When you butcher a hog you will end up with a lot of fat. The amount of fat depends on the type of pig. If you have a “Lard Pig” such as an American Guinea Hog you will get more fat relative to the overall size of the carcass than a “meat hog” which will give you more meat.
When rendering lard there is lard and then there is leaf lard. Leaf Lard is rendered from the internal fat of the hog. This leaf lard is highly desired for baking.
Rendering lard is a very tedious process but it is worth the work. Don’t worry, you do not have to render the lard right away you can simply bag and freeze the fat and render the lard at a later time. I find that the fat is easier to cut and work with when it has been at least refrigerated. Fat like meats cut better cold.
First off you will want to cut the fat into small pieces. The finer you cut up the fat, the more lard you will get. Likewise the finer you cut the fat, the less/smaller cracklins you will get. To get the most lard to render from the fat you can grind the fat. Once you have the fat cut up or ground you will place it in a large pot with 1-2 cups of water. The water will help to keep the fat from burning on the bottom of the pot. As the lard is rendered the heat will evaporate the water. Making sure all the water has evaporated is very important to the stability of the rendered lard.
The pot of fat should be gently heated over low heat stirring very often. Rendering the lard will take 3-4 hours of low heat and a lot of stirring. At first it will seem like you are not getting anywhere. After a little over an hour you will see a good bit of progress. Another hour and you will see a lot of progress. As more lard is rendered the process will speed up.
Once the lard has been sufficiently rendered you will pour the contents into another pot through a cheesecloth. I like to press the cheesecloth a bit to get as much lard out as possible. Then return the cracklins to the first pot for a little more crisping before spreading out on paper towels, applying a little salt and allowing t
o cool. If you want you can also add some garlic powder, cayenne pepper, etc. to spice up your cracklins.
The pot that has the filtered lard is now ready for use or you can can it to save it for later. If you will be canning it the worry is botulism. To kill the botulism spores requires a temp of 240 degrees for 10 mins. Being as lard is a fat and not water you can achieve these temps without pressure canning.Make sure you have a good thermometer and slowly warm the lard to a temp of 250 degrees and hold it there for 10-15 mins. Once this has been done you can pour the lard into heated sterile jars and sealed up. Like this your lard can keep for several months. You can freeze the rendered lard and extend it’s life even more.
Keeping the heat slow and low will ensure that your lard does not burn. Burned lard will be a darker color and can have off flavors from being burned. A great way to function stack when rendering lard is to do it on a cold day. If you do this all the heat generated during the long process will be greatly appreciated. Use extreme care when pouring the lard through the filter as you are working with very hot fats and fats are great at transferring heat and can burn you very badly. When pouring into the jars I find it easiest to use a ladle and spoon it into the heated jars. Once you have used lard that you rendered yourself from a high quality hog you will never want lard from the store again.
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