Rendering Ham Fat
I have a lot of fat left over from a lightly cured supermarket ham that I've been eating around on, and rather than throwing it away like usual I'm wondering if it could be rendered and made good use of. How could one best render a big pile of ham fat, and will one wind up with a useful end product? Stovetop or oven? Temperature? Classic lard comes from uncured pork, so I'm not sure what will result from ham. Of course I'm also looking forward to the cracklings. How does one maximize those?
The stove top method is labor intensive because you DO have to worry about things like burning, etc. Mr. Obvious says use your oven! The heat is far easier to control and you don't have to hover over it to make sure it's rendering properly.
Also, you don't have to dry off your pieces of fat. I'm pretty sure that your pieces are small and mismatched, so the task would be tedious anyway. The fact is that oven or stove top, you're going to be heating this VERY slowly, so water won't cause any major steam pops/explosions, it will just evaporate.
Rendering works best when the solid pieces of fat are heating in liquified fat. So to start, use small bits and low heat. You can increase the temp a bit once you have a layer of melted fat to envelope any larger pieces that you add. Use a heavy, heat-retentive pan on the stovetop. You need to proceed slowly so that as much fat as possible is rendered so your cracklings don't have a fatty, unmelted core. You could also add some onions or other seasoning, as is done when making schmaltz.
stovetop rendering in cast iron skillet on medium heat -- or lower. i'd cut different sizes (for different purposes), but mostly around 1" x 1-1/2". (before you start, make sure you dry off any water moisture that may have condensed on the fat).
cracklin's are good hot from the skillet! (but you knew that!).
on top of grits (with butter, too -- i mean, why not go all out?),
with shrimp and garlic, stir-fried,
on collards or mustard greens.
in mayo on top of a good tomato.
in a whitebread sandwich, while they're still warm and a little greasy -- maybe with a fried egg.
in deviled eggs.
on a baked russet loaded with butter, sour cream, shredded cheddar!
<then, put the cardiologist on speed dial>
believe me, john b, i can almost taste those cracklin's now!