Rendering lard is one of those old-time skills that I think everybody should know how to do. Not only is a great way to use every part of the animal, but it’s absolutely delicious.
Ever had a pie crust made out of lard? Don’t even get me started.
Now, when you butcher your pigs, you might not end up with a ton of fat to make lard out of – we usually don’t. Our pigs are fed lots of greens and are allowed to root on pasture that is almost a full acre in size.
But even if you don’t have a lot of fat on your hogs, know that you can use every last bit of fat that there is – I’m talking kidney fat, back fat, any trimmings at all. You don’t have to just loose leaf fat.
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What is Lard?
Lard is fat that is produced by pigs. While there are some breeds of pigs that are bred specifically to produce lard (these include pigs like Berkshires, Chinas, Yorkshires, and Durocs) every pig will have at least a little bit of lard for you to work with.
In the past, lard was used to produce cooking fat and mechanical lubricants. It’s still often used today, but the whole “fat-is-bad” craze really put a damper on its overall popularity.
Most pigs bred today are bacon breeds, but you can easily make lard out of any kind of pig. Lard sure be a pure, snowy white in order for it to be used in the kitchen – but if it’s not, you can always use it as a base for animal foods like chicken suet cakes. You can find a recipe that uses up your brown lard here.
You will also want to make sure the fat is cut into the smallest pieces imaginable – this will make it easier for the impurities to be removed. The cooking temperature needs to be low and you need to stir frequently to avoid strong-tasting lard.
There are three types of fat on a pig. The belly fat is used to make bacon, while the back fat produces pale yellow lard. The leaf fat, which surrounds the pig’s kidneys, is the best kind of fat for lard – it’s also the healthiest. However, you can use just about any kind of fat to render your own lard.
Keep in mind one crucial detail, however – the only kind of lard you should use for your pigs is that which has been pasture-raised. Pork raised in confinement will be fattier and store more of the “bad stuff” that the pigs consumed – including additives, chemicals, and other byproducts of junk ingredients.
Why Should You Render Your Own Lard?
Rendering lard is super easy, and if you have the right tools, requires very minimal time or attention to do.
Plus, lard is a healthy fat, though, despite its awful reputation, is incredibly good for you. It contains less monounsaturated fat than olive oil, but not by much – and it’s better than butter and coconut oil. Lard also contains oleic acid which can reduce your risk of depression. It can also reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
Lard is high in vitamin D, and it makes just about every recipe taste ten times better. Plus, I’m guessing that unless you have an olive tree growing in your backyard, lard is going to be more sustainable (and less expensive) for you to produce at home than just about any other kind of fat.
With all of the benefits of lard, you might be thinking, “Well, sure. I’ll just go down the street and buy some at the grocery store.”
Not so fat. I mean fast.
A lot of the lard available at the grocery store is produced from factory-farmed pigs. These pigs have low quantities of vitamin D since they’re raised indoors all day, and they tend to be less nutritionally dense when it comes to other vitamins and minerals, too. Plus, storebought lard is often hydrogenated. Not good.
Instead, make your own! I promise it’s not that hard. Here’s how.
Even if you don’t butcher your own pigs, the butcher will likely save you the lard. This is sometimes considered a waste product by butchers and many just throw it out.
When you’re done rendering, you can even eat the cracklings! These are the bits of fat left over after you strain out the lard – they’re quite tasty to say the least.
Easy Lard Rendering Recipe
You only need three things to make your own lard: the fat (obviously), some water, and a slow cooker. This could also be done in a large stock pot, but I love this trusty slow cooker because I can render lard for several days at a time without needing to be there watching things.
You will want to start with cold fat – it will be easier to work with if you don’t have your fat chunked up already. If your lard is frozen, even better – it will be much easier to cut.
Cut small chunks of fat and put them into your slow cooker. Remember, the smaller the pieces, the whiter the lord will be. You want to keep the temperature super-low, so after you cover the fat with water, make sure you place the settings on the lowest setting you have.
Let the fat render for several hours, stirring it about once every hour (you can purchase a self-stirring crockpot here).
Remember, the less often you stir your lard, the browner it will be. Still fine to use for frying – but not for baking.
Know that while you are rendering lard, your house will probably stink a little bit. It’s not necessarily a bad smell, but it’s a potent one. Right before you are expecting visitors might not be the best time to render lard!
Once it’s done rendering, strain it through cheesecloth and store it in glass jars. You can store it at room temperature or pop it in the freezer for long term storage.
If you don’t want to use a Crock Pot or slow cooker to render lard, you can also do it on the stovetop. Just make sure you have a high-quality, heavy stock pot. Here’s some information on how to do it. https://nourishedkitchen.com/how-to-render-lard/
Recipes to Use Up Your Lard
Lard can be stored for quite some time – it was used and stored for hundreds of years before refrigeration was invention. You can keep it at room temperature but a lot of people store it in the fridge – in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to six months. You can also freeze lard in cubes or tubs.
Here are some recipes you can try to use up all that lard!
- Homemade Pie Crust with Lard
- Chicken Paprikash with Lard
- A Better Roasted Chicken
- Lamb and Chickpea Stew
- Beef Empanadas
- Old-Fashioned Lard Biscuits
- Suet Cakes for Your Chickens
That’s all there is to it. Let me know about your experiences rendering your own lard in the comments!
Want to learn more about raising pigs – whether for lard or for meat? Here are some articles you should take a look at:
- Piglet Care 101
- The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Raising Pigs
- Baby Bacon: The 7 Things You Need to Know For Successful Farrowing
- Signs Your Pig is Pregnant
- 10 Healthy Pig Feeds
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