Paul picked up most of our hog yesterday afternoon. Since we still wont have the ham and bacon for a little while longer, I'm waiting to do the final math for how much meat we got for what we spent.
I managed to clean out just enough room in the chest freezer to put away the plethora (hehe, plethora) of pork-goodness that was crammed in the trunk of the car. Seventy pounds of pork chops, roasts and ribs. Sixty-two pound of sausage - OH YEAH! Six pounds of liver. And thirty pounds of fat.
I could smack myself in the head though. In my haste to tell the butcher that I wanted a shoulder and a ham made into sausage, I forgot to say that I wanted the feet and head. But I guess that isn't the end of the world. Especially since I still have the feet from last year's hog in the freezer and I think we just ended up tossing last year's head into the woods for the coyotes when we were scrambling for freezer space for the Cornish meat birds. Not exactly sure what I was going to do with the head. Head cheese maybe?
But I regress (imagine that).
Back to the freezer and our pig-a-licious procurement.
Everything fit in the freezer, with not much room to spare. And there was still a thirty pound box of pork fat staring at me:
So I was up until almost midnight rendering the fat. There are four ways (at least that I recall) this can be done. But they all start with cutting up the fat into nice little pieces, or you could even run the chunks through your meat grinder and I'm sure it would speed up the process.
Once you have your pork fat in the desired cut or ground state, then you have to decide how you are going to melt all this piggy goodness into lard.
Stove top, oven, crockpot or microwave. I chose the stove top and crockpot as I wanted to compare the two methods. The microwave may seem easier, but it didn't seem feasible as I'd have to do over a dozen batches as I'd only be able to do a pound or two at a time. I just couldn't see having the oven on the entire night (electric bill is bad enough).
Basically, you just want to warm the fat up to the point that it melts, not fry it up. I put my chunks into a thick-bottom pot on the range and set it to medium/low, or just to keep the temperature of the oil around 220 degrees. You don't want the bottom to scorch so at the beginning you'll have to stir it around a bit.
|Hmmmm. Why does this make me want to get back on the treadmill?|
My stove top fat was finished in about two & a half hours. I let the oil cool a little bit, then strained it through a sieve lined with a coffee filter:
Then poured it into jars:
Notice how the middle jar is a darker color? That's because I got hasty. I drained some of the lard thinking it would speed things up, so the lard in the back jars weren't on the stove as long. And then the remaining lard and cracklings got a little too hot, therefore burning it a bit and changing color. I'm not sure if this will affect the taste or stability of the finished product or not.
The cracklings are what you are left with:
Basically, homemade pork rinds. Grab a beer, a salt shaker and chow down; arteries be dammed!
The crockpot rendering is taking much longer. I say "taking" as it is still in the crockpot as of 9 am this morning and looks like this:
At least I didn't have to babysit it like I did with the pot on the range. And since I didn't mess around with the heat in order to hurry things up, the lard is looking like it has a lighter color. We'll see as time goes on. Because it seems as if it's definitely going to take more time before it's finished.