mesh strainer. I didn't use any cheesecloth to line the strainer for the rendered lard above, but I did use a fine-mesh strainer. If you choose not to press the browned bits to get the remaining fat squeezed out, you will have some delicious cracklin's (or gribenes). Salt them and set them aside for snacking. I freeze some, and add a tablespoon or so to cooked dishes just before they are finished; they give almost any dish a subtle hint of some wonderful ingredient that's hard to pinpoint!

The rendered lard is very clear, with absolutely no hint or smell of overcooking.

The rendered lard cools to almost pure white overnight.

I was very pleased with this newest batch of pig back fat that I got from a different supplier of pastured pork. The smell from the get-go was cleaner, fresher... and it rendered much nicer, in my opinion. The technique might have a lot to do with it, too! Unfortunately, that farmer is now out of the pig business. (He sold all his pigs after they broke the fencing and destroyed his enormous garden.)

The next thing I did was to whip some of the rendered lard, a suggestion found on eGullet. Someone there said it makes a lovely creamy consistency. The photo above is after whipping briefly as it was slowly cooling, roughly at about 75ºF. It didn't make much difference, no increase in volume.

However, I've decided not to whip any more of it. Whipping incorporates air, which hastens oxidation. WHAT was I thinking? (Obviously I wasn't thinking or I wouldn't have done it at all!)

The second method I want to post about involves emulsifying, and it's too long to add to this post. Look for it in a week or three, when I've had time to make a batch and take photos.


  1. I'm glad to see someone returning to the stovetop method. I have been trying to get some leaf lard for about two months and will finally get my supply from a 65 year-old woman who raises, slaughters and cures all her hogs. Finally some lard that hasn't been rendered from cooking that bacon I got from a smaller organic farm who promised me pork and beef leaf fat, but alas I'm still without.

  2. Sher, you will love it!

    What is shown above isn't leaf lard, just back fat. Nice, clean, fresh back fat. The local (pastured) leaf lard I got last fall was not handled properly, and rendered rancid. Yuck.

  3. Darius, I don't often comment but would like you to know how helpful it is having someone share their forays into self-sufficiency with the rest of us. We all benefit from your trials and errors and appreciate all your hard work!

  4. gaias daughter... that's very gratifying to hear, Thank You!

    I decided it is important to write about errors (or terrors!) as well as successes because most of us are not born fully competent in all our endeavors. Some blogs would have you think they never have a failure, implying we must be incompetent if/when we have one.

    That implication can totally squelch, rather than encourage, too many of us.

    MFK Fisher said, Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

    Perhaps the same thing could be said of learning some things to be more self-sufficient?


I'd love to hear what you think about my posts! We all learn together.