Prior to rendering lard, I had never used it or had a desire to use it. Actually, I never knew why I would need to until recently.
There was a discussion on our Facebook page in regards to how to season my new cast iron pieces, and quite a few individuals discussed using lard. So, I decided to see which one would work better, lard or coconut oil. I had mentioned that I would need to head to the store to pick up some lard, oh my word, the conversation became extremely interesting!
I headed to my favorite small town butcher and requested 10 pounds of pork fat. Well to my surprise he asked me what type of fat I wanted, leaf or back fat. Sadly, I didn’t know what he was talking about! John, the butcher, quickly explained that leaf fat once rendered is often used for pastries, breads, & making pie crust. It is lite, white like snow, and odorless. While back fat, when rendered, is great for frying, will have a yellowish hue, smell a bit more like pork and thicker than leaf lard.
Now, for a beginner who is looking to render lard and use it for seasoning cast iron, or possibly fry up some chicken, and maybe do some light cooking with it, I thought I would ask for a mixture of it. Honestly, I don’t do a lot of baking, and wanted to see what would happen if I mixed the two types.
We are a busy family, we are working to establish a homestead, we have the farm kid and the animals, we both work, so I knew that rendering the fat using the crockpot method was going to be the easiest way for us.
The pork fat needs to be cut small, about 1 inch cube pieces, and any meat still attached to the fat will need to be removed. But don’t kill yourself trying to get every bit of the meat off of the fat, once the fat has been rendered from it, it will turn into crackling….yummy-yummy crackling!
Add a 1/4 cup of water to your crockpot, enough to slightly covering the bottom, this will prevent the fat from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Place all the cut up fat into the crockpot, cover with the lid and cook on low.
After about 1 1/2 – 2 hours you will start to see the fat melt and the crackling begin to sink.
Your melted fat should be a pale yellow color, and at this point can be ladled into your jars.
As you are filling the jars you will want to filter the melted fat. We used a strainer and 2 coffee filters to ensure that none of the cracklin makes it into the jars.
Once you have filled a jar allow it to cool on the counter until it turns from fluid to solid form.
One the fat has hardened you will want to store in the fridge or freezer.
You may notice that there is still chunks of fat remaining in the crock pot, simply give it a good stir and allow it to continue melting. There is no science to how long it will take to melt all of the fat, but as long as you have some you might as well not allow it to go to waste.
Those of you (much like me) who are new to the concept of using lard, it can be used to season your cast iron, frying all kinds of goodness, it can be used as a substitute for anything calling for Crisco, making awesome pie crust, and even add a small amount to your refried bean….the options are endless!
Now about the crackling!
Once all of the fat has been melted you will be left with cracklin, crispy bits of goodness. It can be added to cornbread, salads, sausage and biscuits, or whatever you wish to add bits of salty bacon like yumminess to.
Rendering lard has been another step to homesteading which I have happily learned. Enjoy it, and if you have any recipes you’d like to share using lard I’d be excited to try it!