Monday, October 31, 2011

Rendering Lard

My family has been on a (very slow) journey of cleaning up the food that we eat.  We have systematically been eliminating processed food and adding more local and organic food - whole foods.  One of the reasons our process has been slow is that it can be difficult to source the kinds of foods we want to eat.  We put out a garden every year, which takes care of most of our vegetable needs.  But, we were really wanting to switch to pastured/grass fed meat.  Unfortunately, our small town doesn't even allow us to have chickens within the city limits.  Then, several months ago I found Local  Through this website we were able to find Victory Acres, a wonderful farm nearby that offered what we were looking for.  We ordered a whole pig and half of a cow, both of which are raised the way God intended them to be - out in the sunshine, eating what they were designed to.

We received our pastured pig last week.  I was so pleased that I was able to tell the processing plant exactly which cuts we wanted and that it was processed naturally without nitrites or nitrates.  I was even able to get the fat from our pig.  After doing a lot of reading and research, I realized that lard is not the villain it has been made out to be in recent times.  So, I set out to render our pig fat into lard for cooking and teach you as I learned as well.  You're welcome. :0)

First of all, I was surprised that this was all the fat that came off of a 265 pound porker.

After opening the vacuum sealed bag of pork fat, I started slicing it.  Kind of reminds you of a fish filet, no?

Cut the fat into small squares, about half and inch or so, and put it in a stock pot on med low heat.

Actually, this is where it gets very flexible.  You can do this in a stock pot, a crock pot on low, or in the oven at about 325 degrees.  They all work.  It just really depends on what you're most comfortable with. Any way you go about it, the fat will start to turn colors as it begins to heat up and melt.

This needs to be stirred periodically to keep it from burning.  It will get very hot and bubbly as the fat melts down, even on low heat.  This takes a really long time.  I put mine in the stock pot about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which was too late.  So, before bed I switched to the crock pot method.  It was done about 2 in the morning.  Granted, I had an awful lot of lard to render.  It probably wouldn't take 12 hours if you weren't doing the fat from an entire pig.

I knew it was done when the bits of fat and meat were golden brown and sitting on the bottom of the pot.  Those little golden bits that are left are called cracklins.  And, boy are they yummy!  They can be eaten as a snack or used on salad.  Anyway, I lined a platter with paper towels, pulled out the cracklins with a slotted spoon and laid them on the platter to soak up any excess oil.

The next step was to line a funnel with cheese cloth (or paper towels or coffee filters) and begin ladling the hot lard into mason jars.

Doing this filter system catches more bits-n-pieces.

The resulting liquid is a beautiful golden color...

that cools to nearly white.

Voila!  Rendered lard.  The rule of thumb is that 1 pound of fat renders 1 pint of lard.  I didn't weigh my fat before I started, but would guess that I started with about little over 7 pounds of fat by the 3 3/4 quarts of lard that I ended up with.  

I love the fact that something that would have most likely ended up in the trash gave me a healthy fat full of Vitamin D and monounsaturated oleic acid, which lowers LDL*.  

So, there you have it!  You now know how to render lard.  Don't you feel like your life is a little more complete? :0)

I get to do this again in about a month when our cow goes to the processing plant.  The only difference is that rendered cow fat is called tallow and it has a bit of a different make-up than lard, which includes a higher smoke point making it excellent for cooking French fries.  But, that's for a later post. :0)

Y'all have a great day!

*Taken from "Real Food" by Nina Planck.


  1. Thank you for the step-by-step photos, it really helps to see what it all looks like. I remember reading about cracklin's in the Little House books....nice to finally see what they actually look like!

  2. This is one of my absolute favorite posts this week. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and the step by step instructions. We are thinking of purchasing a pig soon and I just loved your post!

  3. Thanks for the great post. The pictures really helped too. We will be rendering lard in a week or two. It will be wonderful to have for making pies :)

  4. Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
    If you have grain-free recipes please visit my Grain-Free Linky Carnival in support of my 28 day grain-free challenge! It will be open until November 2.

  5. I've also been rendering lard. I use my crockpot. Our pig was about 450 pounds and I've rendered 6 quarts and 1/2 pint so far but I'll probably get at least that much more from the fat I have in my freezer waiting until I have time! Great, informative post!

  6. Missy,

    That's quite a pig! You'll have plenty of lard to get you through the year. That's awesome!

  7. This is a great post. Thank you for the pictures and instructions. Very clear and easy to follow. I can't wait to try this myself.

  8. Pam, if you have never done a side of beef before I want to give you a heads up. I got all of the fat and bones from a friends steer (grassfed, organic) last month and there was about 150 lbs in 4 large boxes. Hopefully your butcher will prepackage for you like your pig fat was, in 10lb or smaller packages, bones separate. Mine would not, didn't see the use of what I wanted it all for so, mine came in 4 large boxes. However, I only paid 5 bucks for it all!!!. I have 2 of the boxes thawing on my table right now so I can package and refreeze everything in manageable sizes (and be able to get to everything else in my freezer that has been hidden under boxes!). Anyway, I just wanted to give you a heads up on how much you might be getting. Do be sure to ask for all of the bones and ask them to cut down the long ones too as these are so valuable nutritionally.

  9. Very nice tutorial! I use lard to make my French fries, fry bread, donuts, and potato chips with no problems. Is there something I'm not aware of?

  10. If you add a sprig of Rosemary to the fat it makes it whiter - doesn't leave any taste in the lard either.

  11. starfreedom - Thanks for heads-up about the beef fat. I will check on that. The farm is using the same processing plant for the beef that they did for the pork, so I'm hoping it's not an issue. They seemed to do a beautiful job of packing it all. I also plan on getting the bones to use for making stock. I love making something wonderful out of the scraps.

  12. We're becoming huge fans of rendering fat. It all started with my husband's obsession with saving bacon grease. I bet if no one is looking he'll take a swig of it! LOL Anyway, it started with bacon fat, then it was beef fat, and now its duck fat. Duck fat is my favorite so far. Our ducks have about 2 cups of fat each on them, and using it in cooking is very decadent.

  13. Angela,

    I save bacon grease, too. Though, I wouldn't drink it straight. LOL I've never used duck fat, but I am saving chicken fat in the freezer to render when I get a good amount. I have actually never eaten duck. I've heard it's tricky to cook, but maybe you have a trick?

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I am old enough to recognize the terms from hearint them from Grandparents, but young enough that I didn't have a grasp on what was involved in the process! I to am s.l.o.w.l.y moving our diet to a cleaner one and I do have some acess to some great resourses, but knowing what to do with them is key! Thanks again.

    1. You're very welcome! Good luck on your lard-rendering venture!!


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