Wendy, my daughter-in-law, has a dear friend, Spring, who is developing a sustainable farm that includes goats, chickens and pigs. Spring is an RN who is interested in naturopathic remedies, especially essential oils, and is also busy with her four children. She recently had her two hogs butchered and saved the fat. When my daughter-in-law mentioned that I was rendering tallow to make soap, Spring wondered if I would like to have the pig fat to render into lard. Yes Please! 🙂 Thanks, Spring!
When I got the hog fat, it was separated into two different bags, each hog’s fat in it’s own bag. Spring was nice enough to have it frozen for me, so all I had to do was pop it into my ice chest and take it home, where I could thaw it in our outside refrigerator just in case it got stinky. 😉 Then, just like when I rendered some beef fat into tallow, I did quite a bit of research on the internet to see how other people render their hog fat into lard and found quite a few different ways to do it! I decided to try rendering the lard two different ways and see which method I liked best.
The first method involved using my crock pot. Since the crock pot delivers an even but low heat, it was recommended that the fat be ground up first. I took out my handy-dandy Kitchen Aid, and with the grinder attachment and began grinding hog fat pieces. Almost immediately the machine bogged down and balked, and I barely had a cup of the fat ground up when I had to turn the machine off so that it wouldn’t overheat! Then I cleaned out the cutting plate and realized that the fat still had quite a bit of skin left on (not always easy to see), and this was clogging the machine. I continued to grind the hog fat after cutting off the skin. But the machine still balked, so I ended dicing up the last of the fat.
Before the ground up fat was placed in the crockpot, about 1/2 cup of water was put in first (this prevents scorching of the fat, but evaporates off as the lard is rendered) and the crockpot was allowed to heat up on the lowest setting. After the water in the crockpot was hot, I poured the pig fat in, placed the lid on and left it for about 1/2 hour. I then gave it a good stir, and left the fat to render another 1/2 hour. After a hour, I could see that there was 1/2 liquid fat and 1/2 still clear white solid fat, so I let it go for another hour, checking on it and stirring about every 10-15 minutes.
Once the solid pieces began to turn just a slight shade of beige-orange, I knew the lard had been rendered enough and it was time to separate the liquid lard from the solids. Apparently if you let the little solid pieces brown with the fat, the lard will be darker and take on a “piggy” smell. Since I eventually want to make soap and pastries with the lard, this would not be acceptable. Again, after roaming around on Google, I found that there are quite a few ways to strain the impurities out, and I decided to use the coffee filter method for this batch. As you can see from the picture (click on any picture to make it bigger), I laid an unbleached coffee filter in a large strainer, and placed that over a funnel in a canning jar. The fat strained easily through the filter and was crystal clear with a light yellow tinge to it in the jar! I ended up with about 1-1/2 pints of lard from that batch. Once the lard had cooled in the refrigerator, it was as white as snow!
The second method was much quicker. The fat was diced into fairly small pieces, placed into a pot with about 1/2 cup of water, then set over a medium low flame. I could hear the fat start to crackle almost immediately, and I realized this method was going to involve a bit more tending to than the crock pot method required, with constant stirring to prevent scorching. With this method, the fat was rendered to about the same stage as the crock pot method in just 20-ish minutes! In fact, it happened so fast I forgot to look at the clock! One thing that I forgot to mention is the salt. I read in a few books and a couple of blogs that it’s important to add some salt while the rendering is taking place, so that the resulting lard will be more solid and make harder soaps. Therefore, I added one teaspoon of sea salt to each batch before I started rendering. I brought the rendering pot inside to separate the fat from the impurities, and decided to use the hot water method for this batch. With the hot water method, a strainer is placed over a bowl of almost boiling hot water, and the rendered fat is poured into the strainer. The impurities in the fat that go through the strainer simply fall down into the water while the clean fat floats on top. After a night in the refrigerator, the lard had solidified into a solid white disc, which I froze for future use.
WORDS OF CAUTION:
First: It stinks. Seriously. Don’t render fat in your house if you can help it. If you do render in the house, use your exhaust fan on high.
Second: Rendered fat is hot. Boiling hot! Be careful around children, dogs, bare legs and feet!
Third: DON”T clean your pots and pans in the sink without wiping them out first! Lard and/or tallow will clog your pipes!
Fourth: It’s fun and you will get hooked. Your friends and family will look at you strangely when you ask them to save all their beef or hog fat for you.
Freshly rendered lard strained through an unbleached coffee filter. It starts out light pale yellow, yet clear, then cools to snow white creamy lard!
My verdict? I prefer the quick method of rendering. It just took too long to grind the fat and the clean-up was much more involved! It was simple enough to just dice the cold fat up (skin and all), throw it into the pot and render on medium low heat for 20-30 minutes. I may try dicing up the fat like I did for the pot, yet rendering it in the crockpot. We’ll see.
My choice for getting the impurities out of the fat was the method using the coffee filter and strainer. It just seemed a lot easier because the filtered fat went straight into jars, ready for the fridge, without much trouble. The other method of pouring the fat through hot water took more time and effort because it was necessary for the fat to form a solid disc before it could be taken out of the bowl with the water. Also, there was still a thin layer of those “impurities” that stuck to the underside of the fat disc and I had to scrape them off.
What will I do with the lard? First, I would like to make soap. I have sensitive skin and get “the itchies” quite often after a bath or shower if I don’t get every trace of chemical off my body. Chemical? Yes. Most soaps purchased in retail stores include substances such as polyquaternium-6, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, pentasolium pentetate…., well, just look at the label in the picture above! Now, go ahead and read what’s in yours. You will probably be shocked. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather use soap made with just four or five ingredients: lard (or tallow), olive oil, sodium hydroxide, and essential oils! Since I am trying (really hard) to be a locavore, I prefer not to use coconut or palm kernel oil. Though those are wonderful, silky, lather producing oils, they are not produced locally, which raises their carbon footprint which renders them non-sustainable.
The other use for lard is, of course, in cooking. I am going to make a pie crust for my first cooking experiment with the lard. I must admit that I have never cooked with lard before because I was afraid of it. Cholesterol! Hardening of the arteries! Triglycerides! All that stuff. Now we find out that the alternatives (margarine, canola oil and partially hydrogenated anything) are worse than the good old fashioned lard! It’s time to get back to basics, folks, and eat real food.
Besides, I hear lard makes a delectable, flaky, golden brown crust, and when it comes to pie, I’m all about the crust!
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