Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Easiest Way to Render Lard--Use a Slow Cooker!

Render Lard the Easy Way!

I was recently given about 8 pounds of hog fat by a friend of mine who had just butchered. My work schedule was currently hectic, and I knew it would be hard to find the time to laboriously cook and stir for hours to render out the lard. But in my opinion, cooking and especially baking with lard is the best, so I considered my options. Now, I've always rendered lard the old-fashioned way: on a stove top with large kettles. But I had read accounts of folks using their slow cookers instead of kettles, and one thing that had stuck in my memory was that you don't need to constantly be stirring the pot because cooking the hog fat on low in a slow cooker virtually guarantees no burning. I figured I'd give it a try, and I'm so glad I did because the results were spectacular!

Snow White Lard

Here's how to render out gorgeous, mild lard:

First, cut off much of the meat that might be still clinging to the fat (no need to obsess about this), and then cut the fat into small pieces, about 1 inch square. Place them in your slow cooker and add about 1/8 cup of water  (if you have a full pot of fat pieces), or possibly less if you don't have a full pot. You can start by turning the slow cooker on high to heat everything up, but move the setting to low after about 30-60 minutes and keep it on low for the rest of the time.

Here's what mine looked like:
Pieces of hog fat in my slow cooker beginning to melt.
From time to time I stirred the pot and cocked the lid of my slow cooker so the water would evaporate over time. After about only 3 hours I began the process of pulling off the lard. Basically you can either pour or ladle out the melted fat and filter it through a colander that has been lined with several layers of cheesecloth:
Filtering the lard
I continued to filter the lard as the fat melted. Prior to beginning the process, I sanitized pint-and-a-half canning jars so they would be ready when I needed them. (I'm currently low on quart jars or I would have used them instead. But use whatever you have because the size doesn't matter.)

Just keep up with this process until you aren't getting anymore melted fat and what's left in the slow cooker has turned brown. Those brown chunks are cracklings, and lots of folks eat them and consider them a real treat. I just spread out the cracklings on large baking sheets, give them a shake of salt, and then bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, stirring them once or twice while they are crisping up.
Cracklings!
That's all there is to it. And when you're done, treat yourself to the best pie crust or biscuits you've ever tasted. Simply substitute the lard for Crisco in your favorite recipe. Heaven on earth!
Lard, ready to refrigerate and use when needed.

If you don't raise your own hogs, check around in your community to see if you can find a local hog farmer who might be willing to give you fat,  sell it to you, or let you take it if you give him or her half of the lard that you render. Alternatively, if you have a local meat processor or market, they might have hog fat to give or sell to you also.

2 comments:

  1. I'm a bit new to homemade foods but the idea of making my own lard is thrilling. If you don't mind, I have a few questions. How long will this lard stay good in the fridge? Can you use fat from other animals as well? Thanks so much! Oh, I received your Amish canning book as a Christmas gift this year. Most of the gifts I gave were pickled beets and pickled peppers. My family thinks I'm a little odd but they love my homemade creations! Very glad I discovered your blog and LOVE the book. I have others but none have covered all of my questions as well as your book!!

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    1. Forgive me for taking so long to get back to you! We had a giant ice storm and my internet was down for over a week.

      Lard will stay good in the fridge for many months, and in fact, if you have a coldish room (like an unheated basement) it will keep there for many months also. When we raised hogs for our family's eating, we'd butcher once a year, and my stash of lard that I rendered from all that fat lasted us pretty much for an entire year.

      You can use fat from other animals just fine, but the taste will be unique to that animal. In fact, I'll bet you've probably heard of tallow, which is made from rendering beef fat as opposed to pig fat.

      I'm so glad you are enjoying my canning cookbook!! I love to can and feel so happy when I have hundreds of jars of food on my shelves to feed my loved ones through the winter. I figure come what may, I can always feed my family and neighbors if need be.

      If you don't already have a pressure canner, I strongly recommend that you get one if your budget can handle the purchase. It really widens the kinds of foods you can put up (like green beans and other veggies as well as ready-to-eat meals like stews and soups. One of my favorite things is pressure canning dried beans (pintos, black beans, kidney beans, etc.) because they take so long to cook from scratch, but this way I have already-cooked beans just ready to dump into a pot and heat.

      Keep up your good work! And keep me posted. :)

      Blessings,
      Georgia

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