Back in my grandmother’s day, lard was the king of the kitchen. Most women kept a can of lard on the kitchen counter since it was used so frequently. Lard created a flakiness that butter or other shortening couldn’t when it came to pie crusts. It seasoned cast iron (another work horse of the kitchen), and was a favorite fat for frying (pan frying or deep-frying). Oh… what vegetable in that era didn’t have some lard at the bottom of the roasting dish?
Over the decades, it became villainized in favor of modern cooking oils. More and more cooks turned to corn, vegetable, as well as soybean oils. Fortunately, the tide is turning and lard is once again making an appearance in the home cook’s kitchen.
If you are looking for lard, it can be found in some grocery stores in the same aisle as cooking oils or even in the baking aisle. But if you are more adventurous, you can get pork fat from your local butcher… or better yet, from a farmer/rancher that sells meat shares and render the fat into lard yourself.
But you don’t have to go hog-wild and get all the fat from a single pig. Chances are, you won’t have the space to store (freezer is best prior to rendering) it. You can do small batch rendering which is perfect for the urban homesteader and/or modern cook that typically has limited space. To give you an idea of what is small batch, I used two and a half pounds of pork fat which resulted in one quart of lovely lard.
Prior to the rendering process, I freeze the fat. Once I am ready, I remove it from the freezer and let it set at room temperature for approximately one hour. Why, you ask? Well, it makes cutting the fat much easier.
How to Render Lard in a Small Batch
- Using a sharp knife, cut the fat into 1″ pieces (the fat renders more uniformly compared to placing large hunks of it into a pan)
- Place into a heavy-bottomed pan (such as cast iron) that is placed over medium heat
- Stir the fat slowly
- After a few minutes, the fat will begin to render as a clear liquid is released (this is the lard!)
- Continue to stir and render out the fat
- After about 20 minutes, the pieces of fat will become golden in color and crisp in texture
- At this point, the rendering is complete
- Remove the crisp pieces (which are called cracklins)
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a heat-proof container
- Pour the contents of the pan into the cheesecloth
- The liquid lard will be strained through the cheesecloth leaving the cracklins behind (cracklins can be eaten, but if you are not a fan, they make great dog treats as well as nice treats for chickens)
- After the liquid lard has cooled slightly, pour into a container, such as a glass jar; NOTE: sterilize the jar before use, but the jar (or jars depending on the quantity of pork fat used) should be warm as pouring hot liquid into a cold glass jar could result in the jar shattering
As the lard cools, it will solidify. You will notice that it will turn from a clear liquid into a white solid that is scoopable at room temperature.
Now that you are in possession of home rendered lard, you have options for storage.
- Freezer (may wish to use a container other than glass)
- You may also pressure can the lard for long-term storage
Lard is shelf stable as long as there are no remaining pieces of pork fat (cracklins) left in the lard, but proper straining should take care of that issue. Straining will also help ensure a white color as sediment should be captured by the cheesecloth.
Folks, you have now successfully rendered lard! Pat yourself on the back for learning this homesteading skill. So go ahead and use it for baking, roasting, frying, and cooking. But don’t worry about it lending a porky flavor to what you make. At best, it lends a slightly fatty flavor to your creations. Trust me, lard deserves a place in your kitchen.
And snowy white lard or tallow (tallow is rendered from beef fat) makes wonderful soap! It is interesting to see all the studies coming out that frying foods in lard or tallow – especially if the animal was grass fed and finished – is actually healthier than most oils at the store today! In fact, the ratio of grass fed lard regarding omega 3 and omega 6 is so much more in balance than just about any other oil available! There was an article in Mother Earth News Magazine about this in the last issue!
That is a great article! Yet another reason to love lard!
Sue Dreamwalker says
Thank you for this.. 🙂
You are welcome!
I love home rendered lard! This year I even got to render some bear fat for my soap!
Oh that is awesome! How did the soap turn out with the bear fat?
Wendy Cross-Finley says
Do you know how long, and what pressure you would can it at? Most meats are 90 minutes at 12 pounds, not sure what this would be though.
I have never canned lard so that lead me to doing some research. What I found according to various canning sites is that they do NOT recommend cannning lard.
I remember my Mom frying small salt pork pieces and us kids eating them folded up in pieces of bread. We loved it. So tasty. What I don’t know is if she used or what she used the rendered fat for. But she did have the best pie crust I’ve ever tasted! Now a question: You say here prior to rendering, you freeze the fat and later keep it at room temp for abt an hour. So after the hour is it still cold and firm and that’s when it’s easier to cut? Or after that one hour at room temp is is very soft and pliable again? Going to forward this website to my hen loving niece who would love to hav a little farm. Thanks for being here! 🕊
Yes, the fat is still cool and firm. NOTE: not frozen solid… you won’t be able to cut it if frozen. It should be slightly pliable.