by Cat, July 2010 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons
See also: Good fats for cooking; Ghee (Clarified Butter); Essential Fats Acids: A Case of Balance
While this article is about lard (from hogs), the same method can be used for the suet/tallow from other animals as well.
I’ve never before rendered lard, but I’ve rendered goose and duck fat, so I imagine the process is similar. My friend Shelli and I decided to try rendering lard from local hogs (at Farm To Market Pork in Kalispell), using the crock pot method, as a photo-essay for my sustainability group, Essential Stuff Project. See that photo-essay at Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process, and also related article: Rendering Lard: The Perfect (& Original) Shortening.
Lard has gotten a bad rap over the last 30 – 40 years, as all fats, and especially animal fats, have been demonized. But in earlier times, lard was a prized fat for baking pastries, pie crusts, frying and sauteeing, and deep-frying. Indeed, it was the original “shortening,” before the trans-fat laden Crisco and similar shortenings took over the market. Lard can be used in all the same ways that you would use butter, including as a spread on toast.
Today, commercial lard is hydrogenated to give it a long shelf life without refrigeration, but the hydrogenation process is a high-heat, high pressure process that kills the life in the fat, and potentially results in some trans fats, so should be avoided.
I do not recommend using lard from commercially-raised hogs (from the grocery store). Instead, insist on lard from hogs raised by a local farmer you trust, for a better fat profile.
See also: Good Fats For Cooking
General Instructions for Rendering Lard, etc. in a Crockpot
(Photos, this section by Cat and Shelli)
After collecting instructional websites (see below), I decided to try the crock pot method with my friend Shelli, as a photo-tutorial for our local sustainability group (Essential Stuff Project). We liked the crock pot method because it felt safer than stove-top rendering, and wouldn’t heat up the kitchen in summer like oven-rendering. See below for the highlights.
See also The EssentiaList: Rendering Lard in a Crock Pot (pdf file) for complete detail with photos. See also my post: Rendering Lard: The Perfect (& Original) Shortening.
Collect all your equipment before starting:
- cooking thermometer that will read at least 260° F
- slotted spoon
- colander or large strainer
- good quality cheesecloth
- large glass or stainless steel bowl with pour-spout (do not use plastic)
- bread pans or other molds, or glass canning jars with lids
- parchment paper (not needed if using jars)
- freezer paper & tape (not needed if using jars)
- oven mitt
- We started with two 5-pound blocks of pork fat divided among 3 crockpots, and ended up with a little more than 4 pounds of rendered lard. We chose not to do the wet-rendering method (adding water to the pot) because it makes quite a stink.
- Melt the fat at low temperature setting, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching, but remember that every time you remove the lid, you cool off the crock, so don’t overdo.
- When the mixture reaches 200°F, the fat will begin to bubble and the cracklings will begin to fry. You want it to reach 260° F (to ensure all moisture in the fat has boiled off), but most crockpots will not achieve this on low, so when it starts to bubble, increase the heat to high and give it a good stir. It takes a minimum of 9 hours to reach this temperature.
- When it reaches 260°F, remove from heat and strain the fat. Line your colander/strainer with good quality cheesecloth and carefully pour the fat & cracklings into the strainer. Let it sit for a while to allow all the fat to drip through.
- Pour the fat into jars or parchment-lined molds, and let it cool. Note that the hot fat is amber in color, but it turns creamy-white upon cooling.
- Prepare for storage.
- If you want to store your lard in jars, it’s best to pour it directly into jars while the lard is still hot, and screw on the lids. As the hot fat cools, the lids will seal, the same as with canning.
- If you want to freeze it, it is best to pour into molds, then transfer to the refrigerator to harden (room temperature lard is soft and not so easy to wrap). Then wrap in freezer paper, and label with the date.
- You can save the cracklings, if you like them, or compost them. Many pets love them….
Other instructional websites:
- The Nourishing Gourmet: Rendering Lard (1) has a great introduction about the goodness of lard, as well as good photos. Read the comments, too, for great ideas and discussion of rendering fat from other animals (bear, goose, duck, etc.).
- Lehman’s: Rendering Lard: A First Timer’s Guide (2) also has good photos, and good comments.
- Health Bratt Blog: Livin’ High on the Hog; How I rendered my own lard (pdf (3)), with photos and instructions for rendering in crockpot or oven.
Clarify lard for reuse
Reused lard is fairly damaged by oxidation, especially if it has been used for hot-temperature frying, so is not very healthful to consume. If the initial lard has not been used for frying, the clarified lard can be used again for frying but is not very good for baking (pie crusts, pastries, etc.). When I was a kid, we saved our used lard and bacon fat for a local woman who would clarify it, then use if to make soap for the washing machine.
In researching the crockpot method for rendering lard, I came across this great site that provides many good links on rendering lard and also for clarifying lard for reuse: Well Tell Me: Rendering Lard Info and Questions (4). The best of these are (the last two detail a method using a potato):
- Grandpappy Info: How to Render Animal Fat, or Clarify Used Animal Fat (5);
- E-How: How to Clarify Fat (6);
- Bartelby: Cookery ((7); scroll down to How to Clarify).
- Health Bratt Blog: Livin’ High on the Hog; How I rendered my own lard (pdf file)