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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Render your own LARD!

I know, I know... "Lard" sounds disgusting and HORRIBLE for you.... well I was certainly suprised to learn that is is actually considered FAR better for you than shortening (think Cristco). It has a great deal of Vitamin D in it, (which is especially important for people in often cloudy areas like western Washington) and it is considered to be the closest type of fat to what our own bodies have and therefore our bodies know what to do with it. Also, for anyone curious, here is the USDA's fatty acid breakdown for 1 Tablespoon of lard verses one Tablespoon of butter:

Lard: 1.4g polyunsaturated; 5.8g monounsaturated (think Olive Oil type fat); 5g saturated.
Butter: 0.4g polyunsaturated; 3g monounsaturated; 7.3g saturated.

So for those that are "against" saturated fats...lard has less...

 I love flaky pie crusts and don't want to give those up, but the only flaky pie crusts I have had success with are made with shortening (Crisco). I think Crisco is one of the most unhealthy things out there, so I started researched what else will make a flaky pie crust and found that lard (which of course is what many of our grandmothers, or great grandmothers used when there was no "Crisco") is suppose to produce an even superior crust! So I was excited to say the least that it is also healthier for us. So let's just "get over" the stigma attached. I challenge you to research how they make Crisco and then tell me lard is "bad for you" or gross...


I searched high and low for  "leaf lard" (soft creamy fat from around the pig's kidneys) as it is suppose to be ideal for pastries and pie crusts. I was not able to find it here in Miami.... can't wait to just get it from our own pigs... so I settled with pig back fat, with is still suppose to be remarkable... everything I read agreed it makes excellent Mexican food, green beans, corn bread, etc.. and of course anything you want to fry. Also, I took two separate drainings from the pan. The first was earlier on in the cooking process and is supposedly better for pastries and pie crusts and the later will have a little "porkie" flavor to it and is better for other uses.
Here is the pig fat I got from my new favorite food source. Sea Breeze Farms- It's over 2 hours north of Miami, but they deliver down here every two weeks. I wanted fat from a grass fed, no hormone fed, no antibiotics pig. (more on Sea Breeze Farms in a future post) I think these things are important as often the chemicals/drugs/hormones settles in the fat of  animals and so I wanted something without all that. Lard you can buy at the store is NOT the same.. it is partially hydrogenated to give it uniform texture and longer shelf life...and more than likely it is made from factory raised hogs fed all kinds of nasty stuff.

First cut up the fat. The smaller the peices, the faster it will cook...

Turn the burner to med-low. If anything you want it lower. If you cook it too hot than it will taste "porkie". Put a small ammount of water in the bottom of the pan (I was cooking 2 lbs of fat and put about 1/4 cup of water in the pan). And then put the fat cubes in.

When the peices start to float to the top (after about 20-30 minutes..maybe longer if you are cooking on real low heat). Drain your first "juices" . I put a peice of cheese cloth over the jar to strain out any small peices from dropping in. Then put back on the stove to continue cooking.

Stir every once in a while... and WATCH OUT, once they get going they really pop and splatter. This is why I used this big pot for such a small batch. It really contained it well, but if you are using a smaller pan or doing a large batch wear an apron if you care about your clothes, keep kids back and watch out! =)

This is what it looks like when it is nearly done. The fat peices are floating- this is how they make Pork Rinds. (is that how you spell it!? I have never eaten them, but Michael loves them and I am saving these for him. I guess they are good in other things too and there are many recipes out there for their use). This is after about 45min-an hour  or about 20-30 minutes after the first draining. Also- you don't HAVE to do a first draining, I just did because I wanted some for pie crust making. Which you really could use the end stuff for too, it just might taste a little different.

I couldn't get my pictures arranged in order for some reason, but here is the 2nd draining.

The second draining is on the left, the first on the right. The first is lighter in color.

Here is the first draining up close. Much lighter than the second.
Here they are in the fridge after about 2 1/2 hours. They have cooled and "solidfied" and are ready for use.
Everything I read says it freezes well or you can can it with sealed lid and store it for a LONG LONG time, I didn't mess with that as I plan to use mine this next week and I only did a small amount. PLUS... Get this... I can NOT find canning jars anywhere in Miami!!! No joke... not even Wal Mart has them!! I had brought these from home, but I had no lids for them... Seriously.... NO canning jars or lids that I can find... I will keep looking...people sort of look at me sideways when I ask at the stores if they carry them...

This was a very simple process... some sources said it makes the house smell and to open windows and doors when you do it. Others stated that the smell is only there if you are cooking it too hot or possibly using not very good pig fat... there will be a slight smell... you are cooking animal fat... but it shouldn't be bad at all. Mine did not smell hardley at all.  
If you can't find a farmer to buy pig fat from, you should be able to get some from a butcher, but I would reccomend learning about the living conditions of the pig it is coming from. 
I will let you know how my pie crust turns out! =)  


  1. Wow! Sara, so glad I stumbled on to your blog! It seems so long ago that we were in Greeley plaing soccer :) So I love your blog. It is great, and very interesting to read as I am very in to gtowing, processing, and making food. We certainly don't have our own farm by any means, but we live in Albuquerque and the gardening is fabulous. Next year will be my third year so I am really still a novice and I love all the things I am learning on here. Your family is beautiful, I have a blog as well but I have to invite you via email so I will try and friend you by facebook. So glad to see you are doing so well.

  2. We use our own lard, ahem tallow, from our beef. It still has quite a bit of meat attached, so we grind it through an electric meat grinder. This makes it melt down in a matter of minutes, whereas larger blocks took us forever to melt! I just left it in the pan (or you can pour it into a bowl). Then I let it set until solid. flipped it over, and scraped the flecks off the bottom. If it was somewhat dirty still, we would render it down again. It seemed to store best in the freezer. We mostly just used it for soapmaking, although we could have used it for food. :)

    Anyway, there's my method for comparison! I never thought it smelled like much...