Making the most of what we have: Rendering fat

As a homesteader, I find myself doing a lot of things I never thought I’d do.  I never thought I’d raise chickens or can fruit.

And I certainly never thought I’d learn to render lard, but last week I bought a pork half from Easter Egg Acres, in Ellicott.  The fat can be used for cooking or for making soap, so I found instructions and set out to render the fat.

The processing plant vacuum seals the fat, just like all the other cuts of meat.

It’s all in flat, tough sheets.

You need a sharp knife for the next step: cubing.  You cut the fat into cubes for heating.

The cubes become cracklings at the end.

The cubes go into the pot.

I’ll do this in the crock pot the next time I have fat to render. It took five hours and I wanted to make some chicken soup during that time. Since the fat was in my biggest pot, I had to improvise for the soup.

The instructions said to add a little water, presumably to keep the fat from sticking.  I added 2 cups, but I think it could have been done with 1/2 cup.  No harm done.  The water evaporates.  It just took a long time to get started.

The pot was three quarters full.

After about an hour on low heat, it looked like this.

The water boils and you know what happens when you have hot fat and water. POP! Be careful when stirring.

The interesting sounds and smells got a lot of attention in the kitchen.

Can I eat that?

After about 4 hours, the cracklings were beginning to look fried and the pot was full of oil.  It’s very, very hot.  I stuck the thermometer in and it went well past its top temperature of 220 degrees F.

It’s done when the cracklings sink to the bottom.

You’re supposed to strain it through cheesecloth to get all the bits out and make the fat a clean yellow.  Since I didn’t have any cheesecloth, mine is brownish.

It hardens as it cools. If you’ve strained it well, the cool fat is white. Mine is light brown.

And I hear you can fry the cracklings into a good snack.  I mashed mine, to get as much oil out as possible.  Then I tried to fry them and it was obvious I don’t know how to fry.  It got so hot that years of layers came off the old cast iron pan I was using!

These might have made a good snack. Certainly the chickens would think so.

I didn’t weigh it, but I think I got about 10 lbs. of lard from the experiment.  It will save us some money in cooking oil and I feel good about making the most of what we have.

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Comments

Making the most of what we have: Rendering fat — 2 Comments

  1. I don’t remember how we got to the crunchy little nuggets stage but dad use to mix them into the cornbread mix and bake them into the bread. Mmmmmmm.

  2. Next time I do this, I’ll try to get more guidance on the cracklings. I just didn’t see the appeal, but everyone says they are wonderful if you know how to fry them.

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