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Cooking with Pork Fat

posted Feb 19, 2013, 7:59 AM by Sam Hunt   [ updated Feb 20, 2013, 4:26 PM ]
Mychal Breazile was our cut request winner! He asked how could pork fat be rendered. Thank you Mychal for the request!
 
 
In our society, we have forgotten the benefits that pastured lard provides. It is a good source of Vitamin D and of Monounsaturated fat - the fatty acid found in olive oil and avocado that is exalted for its benefits to cardiovascular health. In many countries, rendered pork fat is used as a spread ontop of bread. In Germany, lard is called Schweineschmalz (literally, "rendered fat from swine"). In Poland, lard is often served as a starter. It is mixed with fruit, usually chopped apple, and spread on thick slices of bread.
 
Despite its reputation, lard has less saturated fat (the bad kind), more unsaturated fat (the good kind), and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight. Unlike many margarines and vegetable shortenings, unhydrogenated lard contains no trans fat (hydrogenation is a chemical process whereby ordinary vegetable oils are chemically altered to make them so hard that they won't melt in your hand but consequently this causes the clogging of your arteries over time).
 
Where Can You Find Pork Fat?
C&L Lockers of course! Or in other small local butcher stores. One of the many benefits of purchasing pastured pork from a local family farmer or local butcher shop is that the meat from that animal will also be rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins D, E and A. Not only will its fat allow for the absorption those important nutrients and vitamins, but it’s flavor will be unlike any you have ever had. Many grocery stores carry lard as well but look for lard that is non-hydrogenated.
 

TYPES OF PORK FAT

Back Fat or Fatback – This is the fat that comes from the back of the animal along with its shoulder and rump. It’s literally the layer of fat directly below the skin. It’s usually sold in pieces and sometimes with the skin still attached. Rendered back fat is great for sauteing and frying.

Belly – The pork belly. Rich soft and firm fat layered with meat. In the United States we use it mostly to cure bacon.

Leaf Lard – Leaf lard is the fat from around the pig’s kidneys. This is the cleanest fat on the animal and is therefore the crème de la crème of pork fat. This is the fat that you want to make sure to render appropriately in order to have a pure white, odorless lard to use for your pastries. Leaf lard is used to make perfectly flaky pie crusts.

 

HOW TO RENDER PORK FAT


Rendering lard is pretty much just heating up the pork fat slowly so that it melts and separates itself from anything else within the fat.  If the fat is left too long the cracklings will start to burn causing your lard to turn a deep yellow and ends up having a piggie type of smell and taste to it instead of being odorless.  If you’re using the lard to fry, this isn’t a big deal.  However if you’re using it for pastries you don’t want a piggie flavor to your pie or cookie.

The spoon on the left is perfectly snow-white, it is the best for using to make pie crust or cookies. It is odorless and won't have a piggie taste.
The spoon to the right shows rendered lard where the cracklings started to burn. It will have a piggie-type smell and taste to it.
 
Materials You Will Need: A Crock Pot, a knife and cutting board to cut lard into smaller pieces, water, ladle, cheese cloth lined colander, and mason jars.
Time Required: Varies

Process:
lard

Step 1. Cut your leaf lard or back fat into small pieces. *Tip: You can also ask to have it ground and that will help speed up the process.

cut_lard

Step 2. Add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of a crock pot and add the cut up pork fat. (The water will prevent the fat from burning before the pork fat starts to melt. It will end up evaporating itself out) Set the crockpot on low and let it go for about an hour.

crock_pot

Step 3. In about an hour check the crock. It’s important to keep an eye on the crock to make sure the fat doesn’t start to burn. When the fat starts to melt, it will separate itself from the “cracklings,” (crisp residue left after lard has been rendered). At this point after about 1.5 – 2 hours once the cracklings start to settle on the bottom of the crock, it’s done!

clear_lard

Step 4. Ladle the melted fat into a cheese cloth lined colander separating the melted fat from the cracklings.

nehe_separating_lard

The cracklings should not be crispy, they should be soft and ground like.

cracklins_soft

From here, ladle the melted pork fat into pint sized mason jars. The fat should look a pale yellow in the mason jar. Let them cool on the counter. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

You can now return the cracklings to the crock pot and let them go until they have turned brown and crispy. You can use these for different foods or sprinkled on top of salads. They are delicious!

cracklins
One thing to remember on this entire process is that once the pork fat starts to melt, go ahead and start separating it right away, mix the remaining fat allowing more to fat to render out. There’s no magic number to how many hours it needs to render but really it’s going to take practice.


Due to the relatively large fat crystals found in lard, it is extremely effective as a shortening in baking. Pie crusts made with lard tend to be more flaky than those made with butter!

 

Here are two recipes to try!

 

LARD PIE CRUST

8 OR 9 INCH CRUST:

1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. lard
2 tbsp. water

9 INCH TWO CRUST:

2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. lard
1/4 c. water

Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in lard with pastry blender until small pea size particles are obtained. Sprinkle with water a little at a time. Mix with fork until flour is moist. Press into a ball and turn out onto a floured board. If making a two crust pie divide in half.

Roll out with rolling pin. Try not to use too much extra flour because it makes the crust tough. Roll out to desired size. Usually about 1 inch bigger around than the tin. Fold pastry in half and move up to pan. Unfold and put pastry into pan. Try not to stretch the pastry because this causes shrinking in baking. Sprinkle the top crust with a little sugar to evenly brown.

http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1937,148167-226200,00.html


NO FAIL PIE CRUST

Makes 4 pie crusts

Ingredients:

4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1-2/3 cups lard

½ cup water

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, mix together water, egg, and vinegar. Pour into lard mixture and stir until dough is thoroughly moistened and forms a ball. Divide into 4 portions and wrap tightly. Use dough within three days or freeze.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/no-fail-pie-crust-ii/

 





Rendering Fat information from http://www.spain-in-iowa.com/2011/02/how-render-lard-the-right-way-snow-white/
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