If this was truly DIY, I would also raise the pigs…
This may sound like a contradiction, or merely a justification from a woman who really likes to eat lard, but I don’t actually eat much meat and I rarely eat pork.
I never eat meat in restaurants. I don’t know how the animals on the menu were treated, so I don’t eat them. Actually, I do have a pretty good idea how they were treated, so I don’t eat them.
I do eat some meat at home. I buy pastured meat at Whole Foods. The store follows an animal welfare rating system, with a 1 indicating “no crates, no cages, no crowding” and 5+ meaning “animal centered; entire life on same farm.” The chicken used to rank a 4 (pasture centered) but now a new supplier provides only 2s (enriched environment). We’ve been eating less chicken. You can read about the rating system here. I’ve recently found out about another butcher not far from the office, so I’ll have to check that out. Maybe it will carry pastured meat.
So why would I render lard from pigs with a 2 rating, especially if I refuse to buy the pork Whole Foods sells? Because the butchers throw the pork fat out. Maybe I am justifying my taste for lard, but it seems horribly wasteful to me to throw out all that pork fat. The animal died for crying out loud. Don’t throw a bunch of it in the garbage.
I haven’t rendered lard in a year at least. I try to live plastic-free and when I ask the butchers to save me pork fat, over a few days, they stuff a plastic bag with it and then wrap that in plastic-lined paper and then perhaps toss that whole wad into another plastic bag. But a blogger friend had a good idea. She said leave them a container to fill. With this gentle nudge from Mrs. M, I approached the counter, container in hand and asked a butcher to fill it with pork fat. “Sure!” he said. Success!
The store called me a few days later to pick up the pork fat. My heart sank when I saw the plastic-swathed container. Next time, I’ll have to explain better why I bring the container.
I think this pork fat weighed at least five pounds. It rendered quite a bit of lard.
- Pork fat
1. With scissors, cut pork fat into 2-inch pieces. Arrange in a roasting pan. I had not quite a 2-inch layer of fat in the pan.
2. Place pan in oven at low heat, around 275°F. Check every hour or so. After an hour, my fat had melted quite a bit. After three hours, I had vast pools of melted fat.
3. With a turkey baster, transfer fat to clean jars. Set aside to cool. I didn’t need to strain it, although I have in the past. Store in the refrigerator. It keeps for months.
I put the fat back in the oven and let it cook for another three hours. This was a little too long and rendered darker lard. Luckily it didn’t burn.
I think I rendered as much as I could from this and will have to toss what remains. So much for zero-waste. Well, overall I did reduce the amount of landfill the fresh fat would have created, as that shrank by more than half.
UPDATE: Incredibly helpful Becky from the blog Chicken Wire and Paper Flowers suggested tossing some of these bits into corn bread. So I did and froze the rest for future corn bread. Paula Deen’s version popped up at the top when I searched for a recipe. I liked that it called for buttermilk, and could use my homemade version. I cut out a bit of the butter the recipe called for, but I did add a cup of chopped up pork fat bits. So I actually made a Paul Deen recipe more fatty. This is a feat.
Because Whole Foods considers this pork fat garbage, I get it free. I can buy lard at my farmer’s market but this amount (about 30 ounces) would cost at least $20, probably more. Eventually stores will catch on and charge for pork fat.
I’ll use my lard for pastry, tortillas, refried beans and this Alton Brown baked bean recipe. It calls for bacon, but I just sauté the onion and jalapeños in my lard instead.
Does anyone else render lard? Do you have any tips? I would love to hear them.
45 Replies to “DIY Lard”
My hubby just did this with some very fatty pork that a friend brought us from the U.K. He would never let all that yumminess go to waste! Like you, he uses it to add flavor to dishes when he sautés onions, etc. instead of using bacon (which we don’t usually have). That’s amazing that you can get the pork fat for free! Hopefully next time without the plastic wrap. 🙂
Then you know lard is delicious. I would love it if someone brought me some pork fat 🙂 My daughter’s friend spreads a little onto homemade corn tortillas and sprinkles on salt–simple and tasty. I’m pretty sure the store will catch on eventually and sell it. One of the butchers told me that another shopper has started asking for pork fat, so I have a bit of competition now.
I do have some duck lard but I haven’t used it yet. It’s from a free-range duck I got at the farmer’s market. Ducks are really fatty. I’ll probably try it in some baking or maybe for deep-frying.
I need to figure out what a drooling emoticon looks like…
A woman I work with has said she wants to make latkes with duck fat. I don’t know if she’s tried it yet. They would be really good. I’ve roasted potatoes in duck fat I saved from a roast and they were delicious. What about pastry?
Cool! That seemed so easy. I am totally doing this! Thanks for writing it!
Great! It’s incredibly easy and delicious. Thanks for the comment 🙂
The bits left behind are cracklings and are quite eating. (My friend Leni throws them into cornbread).
Over rendered lard has a very distinct taste, so I find it gets used sparingly. The last batch I did got a little over done and is brown. I use it for savory things, like pot pie crusts and biscuits, in limited amounts as a little bit goes a very long way.
