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