As happy as I am about the humanely raised, predominantly milk fed pork that we raised, I am equally happy about the opportunity to have lard! Some people look at me with disgust and fear on their face when they hear that I am rendering and using lard!
"You must wish to die of clogged arteries," they remark.
"Eeww! Why would you want to use lard?", other say.
The truth is, lard has got a bad rap in recent years but the truth is it is actually very good for you. Don't believe me? Well, all I can say is do some research for yourself. I recommend that you start here by looking at information from the Weston Price Foundation.
From the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally O'Fallon:
Benefits of Lard
Lard or pork fat is about 40% saturated, 48% monosaturated (including small amounts of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid) and 12% polyunsaturated. Like the fat of birds, the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in lard will vary accordingly to the diet of the pigs. In the topics, lard may also be a source of lauric acid if the pigs have eaten coconuts. Like duck and goose fat, lard is stable and a preferred fat for frying. It was widely used in America at the turn of the century. It is an excellent source of vitamin D, especially in third-world countries where other animal foods are likely to expensive.
So, now that we have begun to establish the fact that lard is not a terrible product, just how does one go about making lard. Well, there is the hard way and the easy way. In the past week, I have experienced both but this particular post is to show you just how easy it can be. (I will write another post with photos on doing it the way our ancestors did. It was both educational and fun!)
First step in making lard the easy way is when you butcher your hogs save the fat. We did not butcher our hogs this time although Mike's family has butchered for years and I grew up watching my dad butcher hogs every year. We took the easy way out and let our fabulous butcher do the dirty work for us. We simply asked him to save all the fat. We gave him two big Rubbermaid tubs and he threw the strips of fat into those tubs.
After receiving the fat, we worked up about half of it using the old fashioned method that I will highlite in another post. The rest of the fat I have been able to keep without sticking in the freezer because our temps have been so cold that I have simply kept it in our unheated garage. Otherwise, I would have packaged it in smaller parcels, labeled it and put it in the freezer so that I could work on it a little at a time. I take out just enough fat to fit into my large crockpot/slow cooker and slice it up in smaller pieces so that it will cook down more quickly. I actually turn my crock pot on as I start slicing up the fat and just fill it up with the pieces. I have been turning it on high but watching it carefully. As the fat begins to cook, I give it a stir every once in a while but other than that, just go on about my business and let the crock pot do all the work! I find that in about three or four hours the fat has cooked down and what is left are the cracklins floating on the top of the oil.
The next step is to very carefully pour the oil and cracklings through a metal strainer. I line the metal strainer with a cloth that is the consistency of a flour sack. This catches all the little pieces of meat that might be floating in the lard and gives me a beautiful, clear oil.