I suspect the plastic wrap was used out of regulations as well as habit. The pig fat I get comes from the processing plant (even though it’s raised by friends and I get it directly from them, it has to go to a processor per state law) frozen and vacuum sealed in plastic, because, regulations. Depending on the zealousy of the local health department inspector and the state laws, you might be successful in getting them to not use plastic, but it’s all entirely up to how one person interprets the laws on food storage. They are not particularly concerned with cutting back one’s use of plastic.
Thank you for all your tips. I’ll add some of this to cornbread. That’s a great idea and my daughter loves cornbread.
The butchers don’t mind when I bring my own containers for meat to take right then and there. But I left this one with them for a few days while they filled it and I find if I don’t explain just how to put food in the containers, they get confused. Not many people bring containers, so it’s new to most of them.
The road to changing the way our food is packaged is long….
No kidding. That goes for our whole food system.
The butcher struggles with how to put meat in a container…? Lord, we really have to re-skill several generations!
Your comment made me laugh/snort out lout. Yes, containers can throw them off :/ I quickly learned I have to give very specific instructions: no plastic in the container please, and slap the price sticker right on the lid instead of putting it on a separate piece of plastic and handing it to me. When they look puzzled, I explain I’m trying to cut down on trash.
My butcher seems to be suffering from the same amnesia. I bought a pheasant today, which unfortunately came wrapped in cling film without the option. I told the butcher I didn’t need a bag but he still put it in a little plastic bag. I told him it was not necessary but he insisted as the pheasant was already half in the bag. I handed him cash, he handed me the bag of pheasant, I removed the plastic and gave it back explaining the importance of avoiding unnecessary plastic. He looked blank. Annoyingly he was no kid, he was old enough to know better. At times like this I want to scream but know that the best way to bring people on the journey with us is to be charming, gracious and informative… Sometimes, it’s hard work though!
Good for you! That’s the best way to deal with all of this unnecessary packaging–just hand it right back to the retailer. Your butcher will remember next time. When mine handed me my big swathed container I felt so dejected, I didn’t say anything. I wanted to swear, but I did it under my breath after I had veered towards the bulk section. I will explain the next time. Sometimes I think I need a dead, plastic-filled albatross around my neck to get the point across. Thank you for your story. This will motivate me to keep trying. It takes a lot of energy some days. And I’m making such a simple request. “Here is my container. Please fill it with meat.” Sigh.
Oh, I meant to ask what you will do with the pheasant. I’ve never prepared one.
We’re having a roast pheasant tomorrow as the first parsnips are in. We’ll be stuffing it with a bacon, thyme & juniper berries. I’m not sure if juniper berries translate to California but they are super. You do need to cover the pheasant with streaky bacon because it is a lean bird. It’s also grand if your a small household. One bird feeds, Mr M, me and a few titbits for Dante (the feline resident).
Another super option is to ragu pheasant, with tinned tomatoes, olive oil and thyme. If you’re interested I’m happy to email you the recipe.
We don’t eat much meat here (for health and environmental reasons) and we definitely favour pheasant, partridge, pigeon… and rabbits as these are organic, lean and foragers – making them both tasty and resource efficient. I am also quite partial to venison. Once again, bar rabbits, I’m not sure these are necessarily common meats in your neck of the wood but I suspect they might come into play if you moved to that farm in Canada…;-)
That sounds fantastic. I’m pretty sure I can get juniper berries here. Apparently they go well with sauerkraut (I haven’t tried adding them though–by the way, how is yours?).
Yes, please email the recipe for your ragu to firstname.lastname@example.org when you have a chance. Thank you!
We don’t eat much meat either, for environmental/crazy-animal-lover reasons. My daughter prefers meat to pretty much all of my vegetarian dishes. She would probably like rabbit too. If I do buy my farm, I will probably have to become vegetarian. I don’t think I could slaughter a chicken or rabbit. Maybe my little meat-lover can do it.
Ps – I’m actually planning to blog about low-impact meats that have fallen from favour in the Anglo-Saxon world… 😉
Oooh, brilliant idea! Will you please ping me on Twitter after you write that? Otherwise I might not see it.
Great tips ZWC. You are a wealth of knowledge. Love you posts!!
Thank you! I really appreciate it 🙂
I’m with you. Lard should not go in the bin. There is an old saying that you ‘use every part of the pig, except the oink’. This dates from the days when meat was considered a precious resource!
My diet is meat-light/fat-light but I’m a big fan of lard nevertheless! (Unfortunately my butcher has a commercial off-taker for the lard he generates 🙁 ). Lard is the secret to proper short crust pastry, half butter/half lard. (The other secret is a cold earthenware bowl). Lard also makes tasty oatcakes / oat biscuits. The recipe is simplicity itself: mix fine pinhead oatmeal and lard into a dough, adding a drop of warm water if necessary; roll it out thinly and cut into rounds or fans. Bake on a skillet or in an oven. The result beats the cardboard like oatcakes sold commercially!
