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.

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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.

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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 😉