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Lard: How to render at home in a crockpot

Jun 1st, 2016 | Category: Cooking

by Corina Sahlin

The right kind of fat plays a very important role in your health. Saturated fats are beneficial to the body, because they insulate myelin in the brain, which helps with memory, mood stability and alertness, and they strengthen the immune system and help regulate hormones.

Cooled lard in a jar. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

Cooled lard in a jar. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

That’s why I love lard! Compared to olive oil, lard is a close second in the monounsaturated fat department. The main fat in lard (oleic acid) is a fatty acid associated with decreased risk of depression and heart disease, as well as anti-cancer benefits. Lard is packed with Vitamin D, something many people  have deficiency problems with here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest. Lard decreases LDLs, thus lowering “bad” cholesterol. Its smoke point is high, making it perfect for frying and baking super flaky pie crusts.

Definitely don’t buy lard in the store, because it is hydrogenated to keep it stable on an unrefrigerated shelf. Rendering your own lard is super easy. Get to know a butcher who carries heritage breeds for the best flavor, and someone who doesn’t use nasty chemicals to raise the pigs.

We raise happy, healthy pigs every year, raised on pasture, organic grain and vegetables, and whey from my cheesemaking. Since we want to use every part of the animal, lard is a popular staple for us.

Cubes of pig fat cooking down in crockpot. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

Cubes of pig fat cooking down in crockpot. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

 

How to render lard at home

One trick for rendering beautiful, snow white lard is to do it slowly in a crockpot. If you render lard on the stove top, it burns easier, which will make it taste bad and look brown. It helps to use frozen pig fat and let it partially thaw until it’s easy to cut into small pieces (one inch cubes).

Cut enough to fit your crockpot.  We have a large, 3-gallon crockpot and fill it with six pounds of fat, which takes eight hours to render and yields three quarts of lard.
Add a half cup of water to the bottom of the crockpot, which helps prevent the fat from burning in the first stage of heating and will all evaporate eventually, and then add all the cut-up fat.

Turn the crockpot on high for the first hour with the lid on, and watch the whole operation very closely, stirring frequently. You don’t want the lard to burn!

Just keep an eye on it, stir it every now and then, and turn your crockpot on low if it gets too hot. The timing really depends on the type of crockpot you have.

Straining the liquid with a colander. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

Straining the liquid with a colander. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

The fat pieces will slowly start to melt, and I will warn you: they won’t look particularly appetizing at this stage.

After a while, when there is enough liquid fat in the pot, strain it off into a bowl with a colander over it, and cheese cloth draped over the colander, so any small pieces of meat get caught in the cheese cloth. I spoon the liquid stuff into the colander with a ladle, then transfer the liquid into mason jars. A canning funnel prevents the fat from spilling. At first, the lard looks like amber, but when it cools, it turns white.

Keep repeating these steps: gently heat to melt the fat, stir, strain.

Towards the end, things will be cooked down pretty well. When all or most of the fat is gone, you can take the pieces of leftovers, called cracklings, and put them in a 375 degree oven for half an hour, stirring it half way through. This is delicious stuff that you can snack on, put on salads or green beens, or use it to teach your dog tricks.

You now have beautiful, hopefully snow-white lard to cook and bake with!

Store this lard in mason jars in the fridge, and use it liberally whenever you need to saute, fry, or bake.

Some people make soap with lard. But I really don’t want to waste my precious lard on soap!

Some chefs use lard for everything, including adding herbs like rosemary, marjoram or thyme and some garlic, chili flakes and lemon, then whipping it with butter and serving this on rolls.

Enjoying quiche made with lard during a warm night by the river. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

Enjoying quiche made with lard during a warm night by the river. PHOTO BY CORINA SAHLIN

Corina Sahlin homesteads in Marblemount with her family and offers online courses through her website. For more information, see www.marblemounthomestead.com.

Published in the June 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

 

Flaky pie crust

Ingredients 

1 cup flour

pinch of salt

4 tablespoons cold lard

6 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

Pulse flour, salt and cold lard in a food processor 10 times. Add about 6 Tablespoons of ice cold water or enough to make the dough come together in a ball when you pulse it some more. Don’t overwork the dough!  Put it in a ziplog bag in the freezer to chill for an hour, then bake a pie or quiche with it.

–Corina Sahlin

 

Cornmeal onion rings

Ingredients 

2 pounds yellow onions (sweet)

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Red pepper flakes or seasoned salt, optional

Lard for deep frying

 

Directions

Warm enough lard in a skillet or pan until melted, on low to medium, about 1-2 inch depth. Cut onions into thin slices (roughly half-inch) and separate into rings. Mix egg and buttermilk in bowl until blended. Combine flour, cornmeal, and pepper in a second bowl. Dip the onion rings in egg mixture and coat with flour mixture. Place the rings in the skillet (temperature should be roughly 350 degrees) and fry 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. (If not serving right away, keep them warm on a baking pan in the oven.)

–Grow Northwest

 

Easy tortilla chips

Ingredients 

6-inch corn tortillas

lard for frying

salt, optional

 

Directions

Melt lard in a skillet on medium, near its smoking point. Stack tortillas on top of one another, and cut into six pieces, evenly. Place several cut pieces in the oil, and fry until the color darkens, or they begin to look puffy. Flip the chips, and cook on the other side, about 20-30 more seconds. Remove, and cool on paper towels. Top with salt if desired.

–Grow Northwest

 

 

 

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