Experiment #642 – Rendering Pork Lard (How Not To)

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.

rendering-pork-lard

liquid-lard

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.

pork-cracklings

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.

lard-fire

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.

rendered-pork-lard

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.

11 Responses to Experiment #642 – Rendering Pork Lard (How Not To)

  1. I’ve never strained the lard I’ve rendered, nor do the recipes I’ve read. It doesn’t seem to make any difference if there is a little bit of cracklin left in it. And by the picture of your cracklins they taste poor because they are way too big! They need to be cut into 1 inch by 1/4 inch strips and fried until all the grease is gone and they are dry and crispy. They shouldn’t be greasy at all! If you don’t like eating them straight then you can put them in the freezer. I take out one or two 1 inch pieces before I saute or stir fry, I place them in the pan with no oil, they always have more, and they act like a pat of butter. Then when the veg is done cooking I break the cracklin into little pieces which add a nice flavor and crunch to the dish.

  2. I was thinking to strain it since I want this primarily for sweet pie crusts and little bits of pork cracklings in my apple pie just didn’t sound too appetizing. I suspect I’m just not a crackling fan since I never liked the pork rinds from the store either. Your cracklings with cooked veggies does sound good though – and a great use of the whole animal!

  3. I have to agree on the icky-ness of the cracklings. When I render lard I cut the fat in little pieces and they end up very crispy. But can’t stand the taste.

    I have found that I don’t like lard pie crusts either, but there’ s nothing better than using the lard to fry chicken, french fries and chicken fried steak.

    I render my lard in a very slow oven overnight. I put the pieces of leaf lard on a rack in a roasting pan, and when I wake up, voila! A pan-full of lard. And a stinky house.

  4. Hi Shawndra, Maybe I won’t like lard pie crust either. I’m currently experimenting with my burnt lard and will shortly have an entry called “how not to make a pie crust”.

    I’ve heard of that no fuss method but was hoping to skip the stinky house piece since my dh is still not quite enthusiastic for all my meat fat experiments this year.

    I do finally have a great jerk recipe too that I will hopefully get to posting this week. Lots of cooking to do to showcase that lovely turkey you grew for me – thanks again for feeding us!!!

  5. Pingback: Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey

  6. I put chunks of leaf lard in the food processor, turning it into a paste, then do the rendering in a 250 degree oven. The lard paste renders much more quickly than larger pieces (mine was done in about 2 hours), and makes for pre-crumbled cracklings (which I don’t like either). There’s some meat fat smell, but it’s not too strong.

  7. That’s a great tip! I never would have thought to put it in there but it makes so much sense. Thanks!

    I think a lot of folks use the crock pot instead of the oven but I don’t have one of those.

  8. I’ve found it works best if you ask the butcher to grind the lard — or to cut it up in small (as possible) pieces. Fat boils at 250 I believe so to be safe I heat it on top of the stove and keep it from coming to a boil. When cut in small pieces the cracklins brown nicely. I drain them like I do bacon (they have a bacon flavor when browned) on paper towels. Then keep in a jar in the frig. They are great sprinkled on eggs and veggies and impart a bacon like flavor in my experience. I let the rendered fat cool enough to put in glass containers and store in the frig. The fat from our pig (about 5#) lasted through the year. I use it for high heat cooking.

  9. OH MY…what a laugh I got from your lard rendering experience. I come from a family that used to butcher hogs and rendered lard OUTSIDE over a fire in the yard every year, and I got soundly reprimanded the first time I tried rendering my freshly killed hog fat inside! (my grandmother thought I was CRAZY) Never again did I try that for it smelled the house up for sometime, my drapes seemed to hold that smell forever.

    Now 30+ years later I do occasionally render a little amount of lard (inside due to my location) with some trim from a roast…but I do it the same way I render chicken fat and that is to boil it in water…then boil the water/broth off till all that remains is purified lard or fat. Doing it this way in a small batch seems safer and less smelly if your going to do it inside. Try this with your chicken fat and/skin. I keep my lard in the fridge and my chicken fat in the freezer! (Green Beans with a tiny amount of chicken fat is sure to get those kiddies to eat those beans!)

  10. Pork lard is too soft for pie crusts. You need a hard beef lard otherwise the crust will be leathery and not flaky.

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