An Exploration into Rendering Lard

We recently took our 400+ lb Berkshire Hampshire Hog to the “Freezer Camp” and got her made into food. This was our second large pig to slaughter, and the first time we got back fat to render into lard.

All the fat from the pig.

All the fat from the pig.

My first try didn’t work very well. You’re supposed to cut the pieces into small pieces so the fat will melt out and you’ll be left with the cracklings. I didn’t cut the pieces small enough and I ended up with no cracklings and very little (comparatively) fat.

2015-10-23 090

Chopped into small, but not small enough blocks

After the fat was drained, there's still a lot of rat that didn't get rendered and there's no crackling. All of it should look like those dark bits.

After the fat was drained, there’s still a lot of fat that didn’t get rendered and there’s no crackling. All of it should look like those dark bits.

So the first attempt did get some lard, but not nearly enough, 8 hours of cooking and still most of the fat is in the pieces, not in my container.

For my next attempt, I decided to grind the pork fat and render it that way. This was much more successful.

Fortunately I had an electric grinder, really sure I'd want to attempt this with a hand crank. Unless I could get the kids to help. ;)

Fortunately I had an electric grinder, really sure I’d want to attempt this with a hand crank. Unless I could get the kids to help. 😉

My big pan of ground fat

My big pan of ground fat

Starting to render

Starting to render

So this worked a lot better. I baked it at 250 degrees for the majority of the day. I poured off the fat frequently, and stirred after every pour. This helped keep the fat white and therefore less porky smelling tasting. When I started getting down to the end, and the fat started getting darker, I left it for longer because the cracking needed it to properly cook.

The

The “cracklin” has begun.

2015-10-24 031

The cracklin

The different colors of the fat I rendered. Far left is the whitest from the ground rendering. The middle is from the first day with the large chunks and the last one is from the cracklin, much darker and porkier.

The different colors of the fat I rendered. Far left is the whitest from the ground rendering. The middle is from the first day made from the large chunks and the last one is from the cracklin, much darker and porkier.

The whitest is supposed to be the least flavor, it’s for your desserts and sweet applications, the darker is for your savory products, maybe a pot pie crust or general cooking. I got about 8 pounds of fat from the first two days. I’ve still got another day to go.

Take aways –

  • Wear latex/nitrile gloves. They give your hands a lot more grip. The first day I didn’t wear them and ended up with a bunch of micro cuts all over my hands from so much knifework.
  • It’s easier to cut the fat when it’s thawing. Not too frozen and not too defrosted. My fat was frozen at the butcher’s and I cut off slices that had thawed until I got to the frozen solid parts, and that was how much I rendered that day.
  • Stir your pork every time you pour the fat off, but not before. When it cooks it starts to clump together and makes the pour easier. Stirring breaks it back up into tiny pieces.
  • The darker you let the pork get, the darker the lard will be. You can always use the light pork in savory foods. (I’d say a bacon flavored cookie would be bad, but honestly I might have to try it..)
  •  Most of the places I read said to put the fat in mason jars, but honestly, take a minute and try to imagine scooping the fat out of a mason jar. That’s why I used big plastic containers.

I’m happy to add one more item to my “prepper” arsenal, I doubt I’ll ever need to use this, but I and my family now know how to render fat and if TSHTF we can still have cookies. (Well, if we can find the flour 😉

Children are Suicidal

My youngest child is my trouble maker. She tries not to, but trouble just seems to find her no matter what she does. My favorite way to describe my kids and their behavior is this: My oldest son would go into a china shop and you’d tell him not to touch anything and he’d sit down in the middle and look at all the pretty patterns and just wait for you to come back. My next oldest would walk around with her hands behind her back and look more closely, but she’d still not touch anything. Next one up would lightly touch and maybe pick up a really pretty piece but she would still be very thoughtful and careful of the items. My youngest would start out with her hands in her pockets and try very hard to behave but her elbow would hit one of the handles and she’d lunge over to catch it and she’d trip over the legs of one of the display stands and before you knew it, everything would be in shambles.

