Author Archives: urbanoveralls

Small Batch Lard Rendering


homemade rendered lardBack 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.packaged pork fat

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. pork fat uniformly cut into pieces

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 fatcracklins in liquid lard
  • 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)cracklins
  • 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.rendered lard

Now that you are in possession of home rendered lard, you have options for storage.

Storage Options

  • Freezer (may wish to use a container other than glass)
  • Refrigerator
  • Pantry
  • 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.

Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers

jack o' lantern stuffed bell peppers

jack o’ lantern stuffed bell peppers

To parents, Halloween often means that candy becomes a major part of their children’s diet.  The amount is often dependent upon the amount of booty collected during trick or treating.  But besides candy, parents can offer up a festive treat at the dinner table, and all it takes is a little creative carving on a common vegetable… bell peppers.

orange bell peppers

orange bell peppers

Get ready folks for a kid-friendly meal, that comes with its own happy face.  Jack o’ lantern stuffed  bell peppers.  And to really tie in to the jack o’ lantern theme, use orange bell peppers for this dish.  Though you can use yellow or red peppers in a pinch.

Jack O’ Lantern Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 4 orange bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1  1/2 C. diced tomatoes or pasta sauce
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 C. Colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 C. Basmati rice, cooked
  • 1/2 C. water

Preheat oven to 375F.  As the oven heats, cut the top off of each bell pepper.  Select a nice-looking side of the peppers and carve out a jack o’ lantern face (eyes, nose, and mouth) on each.  But take care not to make the opening for the face too large.  The peppers need to be able to contain ‘stuffed’ filling.  Remove the seed and white membrane from the inside of the peppers as well as the base of the ‘top’ of the pepper.

carved jack o' lantern bell pepper

carved jack o’ lantern bell pepper

Place a large skillet on the stove set to medium heat.  Add the olive oil.  Once the oil begins to ripple on the surface, add the ground beef.  Saute until no longer pink.  Add in the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion is translucent.  Add the cumin, chili powder, and salt.  Stir to combine. Next, add the tomatoes and cook for an additional five minutes.

ground beef onion and diced tomatoes

ground beef onion and diced tomatoes

Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.  Finally, stir in the Basmati rice.

Stuff each bell pepper and top each with bell pepper ‘lid’.  (Added style points if the stem is still attached).

Pour water into a 9 x 13 pan.  (Add more water if need to completely cover the bottom of the pan).  Place each jack o’ lantern stuffed pepper into the pan.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the pepper is tender.

Now you are ready to enjoy these festive, Halloween-inspired jack o’ lantern stuffed bell peppers.  They are sure to be a hit with your little ones.

Homemade Green Pork Chile

green pork chile

green pork chile

Late summer ushers in a garden favorite… chilis!  Yes, as warm days wind to a close, these spicy peppers make an appearance at road-side stands, farmers’ markets,  CSAs, grocery stores, and even backyard gardens across the country.  You see, chilis are an important part of a southwestern fall classic; green pork chile.

Now just any chili won’t work in this luscious dish.  My personal favorite are hatch chilis.  But if you do not have access to them, Big Jim and Anaheim work well.  You could even toss in a few jalapenos or a poblanos into the pot, but just make sure they are roasted.

Green Pork Chile

  • 2 lbs. of smoked pork, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of Hatch chilis, roasted/deseeded/skins removed & chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 – 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3/4 C. tomatillo salsa
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water (optional)

In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the cumin, chilis, oregano, and salt.  Stir to combine.

roasted Hatch chilis

roasted Hatch chilis

Next, pour in the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes and the tomatillo salsa.  Cook until the potatoes are done (about 15 – 20 minutes).

Take a stick blender and blend part of the soup, leaving some vegetables in cubes or you can completely blend the mixture to your desired consistency.  (Personally, I like a thick chile).

Now add the pork, put a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low.  Allow the green chili to cook for another 45 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If mixture is a little too thick for your taste, add in some water to thin.

smoked pork butt

smoked pork butt

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.

Remove chile from heat and serve.

NOTE: this is great eaten as a soup.  You may also serve it over cooked rice, burritos, or thick-cut wedge fries.