DIY Rendered Pastured Lard
Did you know that for hundreds of years animal fats played a primary role in the human diet? It’s not until recent years that American society has deemed saturated animal fats the enemy. We’ve all seen it in the headlines recently that the myth of animal fats being detrimental to our health is now being debunked.
I like to think of it this way – in simple terms – did God create animals with fat to live off of or did He give us tubs of margarine and Crisco? The answer is obvious. As I have cut out processed foods and man-made (or lab-made) foods I have realized that eating what the good Lord gave us in the first place is really what our bodies tolerate and do well with. Our ancestors all cooked with these animal fats that are saturated but also high in monounsaturated fats that are very stable and they have a small amount of polyunsaturated fats as well. Saturated animals fats help our bodies absorb calcium, vitamin D, E and A as well and they have omega 3 fatty acids in them!
Based on that notion, in our family we eat animal fats in some form or another every day. Of course we eat them in reasonable amounts as a complimentary ingredient to our big plates of vegetables and fist size portions of meat. Sometimes we may choose, bacon grease or grassfed beef tallow. sometimes organic shmaltz (chicken fat) and of course pastured lard.
The quality of your animal fat matters folks. If you are eating fat from sick, undernourished and mistreated animals then your are doing your body a disservice. However, when we choose animal fat from grassfed and pastured organic animals (much like our ancestors used) then you can trust you are nourishing your brain as well as many cells in your body by giving them what they need.
Let’s Get Started!
Rendering pastured lard is actually quite simple. It’s a process that will take some hours so be sure you have ample time set aside but the finished product is quite tasty and a wonderful accomplishment. *To think this is something my great grandparents did on a regular basis! Oh my!
Each year we purchase a whole pastured pig and split it with my parents. I would imagine someday with all these hungry boys I live with that we won’t need to split it at some point! When we receive the pig each year I always ask for the organs, bones and fat. Usually I will also ask the butcher to separate the Back Fat from the Leaf Fat. There’s quite a difference. Each year I plan a day to be at home so I can render the lard from that years pig.
Comes from the areas near the skin and muscles of the pig and tends to have a mild “porky” flavor. It’s great for sauteing and frying foods in. I have baked with it before too and it wasn’t bad at all.
This fat is actually prized among bakers because it lends to ultra flaky crusts and has virtually no “porky” taste at all. It is found in the fat deposits near the kidneys and surrounding the loin.
In the pictures you’ll see in this post I do not have the Back and Leaf fat separated because, much to my disappointment, I forgot to ask the butcher this time! I just rendered it all together this time. I could tell which fat was each kind but didn’t want to bother separating it because it was all frozen together in one huge chunk.
Supplies You Will Need
- Meat Grinder (I use my kitchen aid blender with the meat grinder attachment.)
- One Large and One Medium Stainless Steel Bowl
- Large Stockpot With a Heavy Bottom
- One Large, Fine Mesh Strainer (to fit over the big stainless steel bowl)
- One Small, Fine Mesh Strainer (to fit over the glass canning jars)
- One Large, Stainless Steel Spoon
- One Medium, Stainless Steel Slotted Spoon
- Several Sterilized Pint or Quart Ball or Kerr Glass Canning Jars, lids and rings – wide mouth is best (not pictured in photo above)
Steps To Take To Render Your Lard
When we get our pastured, organic pork fat, it usually comes in one or two huge frozen bags from the butcher. The goal is to take that huge bag of fat and render it down to lard so that it fits in nice glass jars for storing on the shelf and can be used on a whim for cooking and baking.
That’s the big side of my entire kitchen sink filled with the bag of pastured, organic pork fat.
The first step is to LIGHTLY thaw the fat. What I mean by that is thaw it just so you can pull piece by piece out of the big chunk in the bag. *You’ll want to be careful that the fat does not get to room temperature during the cutting and grinding process. The refrigerator is your friend.
Take each strip of fat and cut in into smaller pieces that can be fed through your meat grinder slot.
Feed each chunk of fat into the meat grinder. The point of getting the fat down to this size is that it melts in the pot evenly and quickly and doesn’t burn like it would when there are some small pieces and some large pieces.
Place as much fat at you can fit in your stock pot and turn the burner on medium heat. As soon as you see the fat starting to melt (you’ll see liquid at the bottom of the pan) you’ll want to turn the heat down to almost as low as it will go – maybe a one or two. At this point you will let the fat continue to melt until you are able to pour off some of the liquid. During this process you’ll want to stir the fat fairly often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. *If you burn your fat (at this point lard) you will have ruined the entire batch and will have to start all over because burnt lard is nasty. Watch your stove and don’t burn your lard please. If you see that your fat is not melting very well then feel free to turn the heat up just a tad so quicken the process. Don’t be in a hurry though because your lard will burn if you are.
When you are at a point when enough of your fat has been rendered into lard you can start pouring off the liquid. At the point you have reached a continual melting point you’ll want to pour off your lard about every half hour to make sure that it doesn’t burn.
When you pour off the liquid you’ll need to do the first straining. You will pour the liquid fat through the large fine mesh sieve and into the large stainless steel bowl. *Wear potholder gloves in case any splashes and also wear an apron so you don’t ruin your clothes. Once you have poured off as much liquid as you can, place the fat in the pot back on the stove and continue melting. Also keep stirring it often as you were before. You can add more ground up fat in the pot at this point to melt more. Again, just make sure nothing is burning.
Once the lard in the large stainless steel bowl has cooled a tiny bit, you can pour through the small fine mesh sieve into your glass jar. *The purpose of double straining is so that you don’t get any left over cartilage, fat chunks, or membranes in your finished lard. That would ruin the whole thing.
At this point you can wipe the rim of the glass jar off and place the lid on it. As the lard cools you will hear the lid pop. This means that the canning jar is sealed air tight.
- You will continue the above steps until all of your fat is rendered into lard.
- You will have little bits left in your pot that won’t melt into fat. Once you’re done rendering your lard you can brown and crisp these bits and eat them as crispy lardons.
- Your lard should be pure white once it cools and hardens. If it has any color to it like cream color or light tan you have burned it and it won’t taste good. I’m sorry! Give that to the birds and try again.
- Be sure to label all your jars with what kind of fat is in them and the date. Since lard is shelf stable you can store in on the shelf in these airtight containers. I have several on my shelves that have been there for a few years and I opened one the other day and it is perfect, smells great and excellent for cooking with. If you’d like, you can also store these jars in the refrigerator. Once they are opened you’ll definitely need to store them in the refrigerator because the oxygen will now have a chance to make the lard go rancid.
- Be prepared to use your homemade citrus essential oil cleaners to wipe up any grease spills from the counter and the stove!
The white jars are lard that has completely cooled and solidified and the opaque, cream colors jars are lard that is still in its cooling phase but will turn white once they have cooled.
Don’t be afraid of this process and don’t be afraid of eating animal fats! I can bet that your Grandma and Grandpa made the best darn biscuits and pies with their rendered lard. It’s a lost art and something we can all benefit from doing both in skill and in health!