Way back around Christmas time, I promised to post about how to render lard.
My family purchased half a whole, organic, pastured hog, and we received the fat to turn into lard — an old-timey kitchen staple that turns out to contain vitamins and other nutritious goodies. At the time, I rendered one batch of lard from a couple pounds of the fat.
The photo at right shows the rendered fat in all its liquidy goodness. Later, once cooled, it turns white or golden and creamy.
The rendering process is really quite simple. Basically, you chop the fat into cubes, put it in a pan (either on the stovetop or in the oven), with a very small amount of water if you like, and let it melt.
The water will evaporate, and the fat will melt down into a liquid form. When it gets going, it looks like this:
Eventually, it all melts, leaving cracklings (bits of browned skin) and liquid fat. Pour the liquid into jars through a cheesecloth-lined colander and let it solidify as it chills. Halfway through, it will look like this:
My process wasn’t perfect — I wound up with cubes of browned fat, not just skin, so I didn’t get all the lard I could have from the hog fat. I suspect my temperature was a little too hot. I’ll try again with another batch of fat, but meanwhile, we have lard in the refrigerator.
The whitest, creamiest lard is perfect for pastries. It makes extraordinary crusts.
The browner lard has a smokier, porkier flavor. It is nice in savory dishes.
For a complete tutorial with more information about the benefits of lard (it sounds like a joke, but what a luxurious joke! :), visit the Nourished Kitchen’s website. Click through to her Flickr stream for step-by-step photo images of her process.