Lard. Not a four letter word.

I have a confession to make.  I did something yesterday that I never imagined I would do, something I’ve only read about – that few people I know talk about doing. Something that is so renegade, so obscure, so taboo that my grandmother probably did it – and her mother too. I rendered lard.  There, I said it.  I took leaf lard (the fat in the body cavity, around the kidney area) from our heritage pasture/forest raised hogs and rendered it down into snowy white goodness.  Here’s the process:

First, I cut the fat into small pieces and piled it in the slow cooker.  This was approximately 4 pounds of fat:

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I turned it on high for about 2 hours, then down to low for about 4, keeping the lid askew to allow the moisture to evaporate.  After there was more liquid fat than solids left, I started spooning it out to make it easier for the rest to stay hot:

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Once I had all the liquid oil out of the pot, I strained it through coffee filters set into a colander:

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I poured the lard into individual jars, I got about 4 pints out of the batch, plus a little left over in the crock pot with the solids, know as cracklings or Chicaronnes.  Here’s how they looked after frying them up in a cast iron skillet:

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Wow.  Just wow.  Here’s my haul, and this is just from one half of one pig.  Liquid version before cooling:

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This morning, after chilling all night in the fridge.  Lucky jars. We’re going on day six or something of one gazillion degree heat with no A/C.  I wish I could sleep in the fridge.

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Of course, I wasted no time cooking with this amazing stuff, and whipped up fries and home grown zucchini this morning, both in the lard.  Hardly any oil soaked into the potatoes, I guess because the smoke point of lard is high and you can really fry them at a good temp.  Some scrambled eggs from our hens rounds out this amazing breakfast.  And some organic ketchup.  Delish!

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Now, I know everyone isn’t sold on lard as an “acceptable” fat and as a child of the 70’s who spent formative body image years in the non-fat craze of the 90’s, it is a little weird to partake in such an “off-limits” product.  There are plenty of articles online and in books from the real-food movement that will espouse the benefits of properly rendered lard from naturally raised hogs, so I don’t need to go into that here.  But common sense tells me, without a doubt, that if I can utilize fat from an animal for whom I cared for 6 months and fed no genetically modified feed to, no junk food to, and who lived in the sunshine, the mud, the grass and the leaves and who was happy and stress-free up until the the exact moment of slaughter (no transportation, no feed lot, no indoor confinement) – then that fat is far superior to any product available in a store.  While I will still use my olive oil, butter and coconut oil without hesitation, there is a supreme satisfaction in knowing exactly how this got into my pan.  It’s a primal, earthy, feel-good revelation that no spray can of Pam could ever touch.

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