Last week I rendered my own lard.
Add that to the file of words I never thought I'd say.
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!