Rendering Lard

Oh, I just heard half of my readers go “ewwwwww.”  Well, just wait till you see the pictures.

Seriously, though – if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know I’ve done quite a bit of research on both vegetable oils and animal fats, and have more or less eliminated the former (with a couple of exceptions) and embraced the latter in my diet.

I’d also like to take a moment and say that I love technology; I’m almost required to, since Beloved and I are in the technology business (our company develops software).  It also allows me to do many of the things I love – like blog, take pictures with a digital camera, use a food processor, kiss my Dyson vacuum every time I open the front hall closet.  But technology isn’t always our friend, and the ready availability of unhealthy industrial vegetable oils and the scarcity of quality animal fats (to say nothing of the USDA propaganda that the former is healthy and the latter will kill you before you can say “conjugated linoleic acid“) is ample proof of that.

That leaves those of us who choose to cook with and consume more (and quality) animal fats with the often problematic need to acquire these fats and then – minimally – process them.  We have done this by saving our pennies and sourcing grass-fed and pastured animals from local farmers and asking for the fat from them (along with the bones and many of the organ meats).

Rendering lard and tallow was something that many our great-grandmothers were quite familiar with, and while it can be time-consuming – its certainly not something that can be rushed – it is not difficult at all.  And while what I’m showing you here is lard, the process for tallow is not at all dissimilar.

So…ready?  The method I use and am presenting is for “dry” rendering, meaning the fat is not melted in water and then skimmed from the surface.

First, you need some lard, preferably from a pastured hog.  We had two, five pound bags in our freezer and rendered one.


See?  That doesn’t look so bad, does it.  You can’t just throw it in the pot like that, though, or it will take forever to render.  Cut or slice it into smaller pieces; this is easier to do if it’s frozen.

Prepping the lard

Yes, I have a jewel of a husband – he is not afraid to jump right in and help, and does a lot of this himself.

Once it’s all diced, throw it in a large, heavy pot; I used my 6 quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven because it conducts heat so evenly and helps prevent scorching or burning.

The diced lard in the pot

The lard is then melted over very low heat – I use the tiny “simmer” burner on my gas stove at it’s lowest setting.

Starting to melt!

Dry rendering requires that you pay close attention to the process, but is relatively quicker than a wet render, so remember to keep an eye on it and stir it frequently.

Almost rendered

Another benefit of cutting the fat into small pieces is that it helps separate the fat from the connective tissue, but some of it is going to remain trapped – it helps to “coax” it out.  We use our potato masher to frequently press down on the bits to squeeze as much out as we can.  We don’t want to waste any!

In fact, when it gets to this point, we’ll strain what has been rendered through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into another container, and return the connective tissue to the pot to squeeze out what we can.  You can fry these bits up in the remaining lard, if you like – it’s makes delicious pork “cracklings.”

Rendered lard

After we’ve coaxed all of the fat we can out of the connective tissue (which is most often just discarded), we strain it once more through the fine-meshed sieve lined with cheesecloth into clean Ball jars.  This five pounds made five pints of soft, white tallow.  One jar went into the refrigerator and the rest went into the freezer, where it will keep for a very long time…or so I’ve heard.  We go through it pretty quickly.

So, there you have it – just one of the many kooky things we do on the weekend.  Tomorrow, we’re rendering tallow – there will be sweet potato fries for dinner!

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Since I also originally intended this to be for You Capture, we’ll link up there, too.

22 thoughts on “Rendering Lard”

  1. Totally legit! I would love to get my hands on some pastures pork. I can buy fatback at the grocery store, but it is for sure factory raised. I also use a LOT of bacon lard myself. In fact, the pork chops last night were pan-fried in a combo of chicken/bacon fat.

    1. We save the fat from bacon each time we cook it, too – I have a large jar in the refrigerator for just that purpose. In fact, for lunch today I cooked some sweet Italian sausage (made from grass-fed beef!) in some of it, along with some onion and sliced peppers we froze last summer. It was tasty!

    1. Most of the fat we cook with comes from the animals we buy. Every now and then, we we run low and have none in the freezer left to render, we’ll go buy more from our butcher – that’s where the lard from these pictures came from.

  2. I have done this in a kind of half-ass way for years. It’s good to know the right way. I spent more time than I should have yesterday reading up on the paleo diet. It was interesting reading, and interesting in relation to the DVD’s Jerry and I have been watching from The Teaching Company on evolution. I am trying a modified version of this diet, especially since I have discovered that I am gluten intolerant. I see you allow sweet potatoes. What is your opinion of white potatoes?

    1. White potatoes will give me an insulin spike that is so severe I won’t eat them any longer. And while sweet potatoes are not strictly “paleo” they don’t give me that insulin spike, probably because of the fiber. Besides, their nutritional profile is much better than white potatoes – and I like them better, anyway. Because of their high carb content, though, we only eat them about once a week.

      We also consume dairy – mostly in the form of raw cheeses, and heavy cream for my coffee; The Young One drinks a lot of vat pasteurized, non-homogenized milk. But then again, dairy doesn’t bother us.

  3. It’s not hard if you don’t have to dice (or diece :P) the lard. I was a half pound away from a blister by time I got it cut up, but then again I confess to being a bit anal about nice small pieces. But look at those jars! That makes me hungry! Great pic too!

    1. Actually, the lard has no odor, and the tallow just smells like beef. It’s not like tripe, which can smell to high heaven when you cook it.

    1. Oh, you should give it a whirl – it’s certainly no more difficult or time-consuming than making stock!

    1. Stacy, after reading your comment I looked up “rendering lard” in my vintage copy of Joy of Cooking – and the directions were almost identical (if minimalist) to what I gave. It’s nice to know I’m right! LOL

  4. My grandmother used to make this all the time, you can not compare it to anything else, when used in baking all kind of treats 🙂 great post, love your photos!

  5. Oh, my gah…that there is love in a mason jar. Pie crust, cornbread, fried chicken, mmm, mmm…

    You know, while I was reading the post, I kept thinking of my G-maw. This is the kind of thing she grew up doing, and I know she made some good stuff with it.

    Excellent post, and thank you also for coaxing out some memories 🙂

  6. When I first came to the UK I found that there was “ice cream” and “dairy ice cream”. I inquired, tentatively, what the difference might be, because there was something worrying about the distinction…

    “Ice cream”, it seemed, could contain “non dairy” fat, which turned out to be lard.

    Now, I don’t care how delicious it may be in other contexts, I am here to tell you that lard ice cream is really, really gross.

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