I’ve been curious about rendering my own lard for several months. I’ve done some research here and there but hadn’t really committed to the idea. A friend who rendered her own shared some with me when we cooked a meal together recently and it was delicious! So when my local farmer said she had some ground pork fat for rendering for sale I decided to give it a try.
Maybe you’re wondering why would anyone want to make their own lard.
We’ve been told for years by conventional wisdom that lard is bad for us. And it’s available to purchase at the store. But grocery store lard is to homemade lard what margarine is to butter.
Grocery-store-lard is a highly processed hydrogenated fat. It likely comes from feedlot pigs and is as good for you as Crisco or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Yuck. I’m going to show you what REAL lard is… the lard your great-grandmother used to make… back before we had margarine, hydrogenated oils, and an epidemic of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
This was my first attempt at rendering my own lard and as you can see from the fabulous results – it was as easy as (paleo) pie!
Making Your Own Lard
You can use any leaf lard, back fat, or ground pork fat that you can get your hands on and it will be better than anything you can buy in the store. However for maximum health benefit, I recommend getting your pork fat from the best quality animal that you can afford. I get mine from Chisholm Family Farm. They raise pastured and soy-free pigs and the fat I get from them is already ground up which makes it easier to cut up. It’s well worth it to find a farmer near you so that you know exactly what you’re getting.
I followed the directions on the blog called A Little Bit Of Spain In Iowa. But I’ll post a quick version of what I did below.
What you’ll need:
- About 5 pounds of ground pork fat
- A slow cooker (crockpot)
- A ladle
- A colander
- A large bowl
- A piece of cheesecloth about the size of a dish towl
- A couple of clothespins or “chip clips”
- A couple of glass jars with lids (for storing your lard)
Start by cutting your pork fat into smallish chunks and place in the crockpot. (My dog, Falkor, was such a good helper during this process. He made sure I didn’t make a mess on the floor. What a guy!)
If it doesn’t all fit in the crockpot, smoosh it down a bit… it’s all going to melt down anyhow. Set the crockpot on low and come back in an hour or so.
The trick to getting the snowy white lard used in baking is to prevent the rendered fat from starting to burn, darken or get crispy. After the first hour keep a close eye on things.
While you wait, put a cheese cloth in a colander. You can use clothes pins or chip clips to clip the cloth to the colander. Place the colander over a large bowl to catch the rendered oil. This is how you will separate the cracklings (the soft ground meat-like leftovers) from the awesome lardy goodness.
Once the fat starts melting down and separating you can begin ladling it out and into the cheesecloth. The directions I used said that this should start happening within an hour or so. I guess the low setting on my crockpot is much lower than the recipe writer’s because it took about 3 or 4 hours for me to get enough melted fat to begin the ladling and then it was about 5 hours before it was completely done. So just know that YMMV (Your mileage may vary).
Make sure you are getting the melted fat out of the crockpot before it starts to burn and the cracklings get crispy. This will ensure that your lard will be nice and white and odorless when it hardens.
Your strained lard should be a light yellow lemonade-y color. Pour it into your jars for storage.
Return the cracklings to the crockpot until they are brown and crispy. More fat will have been rendered and you can once again drain it off through in the cheesecloth. Store the cracklings in an airtight container and use them to garnish soups and salads (delish!). Pour the remaining liquid fat into another jar for storage. This time the liquid will be slightly darker in color and will smell somewhat porky. This batch of lard is best for frying and sautéing where the added pork flavor will be welcome.
This whole process was so incredibly easy and took less than 30 minutes of actual hands-on time. It’s one of the most satisfying DIY kitchen projects I’ve taken on yet. I hope you’ll try it and be just as amazed and triumphant as I was!