Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Can't forget the lard

This past weekend, a beautiful one by the way, we enjoyed an afternoon with homeschool friends at Polyface Farm. As always the day included a hayride and farm tour followed by a potluck picnic with delicious burgers made from salad bar beef and pigaerator pork. DH came home reinvigorated and ready to implement a few more ideas here at home and I came home with 20 pounds of creamy white pork fat for rendering.

This stuff is gorgeous. Yeah, it's fat and feels greasy but once I put it in the roaster oven, melt it for several hours over low heat and strain it into jars for storage, it's like buttah, I tell you. (Said with a plummy accent...) And, yes, I do this outside -- the roaster oven sets on a small table under the eaves on the back deck. At night I use a couple of bungee cords criss-crossed over the lid to be sure no small nocturnal animal gets into it as it slow cooks. If we had large nocturnal animals, I'd bring it into the garage or shed overnight but other than two coyotes last spring we don't seem to have that issue.

The rendering doesn't make a big mess and the smell isn't bad -- it's just a very rich roasting-meat smell. Makes me hungry, in fact, but also hangs around inside after the rendering's done. So outside is more practical though the wafting scent did raise the expectations of at least one visitor today who was disappointed to learn it was only lard rendering and not the beginning of a pig roast that he could smell.

Once the pork fat's melted, I strain the hot liquid lard through a couple layers of cheesecloth and pour it into canning jars.  Put on lids and rings and the lard's ready to use.  I store it along with our other canned goods as it will keep on the shelf for a good while.  When I open a jar to use, I store the opened jar in the refrigerator.  Cold lard makes the best pie crust...

Here's a link to stovetop directions for rendering lard. The basic idea is the same as how I do it except I use an electric roaster oven (set on 200-225ºF.) and don't add any water. If I was only rendering a pound or two, I'd probably go back to doing it on the stovetop or try out one of my crockpots so I could still set it outside.