Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rendering Lard: A First

Last week I rendered my own lard.

Add that to the file of words I never thought I'd say.

The slab

I thought this vegetarian-from-birth girl was taking a big step by ordering rendered lard, so was startled when a slab of unrendered pork leaf fat arrived in my grocery delivery.

(And have I told my local friends about Go Local NC Farms? You can shop like you're at a farmers' market but from the comfort of your own home, clickety-clickety place your order by Thursday night, then pick up at a designated time and place on Saturday. Get awesome things you can't find elsewhere like pasture-raised meat, eggs from chickens who really live outdoors and eat bugs, fresh ground flour, raw honey and nuts, bundles of chicken backs, necks, and feet for making stock [another post to come!] . . . and pork leaf fat.)

So, my leaf fat arrived in a slab and I had to consult a friend about even what I was looking at. Apparently I needed to render the fat. I used the water method, instructions from a friend, and online pictures (what on earth are cracklings supposed to look like?)

Preparing to render: I wore latex gloves while dicing my fat because my sensibilities were slightly creeped out

Two big jars of snowy white rendered fat that isn't as flavorless as dead Crisco, but really has virtually no pork taste

So, why pork fat you ask?

First of all, my parents raised me always to trust God's food more than man-made food. So, I grew up on butter, not margarine, and natural oils, like olive. Lest we think lard is simply shocking, butter is fat from an animal source too, so lard shouldn't be that big of a step unless one has embraced veganism. (Of course, when I read recipes for bone marrow on toast, I blanch, so there are some steps I'm not yet willing to take!)

Second, I am trying to improve my nutrition so that future pregnancies (God willing) might go more smoothly. Being a lifelong vegetarian probably hasn't helped me (sorry, my veggie friends). One thing (among others) I think I need are animal products. Since taste buds are extremely hard to change, I'm consuming animal products in ways I can stomach: eggs, bacon ("the gateway meat"), milk, butter, lard.

One way I know for sure I am deficient is vitamin D. Each pregnancy, I've had my blood tested for vitamin D and it has been in the tank, such that I've been prescribed 50,000 IU vitamin D for three months, then told by my MD (various MDs, actually) to take 2,000 IU daily. Vitamin D deficiency is now being explored as causing susceptibility to certain chronic diseases (see here, here, here). I don't eat fish and I don't live outdoors and I'm bad about remembering to take supplements. Apparently pork lard from pigs who live outdoors is a good source of vitamin D: 2,800 IU in about one half cup of lard. Not that I plan to eat a half cup of lard per day (got to lose the baby weight, not gain more!), but I figure if I cook with it here and there where appropriate, it's going to help with my vitamin D overall.

Plus, apparently, pork lard is making a health food and culinary come-back! Chefs are using it all over! Mario Batali calls it proscuitto bianco--which is really so funny. This makes me old-fashioned and popular all at once, which is like a dream come true for me! You don't have to read about pork lard just in hippie dippie sources, but from mainstream ones as well, like Food and Wine. One can also find plenty of info at hippie-dippie sources too, and I've got a good streak of hippie-dippie in me!

Cost factors: This unrendered leaf fat cost me $2 per pound, so $4.74 for what resulted in just more than a quart of rendered fat. Trust me, that is cheaper than the high-quality butter and the first cold-pressed olive oil I'm buying already!


  1. Very cool post, Katherine. :)

  2. Wow, I'm proud of you! I've loved Go Local for quite some time now, its great.

  3. Nothing fries up eggs better than pork fat!

  4. Kudos! And as far as being hippie dippie... I resemble that comment! Haha! (Although I have not yet rendered my own lard.)

  5. Sarah: Did you mean to type that you resent my comment? If so, please know it is said with much fondness! I get the hippie dippie in me solidly from my mommy's side and it's humorous to me because it's hidden by my Very Conservative Exterior.

  6. Just two things I had to contribute.

    1. I wear plastic gloves while handling meat, any meat, even cooked meat except when hot from the oven. I hate the feeling/sensibility of it!

    2. The bone marrow on toast thing made my stomach lurch and I'm very much NOT pregnant. :)

  7. No no, I meant "resemble!" I am poking fun at myself too b/c I am also pretty "hippie dippie" and take a lot of my nutritional advice from WAPF which you linked to. :) All in good jest, I assure you!!

    (BTW, I can't take credit for the play on words... I don't know where I learned it. Some funny guy... maybe it was from Bugs Bunny or Rodney Dangerfield. Who knows? ;) )

  8. Marrow's not so bad. :) It's sort of like... meaty tasting butter. haha

    I'm glad you're taking steps to increase your vitamin D! Lard is definitely an inexpensive way to do that. Another (though NOT inexpensive) thing you might consider is fermented cod liver oil which is quite high in vitamin d as well. It does come encapsulated which might help you get it down. :)

    It always causes me to smile fondly when I read about all the research you do on these tasks. You are very methodical! :)

  9. We rendered lard from a pig we butchered. We ate so many cracklings that no one can handle the taste or smell of pork fat. Haha. Hopefully we get over it. The cracklings tasted really good--for a while.