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How To Render Lard

· Ancestral Food,Local Food,Real Food,Recipes,Blog
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My Real Food 101 series includes this new post: How To Render Lard

Have you jumped on the “Lard Love” bandwagon yet? Don’t fall for the “heart-healthy” industrial seed oil hype. Those crop oils are highly processed and were not part of the nourishing, nutrient-dense diets of our ancestors.

Yes, healthy fats from pastured animals are foundational in an ancestral diet. Lard that has been gently rendered from pastured pigs is especially favored due to its high Vitamin D content. Rendered lard is also heat stable and favored for cooking over high heat. (See this handy chart from Balanced Bites.)

Before you start rendering your own lard, I recommend that you get to know your local farmer and ask about his or her farming practices. Here are some factors that are important to me:

  • Are the pigs in fresh air, allowed to forage/root/roam freely (within a safe area, of course) rather than being kept in tightly confined pens or buildings?

  • What variety of pig? Heritage breeds such as Berkshire, Tamworth, Duroc, Gloucestershire, Ossabaw (as well as crosses and hybrids of these) are just some of the options in my area.

  • Are the pigs fed species-appropriate supplemental feed that is free of soy and GMOs? These specialized feeds cost much more and will raise the price of the pork but I think it’s worth it.

How To Render Lard

I always purchase lard directly from my local farmers and choose “leaf lard” when I am going to render it as a cooking fat. Leaf lard comes from the area near the pig’s kidneys and has a milder flavor than back fat. I purchase back fat to use in making sausage. Sausage recipe coming soon!

Beef tallow can also be rendered using these techniques. For best flavor, seek out suet from grass-fed cows. Tip: Ask the farmer for “suet or kidney fat for rendering into tallow.”

You can render lard over low heat on the stovetop or in a slow cooker but my favored method is in the oven.

I preheat the oven to 300 degrees and pull out my hard-working cast iron skillet.

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Dice the leaf lard into small pieces, about 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch, or less. Smaller pieces will help the process go more quickly. Set lard pieces in the skillet and place it in the preheated oven.

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Every 30 minutes, carefully stir the lard pieces to distribute evenly.

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The white fat will melt into a golden-colored liquid and solids will rise to the top. The process will take 1 to 2 hours, but this timeframe can vary greatly so watch it carefully! You do not want to overcook the lard as that will result in a burned or bitter flavor and aroma. Properly rendered lard from healthy pigs will be mild in taste and scent.

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Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to cool slightly before carefully ladling the liquid fat, using a metal strainer to catch any debris, into glass jars. You could also line the strainer with cheesecloth. Drain the “cracklins” (also known as lardons) and toss with salt for a savory snack!

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Allow to cool further. The lard will solidify and become a lovely opaque white color. Then seal tightly and store in your refrigerator for up to 3 months or in your freezer for 6 months.

I use rendered lard for roasting vegetables, sautéing meats, and in baked goods. By the way, you can also use this technique for rendering beef tallow.

Get back to basics with REAL FOOD and enjoy this wonderful traditional fat!

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