Love that saying. I had never heard it. So smart.
My mum makes incredibly flaky pastry and she has always added lard to it. She wouldn’t dream of making pastry without it. I will have to try those oatcakes. I love pinhead oatmeal but have never made anything with it other than breakfast (which is delicious…). Thank you for the directions.
we usually freeze the lard in smallish chunks, grate in the food processor, render it for hours in the crockpot, then strain it. It works beautifully.
Thank you! I thought about doing it in my crockpot (after I had finished) but have never tried it, so I wasn’t sure how that would work. It uses so little electricity and cleans up easily too. Good to hear it works well. I’ll do that next time.
Does it matter if the fat to be rendered has some tiny streaks of meat in it
I will have to see if any butcher around here will give me pork fat. Like Meg, I use it mostly for oatcakes, with the pinhead oatmeal – a very Scottish thing. It also makes the best pastry – just ask Nigella Lawson. In Russia, I had friends who swore it made the best spread for bread, and I know it was consumed a lot with bread and pepper during the Depression in Canda, but somehow got lost once Crisco was introduced. I’m all for bringing back the lard.
My goodness, Nigella Lawson looks remarkable. I’m going to eat more lard! My daughter’s Columbian friend spreads is on warm homemade corn tortillas, and sprinkles on a little salt. It’s really delicious. I find Crisco makes tough pastry. My mum’s made with lard is the best–very flaky and it melts in your mouth. I hope your butcher will give you some pork fat 🙂
Mmmm…drooling emoticon….I’m right there with you….yummmmmmmmmmmmm… 🙂
That’s the best I can come up with :p
Reminds me of my childhood when there always seemed to be a cup of lard sitting in the fridge. We were all so much more zero-waste automatically back then!
Same here. And it was always in a cup too, not a bowl or a measuring cup.
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I render fat on the stove it takes about 2 hours.http://varecha.pravda.sk/recepty/domaca-skvarena-bravcova-mast-a-skvarky-fo/38281-recept.html up to 10. The craclings are delicious in these pies(buns?) http://www.mimibazar.sk/recept.php?id=18543 The sites are in Slovak
I thought I would try rendering it either on the stove or in my slow cooker next time. The buns look delicious and they are made with sourdough starter! (Google translated the pages for me.) I have to try that next time. I make sourdough bread and am always on the lookout for different ways to use my starter. Thank you for these links 🙂
Maybe I’ll end up finding that you’ve already mentioned this somewhere in a past post because it seems right up your alley, but I’m still perusing your site so forgive me if I haven’t found it yet. I make stock from a ham every month, and had been throwing away the lard I gathered as it didn’t seem fit to bake with. Then I thought that maybe if I simmered out the water, that might do the trick. I tried that this month, putting my peeled off fat into a saucepan and simmered on low until it stopped spluttering (I had to cover it with one of those splatter guards). Then I let it cool and put it in the refrigerator.
I managed to get just enough to make a pie with. I used it instead of butter, and it was horrible. The crust refused to harden without burning. Any tips on using lard I gather this way?
Last year at Thanksgiving I made a pile of pies and I used all lard for some of them. Those ones turned out so-so. I remember they browned really quickly, not to mention were hard to roll out. The pastry I made with half butter and half lard was delicious. So I’ll do that again on Thursday.
I also use my lard to saute vegetables. The other day I made baked beans and the recipe called for bacon. You cook the bacon and then saute onions and peppers in the fat. I just skipped the bacon and used my lard. The beans were so good! Oh and I made tortillas with lard recently. Those were good too. I hope that helps!
Actually, that sounds good. I might try the half butter lard pie crust, but I’ll definitely remember to use it when I sautée, thanks!
I picked up a load of pork fat, bones, rinds and chicken livers from our friendly local butcher, so I have my work cut out for me this weekend. Not free, but not overly wrapped, and very inexpensive. Pate, spaghetti a la carusso, chicharrones, ramen and oat cakes all on my to-do list from this haul.
Yum! That sounds fantastic. I look forward to your posts. Sounds like you have a really good butcher. Thank you for letting me know, Hilda 🙂
Real lard pie crust, anyone? Roasted pheasant. Used to eat it quite often when I was a child. (My father was the son of a Central Valley rancher.) Exquisitely delicious. Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse both have recipes.
My mom makes pie crust with lard. It’s the best pastry I’ve ever eaten, hands down. So flakey! I wish I had some right now!
I recently found your blog, love the way you write about your lifestyle because you make it seem so doable. Keep writing please!
I love lard too. I used to render it on the stovetop on low heat, so that will work well. Love using it for pie crust and sugar cookies, tastes so good. More detailed info and recipes here: http://sfc.smallfarmcentral.com/dynamic_content/uploadfiles/827/Shannon%20Hayes%20and%20Lard.pdf
Thank you Irene 🙂 Oooh, I haven’t tried rendering lard on the stovetop. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing.