Monday, October 5, 2015

Rendered Useful: Adventures in Making Lard

As promised!  LARD!  Ugh, that isn’t even a fun word to say.  Not unlike BLOG, actually.  I really don’t like that word and my kids and I laugh every time we say it.  In fact, we’ve been trying to think of another name for it.  Blog is a mix of, what, basic log?  Back log?  So if I were Jean Luc I would call it a clog (captain’s log)?  I think I’d replace log with journal or even record.  Maybe combine with web?  Wernal?  Wecord? Hm…I’ll have to work on that a bit.

When Josh came out of our neighbor’s cooler with a packet of pig fat, my first thought was, “Gross, why?”  But he was all excited, “Look!  You can make lard!”  Okay, I was sure there were instructions out there in the interwebs somewhere, but I had never used lard before.  Even if I did figure out how to make it, I had no idea what to use it in!

So there it sat in our freezer for about a month and I didn’t want to see it go to waste, so I rummaged up some instructions from Faulk Farmstead to render lard in my crock pot.  Pretty simple, really.  You just cut the fat into smallish cubes (mine were a little bigger than dice size), discarding the large portions of muscle, ligaments, and blood vessels.  But don’t get too particular, the remnants just get used  for cracklins.  In the pot add a cup of water so it doesn’t burn before it melts, set it to medium and let it melt!

I feel like now would be a much better time to try this, at least if you are rendering indoors, because it was pushing 100 degrees the day I did this and the added heat (though not a lot) was noticeable unpleasant.  And though I didn’t notice a strong smell, it was detectable at close proximity.  I wish I would have done it outside!  It took the better part of a day, maybe 6 hours?  But I had my pot packed full, too!  As the lard melted set a strainer atop a mason jar and poured out the liquid until all the fat had liquefied. 

I saved the remnants for cracklins, later frying them up until they “crackle”.  This was the first time I had ever had cracklins, but they reminded me of bacon bits.  We had them with our scrambled eggs in the morning, but the Food and Wine page cooks it into a tasty-sounding pasta, though I have yet to try it, and I’ve seen many recipes out there for crackling chicken.  I’m really curious what else you have used them for? 

Anyway, after the mason jar was full, I just sealed, labeled and allowed it to cool.  I try not to do a ton of baking, so I kept it in the fridge, though I know many will just keep it in the cupboard.  The very next day, the little ones wanted us to make cookies together, quite specifically, snickerdoodles!  I realized the recipe I had called for shortening and that this would be a perfect time to substitute the lard.  They turned out amazing!  Slightly crisp on the very outside, but soft and almost chewy. 

The more I read about lard the more I find it’s ideal for baking, especially pie crusts.  I can’t wait to try my own!  And someone mentioned making soap with it, also.  So many possibilities!

I don’t know about you, but for so long we were told that lard is so unhealthy, but now we’re learning that isn’t so true.  Happy meets Healthy has a great article about the benefits of eating lard.  The most notable in my mind was that it has super high vitamin D content (which doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of foods).  This is great news for my Alaskan friends!  Our pediatrician in Fairbanks told us that even in the summer we didn’t get vitamin D because of the extreme angle of the sunbeams.  So all year we had to supplement to avoid the deficiency we all had. 

Well, I’ll sign off with that little tid bit and hope you have some new ideas that you’ll experiment with as well! 

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