Pork Back Fat
GF grabbed the wrong item at the store, and now I have about two pounds of this stuff. Any suggestions? Can I make homemade lard, or does back fat not work? I know leaf lard is supposed to be the best. Any other ideas? Thanks in advance...
I render lard from back fat as well as leaf fat (the fat that encloses the kidneys). They both have their strengths. I really like back fat for a stronger porky flavor that is great in Mexian cooking, and also biscuits (best recipe below!) It's a bit tougher to work with, because you have to cut off the skin layer. What I do is cut it into 1-2 inch strips and then run the knife between the skin and the softer fat. I cut off any little bits of meat. When I don't do that, I get cracklings (yum!) but it seems to also lend a stronger porky flavor. Then I run the strips through my meat grinder (you can also just cut in small chunks, but it takes longer to render) and render it in a slow cooker, although you can also do it in the oven or stove.
I find that the slow cooker really minimizes the smell and there's no popping or cleanup or worry about fires. It can take up to 24 hours or more on low to render the bulk of it. After about 12 hours or so I stir and press the solids and if it seems like they are starting to crisp up, I turn it off. Then I follow the directions posted by Karl S on the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/452106.
I usually do 5 or 6 pounds at a time and end up with about 2-3 quarts of rendered lard.
Once you've got your lovely lard (which is nothing at all like he hydrogenated stuff you get in a box) try this recipe, given to me by Andy P:
Hand-Squashed Cathead Biscuits
2 cups White Lily (or other) self-rising flour
½ cup lard
¾ cup buttermilk
Cut shortening into flour till it looks like meal. Add enough milk to make the dough come away from the sides of the bowl. Throw it onto a floured surface, and knead it 10 or more times. Pinch off 6 or 8 good-size pieces and hand squash them into biscuits no more than ¾ inch thick. Place on an ungreased baking tin and put in a preheated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown, and as big as cat heads.
My grandmother would cut the fat back into strips with the skin so that when it was rendered, you'd have a crunchy piece of fat which was so good with home made biscuits. Fry up some potatoes & onions with some of that lard to go with the biscuits; so good!
I have used both leaf and back, and I don't notice much difference at all. If you are going to render it, I suggest doing more than two pounds. It really won't yield as much as you'll want. ;)
Thanks, folks! Don't have a slow cooker but am currently trying at 200* in the oven. Usually get lard (not the hydrogenated crud) from a Mexican butcher or the farmers' market (at like five times the cost, but surely from much happier pigs), but am curious to see how the home-cooked stuff compares.
And thanks for the recipe, Chris! That looks awesome. I use the biscuit recipe from Scott Peacock/Edna Lewis that was featured in Gourmet a couple years ago. Pretty similar, except it doesn't call for the self-rising kind of White Lily, just regular White Lily. Next batch I'm definitely going to separate a bit of the dough for hand-squashing.