My grandfather had a hog farm when I was growing up, and my husband raised a few pigs every year when he was growing up, so hogs are part of our history (and legacy?). Luckily, pork is one of my favorite meats. My brother-in-law raised some experimental pigs this past year, for home consumption. They were some kind of dwarf heirloom pig, and he cared for them well while they were at the farm. He was severely disappointed, however, when he got them back from the butcher to find that their body mass was mostly fat. The hams were grapefruit-sized, surrounded by 2 to 3 inches of fat, the sausages were inedible. The up-side to these pigs, for me, is that I have been rendering lard from them. I have been rendering the ground fat, as well as the fat I’ve cut from roasts. It is really easy and the lard is great to use for sautéing, browning meat, and making tortillas, tamales, pie crusts, and cookies.
Here’s what I do:
Put the fat in a heavy bottom pot. I cook 1 to 2 pounds at a time. The ground fat is easier to cook because it comes in smaller pieces and renders evenly. But, if you are cutting fat off a piece of meat, try to chop it to small pieces.
Add 1/2 cup of water, and turn heat on low. You can pretty much walk away from it for a while because it takes about an hour for the fat to melt down and the water to evaporate.
Check on it, though. When the fat has melted, and the cracklings (pieces of fat and meat that do not melt) have fallen to the bottom of the pot and are getting a little golden, it is ready to strain.
Turn the heat off, and pour everything through a cheesecloth covered strainer over a bowl or pot.
Then pour the liquid fat from that bowl/pot into a jar. It will look a little yellow, but if it is not overcooked, it will turn white when cooled.
Let it cool and store it in the refrigerator.
I overcooked my first batch and it is slightly brown with a smoke-y flavor, but is still good to use to make tortillas and tamales.
The other fun thing about making lard is having cracklings to eat. That is what is left in the cheesecloth after you’ve poured it through. Put them back in the pan and cook till they are well browned. Then, salt them and sprinkle on salads, casseroles, beans and rice, in your cornbread, or eat them out of your hand. The smaller the fat is cut or ground, the better they are. They also store well in the refrigerator.