Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Adventures in Lard: Rendering

Shortly after my first installment in My Adventures in Lard, I added some leaf lard to my monthly meat order from the Lewis-Waite Farm. But all you can buy from them is unrendered lard. So at the last second I removed it from my cart. Much to my surprise, it appeared in my monthly order, proving to me that I am indeed not as computer literate as I think I am.

I was so intimidated by the vacuum packed roll that I tossed it in the freezer and ignored it around for 2 or 3 months before finally I decided that I needed to man up and just render the damn stuff. What it took was the inspiration of yesterday’s gorditas recipe and a talk with the guy at Flying Pigs Farm at the Union Square Farmer’s Market.

I begged him, what the hell do I do with this stuff? He said just chop the fat into pieces, or better yet run it through a food processor, and place it in a heavy pot with a lid. Add a small amount of water and place into a 200 or 250 degree oven for a few hours. Check on it every once and a while to make sure it isn’t burning or darkening. And once all the pieces have melted, strain it and you are done. Sounded easy enough.

I got home excited to try it out, only to remember that my oven broke this week. DH thinks that the igniter is broken, which has happened before in our last apartment. But secretly he thinks Thing 2 is responsible because his new passion is pushing all the oven buttons because they make such a satisfying loud beep. The time on our oven is always different at different times of the day because Thing 2 toddles over and changes it every few hours. Don’t worry, the process of actually turning the oven on requires several buttons to be pushed in a specific order, and so far he has not done that. And it is difficult enough that I am not worried about that happening. But all of this forced me to render my lard on the stove top.

I didn’t have a lot of fat, so I chopped it into chunks and ran it through the food processor.

I removed a couple of long stringy things which did not look like good eats, and they didn’t have much fat attached to them. So I figured it wasn’t a waste. And all in all, the fat processed well. I placed the paste into a sturdy three quart saucepan and placed it on my quietest burner. I kept the flame on super low and covered the pan. I checked on it every 10-15 minutes. I did not add any water to the pan.
After an hour or so I was done. The last remaining chunks I demolished by gently crushing them with the back of my stirring spoon. The chunks melted quickly. I strained the lard into a pint sized jar. My cut of pork fat measured 1.15 pounds and I rendered almost exactly 16 ounces of lard. So there was very little waste. Oh and it is worth it to note, those little bits are NOT crackling, which is fried pork skin. I hope I didn't commit a major culinary sin by throwing away the little bits. But they were pretty stringy and gross so I didn't figure they were worthwhile to save.

It has been months since I purchased it, so I don’t remember what I paid for it. But I remember thinking that I didn’t save very much by rendering it myself. That was the reason I had tried to remove it from my online shopping cart. It seemed like too much of a hassle just to save 50 cents. I am not a snob, but this is a couple hours worth of work. It just didn’t seem like a significant savings. Now that I have actually done it I am telling you, it wasn’t hard at all. And especially if you can’t find a non-hydrogenated lard, it is well worth rendering your own. When I first started looking for lard I was surprised to see in my grocery store that this already solid at room temperature fat was being hydrogenated! I assume that the demand for pig fat is so nil that hydrogenation is used for lengthening shelf life. Who knew? But my lard doesn’t taste any different than the rendered lard I bought from Flying Pigs, because both farms pasture their animals.

At any rate I feel accomplished, as though I have climbed one more food mountain that I am sure my mother and grandmother never did in their years. And now I have a full pound of fat to make this ridiculous potato chip recipe from The Nourished Kitchen. I can just taste them now! Mmmmmmmm.


  1. I rendered lard for the first time over the summer and still have some left in my freezer. I have some bison tallow as well.

    However, I did keep the fried bits at the end. I dusted them with BBQ seasoning, which was great for serving with beer or wine.


  2. ...all though I should specify that I used back fat rather than leaf lard. The bits I had left over were probably more like delicious bacon and not connective tissue or kidney remnants...

  3. @Moose I think the back fat bits sound way more delicious than what I had. Maybe next time I will try that instead of leaf lard?