Just rendered my own lard ... now a few questions.
I finally got around to rendering my own lard, and actually made the most glorious peach pie last night, but I digress.
Being a novice, I have a few questions:
1. Stovetop or oven? I used the stovetop method to render the lard. I know some people are devotees of using the oven. To those who have used both, which is better? More importantly, are there significant differences?
2. Dry versus wet? Do you add water? Again, what's the difference between the two methods?
3. Pork v.___? I obviously used pork fat, but has anyone rendered lamb or duck fat? I know I can render beef fat to make beef tallow, which I might just do to whip up some mince meat pie, but what about lamb or duck?
4. Lastly, any good or inventive suggestions for using the leftover cracklings? I think I'm going to add some to my next batch of cornbread (just picked up some late season corn ...)
I did this for the first time last year and it was so easy.
I used the oven. Stuck the lard in a pyrex dish, low oven and let it go overnight. Woke up to lard. Totally easy.
I added no water.
I used pork. Since I was making sweet dough, I used Leaf Lard. I guess Leaf Lard has a less porky flavor.
Like you, made the best peach pie ever. I even won a pie bake off with a lard/butter crust.
Congratulations! I really love that warm, toasty, porky smell from home-rendered lard. Not something that I would like to have to clean up every day, mind you but it is fun. Before I offer my two cents, I commend the choice of peach pie. I can only imagine how good that must have been.
1. I am an oven guy. I chuck it all in either hand-chopped or ground and set it in a low oven (250?) for several hours, up to overnight. I haven't had any burned bits and I'm sure this could be considered risky but it has worked well for me to date.
2. I add a little water. It makes the process smoother on the stovetop as the boiling water provides a gentler heat by which to start rendering the fat. If it wasn't there, the connective and adipose tissues could burn. I don't know whether water is 100% necessary in the oven but it certainly doesn't do any harm.
2. Pork for lard. Rendered fats like duck and goose are an excellent medium for making confit, frying eggs and for innumerable other meat and veg based dishes. I have very little "food" in my fridge but you can almost always find a tub of lard and a tub of goose or duck fat in the freezer.
Do not render beef tallow for mince meat pie; the iced tallow in its unrendered state should be "shredded" (ground in a meat grinder or grated) and then incorporated with the rest of the filling. If you render it, it will be unworkable except to make french fries, for which, I understand it is excellent.
Lamb fat is awfully strong smelling stuff and, like beef has an unpleasant, waxy mouthfeel when cold. I can't think of many obvious uses for it off the top of my head. I suspect you would find it off-putting to render a whole pot. That said, drippings from a roast leg are very good for roasting potatoes, especially if complementing said lamb.
4. Cracklings are great on their own, salted. They are also great toppings for soups and salads (think bacon bits). They won't keep forever. The cornbread idea is a very good one but if you don't plan to use them right away, throw them in the freezer and reheat them in the oven to bring them back to life.
You must try duck fat. While lard is great for pastry, duck fat is absolute magic for everything else. Downside is that it can be somewhat costly. Ask around. I have gotten it for as cheap as $5 per quart. I don't think it is likely that you will be able to buy the skin and unrendered detritus, though unless you know of a processing plant. It is likely that you will more easily find the finished product.
I'll throw option #3 in here: crockpot. I've done it all 3 ways and that seems to be the easiest and least pungent. I never worried about it burning, because it was cooking at such a low temperature, and didn't add water. It does take quite a while, however... I think one batch took almost 24 hours to fully render. The next batch I did by processing the fat through my Kitchenaid meat grinder accessory first, and it renders a lot more quickly than the batch I did that was chunks.
I don't mind the smell much but if it's an issue for you and you've got an outdoor plug in a covered area, you could do it in a crockpot out there and not stink up the house.
When I've done it on the stove, I've added a bit of water (a half cup or so).
This reminds me, I've got some pork fat in the freezer just waiting to be rendered.