I posted previously the easy method of making lard. As promised, I wanted to dedicate a post to making lard the old fashioned way. I am indebted to my awesome husband for taking two days out of his schedule to make the lard rendering day a reality. He worked hard the day before to prep things, including getting the kettles and other items out of storage where they had been for years and hauling them out to the hunting cabin. In addition, I am filled with gratitude for my in-laws. Their willingness to not only give instruction, but to also jump in and work as hard (if not harder) than the rest of us left me once again realizing how blessed I am not only to have such a wonderful husband, but also to be a part of this wonderful family. I am deeply grateful.
The day was windy and cold, but we made it a fun day by taking a "picnic" lunch of homemade potato soup, crackers, corn bread, homemade blue berry pie and cookies. We had hot tea and coffee and a roaring fire both outdoors and inside the cabin.
The first thing one needs to make lard the old fashioned way is fat from happy pigs! (Happy pigs are pigs that have been raised humanely and allowed to be pigs!) We received the fat back from our butcher in long strip that he had tossed into a couple Rubbermaid type tubs that we had provided for him. We took that fat and sliced it into smaller pieces.
Mike's dad had gone over early and had a nice fire going. So, the next step was to take the pieces of fat and dump them into the kettle. (Don't call it a pot! I called it a pot and my father-in-law will never let me live it down! ;-) Rather than just dump all the fat in at once, we took a few pieces and allowed them to start sizzling, cooking and melting in the pot. This created just enough grease in the bottom of the kettle as to keep the fat from sticking. After the kettle was coated, two men lifted the tub of sliced fat and dumped it into the hot kettle.
(Note: Notice the long handled paddle that Mike's cousin, Dennis is holding. This was made about 70 years ago by a friend of the family specifically for stirring lard as it was being rendered. It is made of walnut.)
The next step is to simply stir and stir and stir.
We all took turns stirring the lard. We had to keep the fire going while not letting it get too hot. We stirred and stirred and stirred some more until finally the cracklins started floating to the top. (Cracklins are the little pieces of rind and meat that float to the top and are leftover after you make the lard.)
One must be careful not to overcook the lard. We were on the verge of overcooking but I tested the lard last night when I fried potatoes and it is fine. There is a fine line between "done" and "overdone", so you have to be really careful! My dad says when the cracklins start to float, then you know the lard is done!
At this point, it is time to remove the lard from the fire as you don't want it to continue to cook. Notice the hooks that the guys are using to move this big kettle. It was a lot of fun for me to see the stands, kettles, hooks, paddles, and lard press and imagine them being used over and over again in years past as my husband's family processed lard.
The next step is to run the lard and cracklins through the lard press. We lined the lard press with cotton flour cloth, poured the grease and cracklins through it, clamped it down tight and squeezed the grease out of the cracklins.
We bought the lard tins at a local farmer's cooperative. In the above photos, the tin is setting in a pan of cold water to help bring the heat down on the lard.
After we had filled two five gallon tins with lard, we moved them inside the cabin and let them set, settle, and cool down for 24 hours. My father-in-law says you don't want to disturb the lard until it has set up.
For long term storage, we will simply keep the tins of lard in a cool place.
When lard rendering was completed, we simply wiped out the kettle knowing that the grease was good seasoning to preserve the kettle, and turned it over to keep rain out and left it to cool. The next day all the equipment was gathered and stored again until the next time we have a lard rendering party.