Updated: Mar 31
Many of us have memories of our grandmothers cooking with lard, the great flavor it adds, the flaky pie crusts, tortillas and biscuits just to name a few. Leaf lard is the most prized for baking, with its pearly white color and little flavor. Our ancestors had been eating lard for generations. Lard started to get a bad reputation when Crisco hit the market. Why is that? Proctor & Gamble put major marketing and advertising dollars into a campaign to get people to switch to using their product (Crisco) instead of lard.
Lard is actually as healthy as olive oil. Studies have also shown that the fat from pasture raise pork is lower in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and higher in Iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A. It is also a healthy source of cholesterol and is heart healthy. Lard is heat stable, has a neutral flavor, and is easy on your pocket book making it economical. Pasture raising hogs is a sustainable practice that produces a healthy source of meat while improving the health of the environment and local lard leaves a low carbon footprint.
How Lard Comes Back From the Butcher
Lard comes packaged and frozen down, so what to do with it from here? You can simply let it thaw and add it to any lean meat that you are grinding like turkey, chicken or venison to add that little bit of needed fat or you can render it down.
How do You Render Lard?
Thaw the lard just till it softens, but is not completely thawed it makes it easier to cut it into small pieces, you can then send it through a grinder if you have one but it is not needed. The smaller the pieces that faster it will render, you will also have small bits of meat known as cracklings. Don't worry I will explain craklings as well.
Add the chopped lard to a crock pot with 1/2 cup of water to get things started, turn it on low and let it be. You will want to stir it occasionally, but for the most part low and slow. You can speed up the process by having it on higher heat just keep an eye on it and stir more often so that the cracklings do not stick to the sides and burn.
On the low/warm setting it can take up to 12 hours but once it is done this is what the finished product will look like in your crock pot. The lard and craklings have separated.
The next step is to strain the lard. Do not squeeze the strainer or cheese cloth. Squeezing the cracklings in the cheese cloth or strainer will result in a darker finished product.
I like to use a washable cloth jelly strainer and pour the lard right into a mason jar and set the craklings aside. As the mason jars fill you can cap them and turn them upside down to seal. Then leave them to cool. Once it cools you will have beautiful white lard. The lard is shelf stable for up to 6 months, with large batches we freeze the jars and take one out as we need.
Now let's talk about the craklings really quick, the best quickest way to explain them is absolutely delicious bacon bits. You can fry them till crispy and add them to anything that you would like, salads, baked potatoes, sweet and sour string beans, just for a few ideas.