Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rendering lard

Growing up I don't think I ever heard the word lard unless it was used in a derogatory fashion, like tub o lard (we pronounced it tubbalard) or lard ass.   I don't recall ever having lard in our house.  We used Crisco or butter.  Maybe my mom would save bacon fat to cook with but I don't think she ever bought lard.  Did you, Mom?

Well, after packaging up the sausage yesterday I couldn't resist bringing home some of the fat from the pig to render it to make it into a lard I could use for soap or something like shortening.  I had to Google "rendering lard" to find out how to do it.  This is what I did.  I cut up the leaf lard - the lard from the stomach area.  I'm told this is the best fat on the pig, the stuff you use for cooking, not making soap.  I cut it into 1/2 inch pieces, covered my cast iron pot with 1/4 inch of water and placed the fat in with the small amount of water.
I cooked it on low and kept stirring.  The pieces of fat kept getting smaller and smaller and there was more clear liquid in the pot.  After a few hours of doing this the pieces got very small and sunk to the bottom of the pot.  I read that this is when it's done.
Those little pieces left in the bottom are called cracklings (or cracklin's).  Some people cook these on top their cornbread.  Our chickens enjoyed them.  I drained the lard through a cheese cloth to separate the cracklin's from the lard.
 I put the rendered lard in the refrigerator to chill it.  Here is the finished product.
I smelled it and it smelled like pork fat.  Hmm, if I make soap with this I'll either have to use lots of essentials oils for fragrance or we'll go around smelling like we just got done frying french fries at McDonalds.

I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments - a real country girl I am.  That is, until I called Tommy to ask him what the fat was called that came from the stomach area (the leaf lard).  I told him what I did.  He said, "can you smell it?"

"Yeah, I can smell it."

"No, I mean, can you SMELL it, smell it?"

"Yeah, I can SMELL it, smell it."

"Well, then you cooked it too long."

Turns out, you're supposed to keep pouring off the liquid as you cook it.  I let it all stay in the pot the whole time until I thought it all had melted.  What I have is like what you drain off bacon when you cook it, minus the little crumblies of meat.

Google failed me this time.  I should have known to ask my friends, like Geraldine and Tommy, who have done this a bunch, how they do it and not rely on strangers.

Back to the drawing board.  James assures me I'm not a failure.  Tommy was also kind to tell me I didn't do it wrong but I don't know why he would say that.  I'm not giving up.  I'm going to get it right.

All this time I thought lard was really bad for us, as in, going to block our arteries and put us in an early grave.  Then what do I read?   Oh, lard is lower in trans fats than butter?????  I know I shouldn't trust Google but there are so many websites telling me lard isn't as bad as we thought growing up in the 60's and 70's.

Here are a few sites that argue a case for lard.


  1. good to know. Next time will be great.

  2. Just found your blog. Thanks for sharing! What are you going to do with the lard you overcooked? We usually use our bacon drippings and whatnot to make bird suet this time of year. If you have no other choices, this might be an option!

  3. Making suet is a good idea. Maybe I'll do that. I'll bet my chickens would like something like some suet too. I may make a chicken pot pie crust or 2 with it. I hadn't put much thought into it yet, I guess. It's just staring at me from my refrigerator.