This post is for my readers—all three of them, probably—who have a sack of pig fat sitting in their freezers waiting to be turned into lard. Judging from the blank stares I get when I mention lard-making, most people do not dabble in pig fat. Most people, it seems, would rather go through life pretending that pig fat does not even exist.
But then there is me.
I am celebrating because I have crossed from ordinary lard consumer to lard maker. I have chopped pig fat—from our very own pigs that we raised on our very own land—with my very own bare hands and then cooked it down in my very own oven till it turned into liquid fat/gold, I am the Little Red Hen, hear me cluck!
Seriously, though: how many of you have a stockpile of fat waiting to become lard? Two of you? Five? This is not a rhetorical question! It is a test to see just how tiny my little island is—Helloooo! Can anyone hear meeeeee?
Anyway. On the off-chance there’s another person stashing fat (in the freezer, not the body since I know I’m not alone there) and not sure how to get it into lard, I am here to tell you everything.
Actually, it’s really not that exciting. Just pop the fat in an oven and cook slow and low until you have lard. The main trick (if you can even call it that) is to keep the fat at low-enough temps so it never boils because boiling imparts a bad flavor and color, or so I’ve been told.
I cooked my pig fat for a day and a half, got 4½ pints, and then called it quits. The fat cubes were still pretty big so maybe I could’ve gone longer? But that last half-pint of lard was no longer pure white, and I was tired of running the oven. The animals thought the scraps were the best snack ever. (I was afraid the smell of the rendering would be overpoweringly disgusting, but as long as the oven door stayed shut, it was actually quite mild. I even had a friend pop in and not notice the smell at all.)
What am I using the lard for, you ask? Oh, silly you! The options are endless. I’ve already made a batch of sky-high biscuits to celebrate (and to go with this carrot soup), and I mixed some into the pork filling for tonight’s empanadas. In the next few weeks I’ll be using lard in everything, from pastry crusts to scrambled eggs to refried beans to soup. Trust me: a stockpile of fresh, homemade lard is not a hardship.
Chop pork fat into little cubes (tip: fat is easier to cut if partially frozen) and tumble them into a glass 9×13 pan (or pans, if you have a lot of fat). Bake, uncovered, at 150 to 190 degrees.
After about six to eight hours, liquid (the lard!) will start puddling in the bottom of the pan. When there is enough to make it worth your while, pour it off, through a fine-mesh strainer (or cheese cloth), into a bowl. While the lard is still hot, pour it into jars. Lid the jars (the heat from the lard will make them seal) and let cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for long-term storage.
Return the pans of fat to the oven and bake for another four to six hours. Repeat the process (pouring off the liquid and baking) until the fat ceases to relinquish more lard.
For more lard-making pointers, go here and here and here.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.11.16), the quotidian (1.12.15), sticky toffee pudding, spinach lemon orzo soup, eyeballs and teeth, creamy blue cheese pasta with spinach and walnuts, and spots of pretty.
Kind of a weird question – when you are done, do you wash the greasy cheesecloth or just throw it away?
I used a fine-mesh sieve, not a cheesecloth. I'd say it's up to you! The grease would wash out just fine with lots of hot water and soap, but you can always toss it, if you prefer.
I do not have lard in the freezer, but I saved and cooked down the ham fat from the Christmas ham and got a very small amount of treasure. I am jealous and continually pleased that you write and share what's happening in your world – fat and all.
Thanks for sharing this information! We raised our first pig and had her butchered a year ago. Do you have to ask for the fat? We just got cuts of meat like bacon, sausage, ham etc. I want to do this next time around!
I, too, admit to a stockpile of fat waiting to become lard in my freezer. I do have a suggestion, which is consider pouring the liquid fat into a baking dish lined with parchment paper (or wax paper) until it hardens. Then, cut it into cubes and store in ziploc freezer bags. This saves the awkward scraping out from the bottom of the quart jars and the washing out of said fat-covered jars.
I AM SO ENVIOUS! (Sorry, did I shout?). Have never had the opportunity to make lard and am skeptical of the commercial stuff. Enjoy that white gold!
Tracie @ Somewhat Awry
I loved this post! I don't have any in my freezer, but I wish I did. I have a question, and this is my ignorance talking… Could you render it in a slow cooker? Would the low setting still be too high of a heat to use it?
I think the setting is too high, I used a crock pot and the resulting lard was not pure white, I used it but not for pie crust.
I am doing it in a crock pot as we speak – I guess we'll see how it goes! My pot has a 'keep warm' setting and I have been kind of switching back and forth between that and low.
I am probably a bit strange but those rendered bits of cracklings look delicious. No way they would have been given to my pets, I would have saved them secretly for me.
I have bags of pork fat in my freezer too! But a friend rendered lard last year & said the smell was horrible, so I've been too scared to try. Your assurances that the smell isn't too bad might motivate me to try it.
I use lard frequently, so I think your lard is beautiful! I ended up buying it from a farm in Utah, believe it or not. It is leaf lard, the glorious best of lard. I have tried to find a local butcher that will save me the fat around the kidneys so that I could render it myself, but none are interested in my hobbies. Oh, I agree with the others above, never throw away cracklings! When my grandfather killed hogs, we all fought over the cracklings. They are so good, to eat out of hand or to throw in cornbread. Yes, Little Red Hen, your work is admirable!
