Did you know that LARD has more of the ‘good’ monounsaturated fats and less of the ‘bad’ saturated fats than BUTTER??? It’s true!
It seems that crop tops and high-waisted-everything aren’t the only trends to cycle back around… our nutrition has been circling as well and with new diets like Paleo and Keto- Lard is making a comeback too….
Lard is about 50% monounsaturated fat- with none of the bad trans fats. It has a higher smoke point for frying, less omega 6 fatty acids, and even has a dose of vitamin D. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely for diversity in the diet: coconut, olive or avocado oil and butter are my household go-to’s, but you would have to combine equal parts of both olive and coconut oils to get the same saturated/ monounsaturated balance of lard out of them. Each oil has it’s own benefits and downsides, not just in nutrition but in consistency and cooking quality too. There is a pretty neat chart below from Tendergrass Farms in VA that shows the content of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats per type:
Lard has a bit of a bad rap from the olden days, but lets face it they didn’t have many options back then so when you use the same product for preserving, frying, baking, greasing joints, well… too much of anything is bad for you! It’s important to note that this falls true with all of the above oils, so if you are trying to maintain a balanced diet your best bet is to keep portions of both the heart healthy and bad fats at a minimum.
Now, onto the process of rendering. I used the crockpot method, which was easiest for my constantly busy schedule:
Your first step is to obtain a few pounds of pork fat. Go to a local butcher and if you can ask for ‘leaf’ fat (the good stuff from a pig’s belly) that would be best, but any will do. Ours came from our own hogs this year, so we know exactly what our pigs ate and what helped them grow. If you have a chance to check out my post on raising pigs I highly recommend it to anyone who can! 🙂
Once you have the pork fat you will want to cut it into smaller pieces, to help it melt down more evenly and quicker. Try to trim as much of the meaty pieces off that you can, the meat will fry up into little “crispin’s” of deliciousness, however it does add a flavor/color to the end product that you do not want. If your end goal is to use the lard for pastries and pies you will definitely want it to be as pure as possible with no residual taste. Once I made my first pie crust with lard it was a game changer!
After all of your lard is cubed down into smaller pieces you can place it into a large crockpot and turn it on the lowest setting possible. (I used the 10 hour setting). Pouring a small bit of water to cover the bottom is a great way to keep the fat from burning before it melts if you have an older crockpot that gets hot quickly.
Rendering lard is a waiting game that you don’t want to rush, be sure to allow at least 24 hours to get all of it finished. Using this method you will want to stir the crockpot often to avoid any burning to the sides and maintain an even meltdown throughout the pieces. However, once the fat begins to melt down and there is enough to start scooping, go right ahead and begin pouring it out into your jars. The method I used here was very simple with things you probably already have on hand- a ladle, coffee filter, and a canning funnel. It’s as easy as pouring your melted fat into the filter and letting it chill for a few hours on the counter. So simple! Your first few pints will be the most pure, best for sweeter dishes. When it comes down to the bottom and filtering crispings, you may notice the solidified final product from the bottom of the barrel is slightly more yellow and has more of a fragrance to it. Don’t forget to save those crispy crunchy bits of goodness- the best part!
Out of a 5lb bag of fat I managed to render 5 1/2 pints of lard. It should keep just fine in a cold cellar or cool area, but I know some others like to freeze or refrigerate, then get it out to warm up a bit before using. I only keep the opened jar I have in the fridge, the others remain downstairs and have all been fine.
This is such a simple process and is one more thing you can have on hand for cooking. I am and will always be a butter loving gal at heart but after baking with lard it has certainly found a new spot in my cupboard.