In both books and on many blogs, people are heralding the return of eating "traditional" fats over eating "industrialized" fats. And there are numerous studies to support this change as a healthy choice. People are enjoying butter again. And that lovely old demonized favorite, LARD!
Lard cannot be found in the grocery stores here in Utah like it can be in North Carolina where we used to live. But even if it could, the lard sold at the grocery stores has usually been altered (hydrogenated) in such a way as to make it not really a "traditional" fat. And homemade lard is high in Omega 3s. So I set out to make my own!
I looked at Mother Earth News and another blog called A little bit of Spain in Iowa to find directions on how to do it.
I thought it would be easy. I would ask for some pig fat from the grocery store and then I would be on my way. I asked at Costco. They just laughed at me. I asked at a local grocery store. They were polite---but said their meat came in "already trimmed" of all its fat. So I was feeling rather discouraged. I would probably have to find some sort of old fashioned butcher that sells 1/2 cows to people who have giant freezers.
(DON'T READ FURTHER IF YOU CAN'T STAND LOOKING AT MEAT.)
Then I walked in the discount grocery store this week and what did I see? Giant pork roasts for sale for $1.29/lb with at least an inch of fat layer and skin still left on them! It wouldn't be the ideal of having grass-fed happy pig fat, but it was affordable to try and I was in business!
For $7.75, I bought a big bag of pork.
The pork roast looked fine, but what I was really interested in was that inch thick layer of FAT!
Using my sharpest knife, I had to work a bit to cut the fat away from the meat. I wasn't perfect at it.
Once the fat was removed, I needed to cut it up into smaller pieces. Cutting through that tough pigskin was much harder than I thought.
I placed the chunks of fat in my grandmother's "drippers." That is what she always called her bread pans---which I've been lucky enough to inherit. They were called drippers (at least by my ancestors) because they were also used for rendering lard or catching the drippings from roasting meat. So I was doing something that my grandmother had done in exactly the same pans she had done it in. (Nostalgia is a great thing!)
In the oven they went. I started out at 225 degrees---according to a recipe online. But when 3 hours went by without anything happening, I upped the temperature to 300. That seemed perfect. You don't want to fry the meat, just render the fat out of it.
I prepared a bottle to put the lard in.
I used some washed muslin (because I didn't have cheesecloth) to make a sieve to drain the fat through.
As the bits of fat melted down, a clear oily substance appeared in the bottom of the pan. The directions said to pour it off and return the pan to the oven to render some more. Over an hour or so, I poured more and more off until I thought there was no more to render out.
The bits of leftover pork are called "cracklins." A special treat if you're in the mood. I wasn't, so I put mine in the freezer to flavor a pot of beans later.
A clear lemon-yellow substance had appeared in my bottle! And even hours later, it was still liquid at room temperature! (I had read that home-rendered lard was NOT as saturated a fat as we had been led to believe! And it was TRUE!)
After spending the night in the refrigerator, it was, of course, hardened up and solid white.
I opened the bottle to see if it smelled piggy at all. Nope! Just a slight savory smell.
Now, what shall I make with it?!? Delicious flaky pie crusts? Heavenly biscuits? I'll let you know. : )