She didn’t start out badly, it just ends badly.

Once she watched her big sister hand wash some clothes in the sink so she decided to hand wash her sister’s brand new phone in the sink for her.

I read an opinion piece today that explained some of her behavior. It quoted Rabbi Noach Orlowek and said “Children are Suicidal” .. If you can’t trust them to take care of their bodies, how can you trust them to protect THINGS. And that’s true. I watch my youngest far more than I watched the others, her nose is a perpetual target for anything. She’s had bloody noses more often than the other 3 put together. I’ll be surprise if she makes it to her 20s without breaking her nose at least once.

If she’s not going to be careful of something that causes her extreme pain, how can I expect her to watch out for things that are simply inconvenient if they break?

I’ll keep my brave 9 year old that wants to learn how to sky dive, become an astronaut, can fall off a horse and then jump right back on, one who cries because she can ONLY ride the some of the big roller coasters at Six Flags and not all of them because she’s not tall enough yet. She can stick her hand up a goat and try to help me manipulate a stuck kid and jump from hay bale to hay bale without ever thinking of falling.

I’m proud of her, and I hope her bravery and sense of wonder doesn’t ever go away.. even if she leaves a trail of broken things behind her.. at least I’ll know which way she went. 😉

Guineafowl are fun

The summer of 2015 was our 4th summer on the farm. Our third with animals. In the past we’ve always had a lot of guineas, I’d read they were good at bug disposal, snake disposal, and general small pest disposal. Unfortunately they are also INCREDIBLY stupid and like to commit suicide on  the 70 MPH road in front of our house. They’re not cheap, Atwoods sells day old chicks for $5-$10 each and you can buy them from other farmers for between $2 and $5. So definitely cheaper from other farmers, but you don’t get a box and mortar’s return policy and generally you have to drive further and honestly I’m at Atwoods all the time anyway so I might as well pick up chicks.

This year was especially rough on the guineas, we started last summer with at least 40, and went into this summer with a whopping 1. After spending every day chasing the guineas back into the fence, watching people hit the guineas, driving around their little corpses, or holding up traffic and potentially causing wrecks, we decided not to renew our guinea flock and just hope the other birds could hold their own with the bugs and other icks of the farm. They were unsuccessful.

So now we’re on the hunt for more guineas, hopefully we can do things a little different so they don’t roam as far and as wide. We started with a new guinea pen. It’s built out of 2 4×16 cattle panels, 8 6ft T-posts and a 12x?? tarp. (I got the tarp for something else, it’s too big for this project but I didn’t want to buy another one.)

This is the outside, you can see the tarp covering the cattle panels. The T-posts hold the panels in a curved position to give you height and width. The height/width doesn't matter really, I made them tall enough so I could walk under it without having to stoop down. Guineas like to roost so they want height as well as room for scratching the food.

This is the outside, you can see the tarp covering the cattle panels. The T-posts hold the panels in a curved position to give you height and width. The height/width doesn’t matter really, I made them tall enough so I could walk under it without having to stoop down. Guineas like to roost so they want height as well as room for scratching the food.

2015-10-03 027

This is the front of the pen. We’ve got the front made of a dog pen and then chicken wire on top, the back of the pen is just chicken wire with a piece of plywood for wind break and stability.

2015-10-03 029

The inside of the shelter, I’ll need to upgrade the tarp if I’m going to keep it more than a month or so.

This was really just meant to be a temporary holding cell for the guineas as they get used to the farm and their new home. But the more I think about it, I can use it to transition the chicks in the garage to the outdoors, when it’s time to move the puppies out I can put them in here and we’re thinking about getting some farm cats, I can put them in it too…

I guess if it ends up becoming more permanent I’ll add some more structure to the base, because the piglets have already wormed their way inside to try to steal the guinea’s feed.

