Ever since reading the Homesick Texan’s entry on rendering pork lard I’ve been wanting to try it. I don’t make pies frequently and don’t have a favorite butcher so I let that stew.
This fall, however, we had a pig butchered and I requested the give me the leaf lard – otherwise they just throw it out. It’s been in my fridge for a few weeks now and pressed for pie crust, I finally got around to rendering it.
To render it you simply put it in a pan on low and as the fat renders out (literally melts) you suck it up with a turkey baster and put it into a new container.
When you are done you are left with something crispy that believe me tastes NOTHING like pork rinds despite what you are told. If you are going to try it be close to sink or other vessel where you can immediately spit it out.
I rendered my lard and then made dinner. While we ate the lard in the bowl started to solidify a little. Realizing that I still needed to strain it I grabbed a sieve and piece of cheese cloth. The lard dripped lazily through the cheesecloth for a moment and then stopped. I grabbed the pot it was dripping into, complete with sieve and lard in cheesecloth and put it on a burner, setting to low thinking to barely warm it and get things flowing again. What I couldn’t see is that the cheesecloth at the far side of the pan was drooping and quickly ignited from the gas flame of the burner.
Now a grease fire is not my favorite thing to do on a Saturday night by any stretch so I quickly alerted my husband who was closer to the door, passed the pan over the heads of the children underfoot and he whisked it outside. The clever guy that he is (and well versed in dousing grease fires that occur regularly on our grill) he requested a box of baking soda even though I was reaching for the fire extinguisher.
The soda immediately put out the fire without the huge mess and expense of replacing the extinguisher.
So I was left with the lost time and mess of rendering lard but no lard for my efforts.
Once I got the kitchen mess down to manageable size I went outside in the rain to retrieve the pot and clean it out. My husband had covered it and I saw when I brought it back in the lard had solidified into a beautiful snowy white blob. I did what any self-respecting lard renderer who almost burnt the house down would do – I scraped the layer of baking soda off the top and scooped it into my container.
It smells and tastes vaguely of fire but I’m test driving it out in a pie crust anyway. If it’s bad I can always spit it out, right? But in the meantime I’m going to find out if leaf lard is the answer to the flakiest pie crust quest, or if it’s just hogwash.