Years ago, my husband went in for his yearly checkup with his doctor and was informed of his high cholesterol and need for statin drugs and a drastic new health regime of low fat and absolutely no animal fats. He declined the drugs, ignored the doctorly dietary advice and while it has taken me years to shake my fear of lard, I knew the limiting of saturated fats was not the answer. He no longer has high cholesterol, but that is certainly not because of limiting animal fats. Someday I will fill in these posts with links, articles, information, back up facts of back up facts, but for now, suffice it to say that in this day and age, ignorance is a choice and a google is a terrible thing to waste. For those who believe what they are told by the “authorities” no amount of truth about lard and saturated fats will permeate the cranium until you are ready. The best starting place is Weston A. Price and Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. For the rest of us, find the pork fat and get it rendered. Will any pork fat suffice? That is another research trail, but it is vital to eat animal fat from animals raised on grass, no hormones or GMO. Find a grass-fed farmer or raise your own. Here is how I do it.
There are two main types of pork fat you can render, leaf lard and back fat. This is leaf lard, the purest lard around the kidneys which is best suited for pastries, pies and desserts.
Many people instruct that you must grind the fat, or dice it into tiny cubes, but I don’t have the time for that and don’t think it is necessary. I just cut it up into chunks about two to three inches. Frozen pork fat is much easier to handle.
This is five pounds of leaf lard in a enamel canning pan placed inside of another one as a double boiler.
Most lard rendering instructions have you put the fat into a pan directly on the stove, in the oven or in a crock pot and add water so the fat does not burn. The fat gets dangerously hot and the water burns off in the process. I use much lower temperatures and a double boiler method with water in the bottom pot so the heat disperses evenly. I do not add water, and leave the temperature on simmer.
This is 5 pounds of back fat, smooth and white.
and this is five pounds of back fat and leaf lard, for a total of 15 pounds of fat to be rendered.
Turn heat to high until the water in the double boiler is boiling, then turn the heat down to simmer and let the fat melt out.
Stir occasionally and when you have an abundance of melted fat, ladle the liquid into a fine screen strainer over a pint mason jar and put the lid on tight. This is called a hot pack and in a few minutes you will hear a “pop” from the lid as it cools, creating an airtight seal. Continue filling jars as you have enough lard to fill a jar while it is hot to create a seal.
Keeping the temperature fairly low and continuing to take out the melted lard when you have enough to fill a jar is the way to insure you have snow white, odorless pure lard to use for baking and all recipes. High temperatures will cause the lard to turn darker and become a little “porky” tasting but it is still wonderful if that happens. The hot lard will will be a clear pale yellow liquid and when it cools it becomes snow white.
The entire process takes about 24 hours, give or take, depending on how much time you have to devote to it you could probably do it in less time. The cracklins need more heat to finally express all of the fat and crisp up.
Take out as much fat as you can and by this time it will not be as snow white, but is better for savory recipes or making eggs… Place the crackling in a roasting pan and place in the oven on 200 degrees until you can get most of the fat out. Raise the temperature to 250 to 300 until they are crispy, drain on paper towels and place in a large mason jar or other airtight container.
Fifteen pounds of pork fat rendered into 11 pint jars of pure white lard, one pint that was a bit darker in color, and the 13th jar was darker and more savory still. Since these all have an airtight seal the lard can be stored in a cool pantry, basement or root cellar for at least a year, longer in the refrigerator and almost indefinitely in the freezer.
This is a more recent post on how to render a small amount of lamb suet.
Beef tallow is rendered the same way and here is my post on tallow and making salve.
This is the easiest way I render a large amount of beef tallow and how to tell the difference between suet or leaf fat and body fat.