Here’s a cute video I made of the single guinea meeting his new flock mates. They fought a lot the first evening, but by the next morning he was sad he couldn’t get in there and join them.

Wireless Doorbells

Before we moved out here, I swore I’d never have a gate. I hate gates. I hate having to get out of my car to open the gate. I hate having to get back in my car to drive through the gate. I hate having to get out of my car to close the gate. I hate that I don’t trust anyone but my immediate family to correctly open and latch the gate properly so my animals don’t escape. I hate that people have no problem sitting at the end of my driveway and get annoyed that I haven’t noticed they’re there yet.

Fortunately I may have that last one figured out. Enter the Wireless Doorbell. Now usually you’ll get one of these if your house isn’t already wired for a doorbell, but I have no need for a doorbell. I need people to be able to get my attention from the gate that is over 160 feet away from the house.

Enter the Plusinno Physen Series wireless doorbell. It’s got a 500 ft range, an excessive amount of ringtones and it looks pretty sharp to boot. Honestly there’s only about 3 ringtones you’d ever use, but the devil in me likes to think I’ll set it to one of the really long ringtones and go outside and ring it constantly. I don’t.. but the thought is always there.

2015-09-25 068

Here’s all the items you get when you order it. The doorbell transmitter, the receiver, a sign for those people that need directions regarding the use of doorbells and the hardware to attach the transmitter to whatever you’re attaching it to.

It’s very easy to set up. You’ve got your receiver that just plugs into a standard outlet and the doorbell that you can attach with double sided foam tape or with screws. Both types of hardware are included (a real bonus because I never seem to have the pieces I need laying around.) The doorbell comes with the batteries installed so you just pull out the plastic tag and it starts right up.

The receiver has a volume button so you can choose between 3 levels and 1 button for choosing the ringtone. It defaults to a generic ding-dong ding-dong but there are 52 melodies to choose from. There are several Christmas ones, some classical ones, some kid friendly nursery rhyme chants and even a Coo-coo clock and dog barking. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that makes you happy. My only real complaint on the melodies is that they run a little long. For instance, one of the songs is “Oh Suzanna” and it does the music for the chorus and one verse.

2015-10-03 022 copy

I added a solar light to the top of the doorbell

You can change/select your ringtone by selecting the ringtone then hold down doorbell and push the two buttons on the receiver at the same time. It’s very quick and easy, the only difficult part is if you go too fast through the ringtones and have to cycle back through them all to get back. 🙂

2015-10-03 163 copy

The doorbell / light combination at night.

We created a quick little wooden panel that is attached to the fence so people can just ring the doorbell if they need us. Not sure if it’s a bad thing or a good thing, but the only people that have used it so far is the family when they are trying to annoy the people inside the house.

As of the time of this post the doorbell is around $15. You almost can’t eat dinner for that much so it’s a very small investment with a very large return.

Goats are Assholes

My friends on Facebook are familiar with the series Goats are Assholes, so I thought I’d share the series with you.

First, they like to climb on things.
11850691_10152894897571784_2055834840397639465_o

Actually they climb on everything.

goats on jettas

Goats are Assholes

Really. EVERY. THING.

Goats on Vans

Goats are Assholes

Sometimes they dance

And sometimes they play games 

And sometimes they just remind you why you got the in the first place. 🙂

11058746_10152724476321784_6306584008667896344_n

** These are dairy goats, not meat goats. The likelihood of them actually getting eaten is pretty slim.. but it makes for a good threat.

Welcome to Review Zombie

I’m a mother, a farmer, a reviewer, a cow wrangler, a pig chaser, a chicken watcher, a dog snuggler. I am sometimes impatient, often curious and usually happy. I think Goats are Assholes, Guineas have a deathwish and Amazon is way too tempting.

Join me as I write about my life, review random things that interest me and explore the world around me.