Lessons Learned from Lard

So for many people Lard may be a rare item to find in your pantry.  However, if you purchase pork or portions of pork from a farmer you may have been offered the option to have fat be included in your purchase.  If you butcher your own hogs you are very aware that you receive a large portion of fat with all of the other cuts you ordered.

Over the past year or so we have humanely raised and butchered our first two guinea hogs.  After going through this process, we were presented with boxes and boxes of fat, and decided we needed to get some more information.  So here is what we have learned over the past year in reference to pigs, and yes, lard.

First, there are two different kinds of pigs you can raise and slaughter and those are bacon pigs, which produce more bacon cuts and less fat or you can have lard pigs, like American Guinea Hogs, and many other varieties which produce more lard.

Second, there are two kinds of lard.

Leaf lard and Cooking lard.  Leaf lard is very white in color and has no piggy flavor, while cooking lard has more of a piggy flavor and works as a good replacer to bacon fat.  The difference in taste is a result of different cuts of fat.  Leaf lard comes from around the kidneys and nearby organs, whereas cooking lard comes from the more external back fat.  Leaf lard essentially replaces all of the shortening in your baking and makes lovely pie crusts and biscuits.  However, in order to get to these end products first your lard must be rendered.

Third, rendering lard is a bit of a process.

We watched several YouTube videos about how to render lard, some cut it into chunks, others ground it up, some cooked it in roasters, crockpots, or even on the stove.  For our first attempt we tested out cutting our fat for cooking lard into chunks and putting it in the roaster on low.  This did okay but there were a few issues.  First we tried to render way too much lard at once.  Cutting is up took a long time and was difficult to do.  As far as amount we found that if you fill your crockpot you will be fine, but filling a roaster did not work out well for knowing when the lard was done, and not all of the fat broke down.  So as a result we overcooked the lard and while it will be fine for cooking lard we wanted to be better prepared for our leaf lard.

When we decided to try again with our leaf lard we opted for a crockpot.  We also used a KitchenAid mixer attachment for grinding meat, to grind the lard down so it would all melt and render, and we had an idea of a timeline.  It went much better, but once your lard starts rendering you need to keep an eye on it because it can move rather quickly and you don’t want to let it go too long because it will start to gain flavor and turn yellow.  So that went much better and then, we put it into regular size lid quart mason jars.

Four, always store your lard in the fridge in an airtight wide mouthed container you can reach into.

Regular size mouthed jars turned out not to be ideal because working with cold lard is like working with cold butter, it is hard and difficult to get out of a container.  So we ended up finding a canister at the thrift store on the cheap and cleaned it up to house our lard and save us some frustration.

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