I have bacon fat in my fridge and more cooling on my counter….does that count? My dad made cornbread with lard and cracklings tons of times in my childhood…..delicious! One of my earliest memories was getting to try a few cracklings at the butcher shop. Good times!
I have bacon fat on my counter, too!
Those scraps you threw away after rendering your fat are called cracklings and they are wonderful when you throw a handful into a pan of cornbread. I've helped my parents render fat when I was younger but its been a long time ago. I do know they never did it in the oven. I can't remember for sure but I think my Mom had a big, heavy pot that she used on top of the stove. My great aunt used a big cast iron pot with a fire under it. We all loved the crackling cornbread! They give the cornbread a wonderful flavor.
My scraps were still too fatty, like chunks of gristle and fat. If I had ground the fat before hand and the resulting toasty bits were smaller, then yes, I can see eating them. But by that point I was sick of all things piggy-smelling. Maybe next time I'll try the heavy-kettle method. Lots of people are mentioning it.
I ground my fat and it made a big difference in the amount of lard (more) I got and how much cracking was left (little). I use a pot on the stove when I render the fat.
I have a sack in the freezer – and now with a long weekend coming up and this encouragement from you maybe I will give it a try! Thank you!
I have some fat in my freezer, but it's for soap! I buy lard from a local butcher, so I guess I'm not on your island.
I'm one of those people, though I don't have any waiting for me currently. Tried to render a small batch this fall and totally winged it and don't think I did a very good job of it. But now I'll know! So thanks!
No pig fat in my freezer but loved your post!!
I've used lots of your recipes, thank you!!
I've been meaning to get this done but haven't. A friend got a deer this winter and we gave him some of our pig fat (straight from the freezer) to mix in with his (ground) venison. We got some venison in return. Your lard is beautiful!
No lard or pigs up here but i remember the days when I helped my husband's family make pig fat into lard. Not my favorite days so I do admire your courage too. I'd say you have more than 3-5 fellow pig fat hoarders here.
Trying to get to your island. Many miles to go still. If only I'd paid more attention to all that my mother could have taught me.
A few weeks ago I rendered some goose fat. Does that count? Didn't get any where near what you got from your piggies. We keep talking about raising a couple of pigs again and would LOVE to have the lard for pie crusts. Most folks think all fat is bad, bad, bad for you but animal fat from naturally raised animals is not only good but necessary for proper digestive functioning. So there.
I also have fat from my spring hogs waiting in the freezer! I really appreciate your post, as by the time I finish doing all the other work that needs doing on the farm, I am too intimidated to do anything with the fat other than feed it to the birds! This time, I will really make lard! And not a minute too soon, as before I know it, the fall pigs will ready for the freezer!
You aren't alone. I've rendered lard from our pigs and I love it! I use it for everything from baking (makes an awesome, flaky pie crust) to soap making. I have a great tip: use muffin tins and liners and measure 1/4 cup lard in each. After they solidify I put them in a baggie in the freezer so I have pre measured portions for use in recipes.
This is a great tip. I hated trying to get it out of the jars. The second time I rendered lard I lined mini-loaf pans and measured 8 ounce portions.
We render ours the same day as we butcher. I am hungry for some Navajo fry bread cooked in lard (More-With-Less cookbook). Have you ever had Navajo tacos?
I haven't tried them for years, maybe decades. I should give them a go again….
Got a freezer full of fat backlog. I'm planning on using an iron kettle that some rascal drilled a hole in so the (I'm guessing) petunias would drain. Aden patched the hole so what's the hold up? You've lit a fire under me, so to speak.
I have a few bags of fat sitting in my freezer waiting to be rendered. I totally overcooked my last round, so I'm nervous I'll do that again. But I'm going to try your oven method. It really does make the best pie crusts and I can't bring myself to buy it.
I smiled while reading your post! We are huge large lard fans as of this fall – our two heritage breed pigs landed us with 7 gallons of rendered back lard (we passed along the belly lard) and the two hams we just prepared over the holidays got us an additional 1/2 gallon of rendered lard off each ham! So we are enjoying using lard for our main "fat source!" Amazing stuff! In case you are interested, here's a run down of our butchering and the second post (about halfway through) notes our "donut drop in" where we made homemade donuts in lard – AMAZING!! I am interested in the "not boiling it" as we learned the ropes from neighbors that have done this for years and we never second guessed the boiling and have been happy with the quality, so I'm curious about this!
Is the boiling that imparts a stronger flavor, or a too-long cooking time? Maybe boiling is perfectly fine? That's how all the old-timers did it, right?
7 gallons is a crazy glorious amount! How do you store all that lard?
We strained it into 1/2 gallon wide mouth glass jars and let it cool. It's in the fridge and we'll cycle it into the freezer as soon as we are done cycling all our corn and other seeds through there. It's been keeping great thus far and we haven't notice any strong flavor at all. It would have cooked in a large kettle for hours until the cracklings were done. This was our first go round so we mostly just did what our neighbors told us to do. 🙂 We'll be helping with their hog butchering the first week in Feb to gain some more experience 🙂
Girl, you got a stomach of iron. Its a gift, believe me. I can most certainly not handle lard or many fats/oils for that matter. But the glowing jar looks pretty awesome.