Once vilified as the epitome of bad fats, lard is making a comeback! Lard and other animal fats are showing up on natural food store shelves and coolers at premium prices. These are $9.99 for 11 ounces!
There is still controversy surrounding the health risks/benefits of lard and I found opinions on both sides and a few errors in nutrition facts so perhaps a future post will address the nutritional aspects of lard. It is agreed, though that lard is more heat stable for frying foods and also makes wonderful pie crust. Lard used for pie crust is usually made from a type of lard called leaf lard that is from the fat around the kidneys of the animal. In our own kitchen we cook daily with a cast iron skillet and the lard has made a noticeable difference in the sheen and non-stick quality of the pan.
Last fall we decided to purchase a half a hog. We wanted a non-GMO fed, pastured hog and asked for the fat to be saved with the order. The fat was in strips and frozen when we got it and I let it thaw a few days in the refrigerator prior to making the lard. We had 9.25 pounds of fat to start.
In researching this topic I found instructions for stove top , crock pot, and oven. It seems the stove top method was most likely to burn and required the most attention so I decided on the oven method. I cut the lard into chunks and loaded up my large roaster.
Once I got all the fat cut up, I decided that the roaster really was too full and moved about a third of it to the crock pot so I really got to compare both methods. You can see that some of the lard has bits of meat attached and some instructions tell you to cut this out if it is significant. This is part of what becomes the “cracklings” once the lard is rendered. I didn’t bother with cutting out any of the meat.
I put the roaster in a 250 degree oven. Some sources say that it takes only a couple of hours but after 2 hours and 40 minutes I wasn’t seeing dramatic progress.
I re-checked some sources and decided that the pieces were not small enough, so I took it out of the oven and cut the pieces into smaller chunks. That seemed to help the process along quite a bit.
About 8 hours later here we are:
The fat in the crock pot was slightly slower to melt but the end results were the same. As the liquid lard collected I began to ladle it out periodically and strain it through cheese cloth, then pour into clean jars. As the fat cools it becomes solid and white.
I continued the process until it seemed there was no more liquid fat accumulating and the cracklings were left. I ended up not using the cracklings this time around.
After all was said and done I ended up with 1 gallon (128 ounces) of lard. I used various glass and plastic jars and containers. The plastic containers will go in the freezer and the glass jars will stay in the refrigerator.
It was really an all day job but I figure at market prices the value of this lard is anywhere from $80 to $117.
Sources vary (as usual) as to how long the lard will keep. I don’t think I’ll need to keep it 64 years like this guy, but you should be able to tell when fats become rancid. I’m pretty sure we will use it within 6-9 months as we’ve gone through the first 16 ounces in about a month.