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What do I need to know about rendering my own lard from pork fat?

I've got my hands on about 15 pounds of what I think is back fat, from my Meat CSA. I've found some info by Googling but if there are any tips, tricks, things to avoid, etc. please share!

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  1. I haven't done this in years, but if you have the time, I recommend a "test batch", to get the feel of it. Do cut it into small pieces. I rendered mine on top of the stove in a heavy pot, with a little water in the bottom. That water will cook away. I look forward to more replies here. Ah, to have a freezer full of fresh lard!

    1. It smells really bad!
      My mother has been rendering lard from home grown hogs forever.....I can't stand to be in the house when she is doing it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Jen_in_NJ

        Oh yes - it smells! I second Pat, too, try a little (1 - 2#) batch first. It helps to have a deeper pan than a skillet: all that grease popping out all over everything is depressing to clean up.

        One of my favorite things for straining fat -or anything- is a wort bag from a home brew place. It's a sewn bag of fine mesh nylon; roomy and washes beautifully. I got mine on rt. 97 in Haverhill for ~$5 several years ago.

        This brings back the Vermont farm days, when if I didn't make it, we didn't have it, and crisco and powdered sugar (thank goodness for my cooking skills) were unobtainable luxuries!

        1. re: Jen_in_NJ

          I must have blocked the memory of the smell. I wonder if rendering on the stove top with the vent. fan going, would help.

          1. re: Jen_in_NJ

            My husband did our last batch in a pan on the grill outside. I definitely recommend that! It does smell.

            1. re: mirage

              That's inspired! You could do a lot more in a big pan on the grill. There's still time to cook out, before the snow flies. I hope!

            2. re: Jen_in_NJ

              My husband always tells me how bad the lard smelled when his grandmother cooked it, and I thought he was exaggerating (his sense of smell is way too acute). So now I know it's not just him.

            3. Check out this site it's for rendering fat to make soap but it's the same process
              http://www.mullerslanefarm.com/render...

              1. Well, here's what I do; corrections from aficionados are more than welcome. I usually do it in 3 lb batches from the S&S in Malden Center, btw. This also works for rendering beef suet into tallow for making tallow pie crust (used for mincemeat pies, eg).

                1. Cut the fat up coarsely. Remove any large chunks of meat. Remove more of the little bits of meat if you want less of a porky flavor (I don't care about that).

                2. Put it in a heavy pot with a quarter cup of water, and cover; steam over medium heat.

                3. Remove cover and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and let 'it go for 2-3 hours, stirring occassionally. The foaming (water burning off) will be coarse and slowly go do medium and eventually fine.

                4. When it gets to very fine foaming (like the final foaming of butter in a saute pan), you strain out the solids (the cracklings) and let the rendered lard cool. Save the cracklings and season them according to Cook's pleasure; they are Cook's reward, to be doled out like topazes....

                5. When it's cool but still pourable, pour it into a large container with a tight cover. Add a half cup or so of water and emulsify by shaking (covered) vigorously.

                6. Refrigerate several hours until firm.

                7. When firm, remove the lard gently (it is still malleable) and pour off the water.

                8. Trim off the bottom layer of the lard that had non-fat solids attached to it.

                9. Remelt the purified lard enough to pour it into the container you want to keep it in. Freeze (or if using within a month, refrigerate).

                1. I did this for the first time recently and followed the instructions in Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico.

                  She starts with 2 pounds of pork fat and puts it through a meat grinder. She then pours over the ground fat 1 cup of cold water and sets it aside for 6 hours. The fat and the water go into a 350-degree oven, top shelf, and cooks until the fat starts to render--about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 225 and cook for another 2 to 2-1/2 hours, pouring off the drippings from time to time and straining it into sterilized (I just ran them through the dishwasher) jars. I don't quite understand why, but she says to set the jars aside for about 36 hours before sealing, so I did.

                  She says she prefers to render lard in the oven because the steady, indirect heat is more reliable and the lard is less likely to start to color.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JoanN

                    Somewhere I read directions for oven-rendering lard that recommended a higher temperature for lard to be used for cooking Mexican style, and a lower temp for pastry, etc. Of course I can't remember where I read it or what the temps were (though 350 sounds right for the former use). Ring a bell with anyone? I have a chunk of pig fat in the freezer, waiting... (must be the season).

                  2. I remove any skin or meat, cut into 1-2 inch chunks, then throw it in a large, 2 gallon heavy stockpot, without water, and put it over medium-low heat until I get a little bit of melt in the bottom - during this phase I watch it carefully. Then I turn it down to low, cover it, and let it go for a couple of hours, checking it occasionally. Heat wise, my goal is that I don't want to see major bubbling. A little overturn maybe, but definitely no spatters.

                    Once it's rendered to my liking, I strain it in a ceramic melita-like cone coffee filter setup (using the normal melita filter), cool, then freeze it in reasonable amounts.

                    I did render at higher temps once, and indeed that yielded a much darker product. I cannot be sure of flavor differences, though. I do notice a significant flavor difference between lard rendered from fat back and that rendered from leaf lard. I use leaf lard for sweets/pastries as it is rather mild, while the fatback is outstanding for savory dishes.

                    And indeed, it does leave an odor that lasts a couple of days. It does not bother me too much, but I can see it being offensive to some. Lower heat seems to equal less odor, fwiw.

                    1. Try using a slow cooker on medium to low heat. We do ours overnight and place under kitchen range hood. Very little smell.