Friday, February 24, 2012

Easy as Pie(crusts)

In my seemingly ever-continuing quest to squeeze as many pennies out of a dollar, cram as many seedlings into a raised bed, and make use of almost every part of an animal, I have had to learn new skills.   One of them just last night.

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?
While my pot on the stove was warming up, I chunked up more fat and tossed it into the crockpot and set it to medium:
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.


  1. I always wanted to do this! If we ever get a hog, I will!

  2. Yum - homemade pork rinds, love them. Dip them in ranch dressing that really makes them healthy - not. At least they are only once a year.

  3. Thanks for the side by side methods. I think I might throw it in the crockpot and forget it for the day next time.

  4. I'm guessing you do use lard in your pie crusts? I've always made mine with half butter and half lard. And I do get a lot of compliments on my pie crust! (Thank you very much.) I think I'd pass on the "darker" lard for the pie crusts though as you may get more of a "flavor" than you want. Sound reasonable?

  5. Pork rinds AND lard all from the same process, how cool!! I'll be curious to see how different the lard from the crock pot turns out.

  6. Oh yum! Did the butcher take the head and feet home? I wonder about that. I know I ask the dumb questions lol.
    You think the darker would taste smoked?

  7. SFG, it seems a waste NOT to render the lard. And although it's a bit time consuming (unless you have a few crockpots), it was very easy.

    The Family, it was very hard NOT to eat them all. And I actually ate a bit too many as my stomach let me know later on....but oh so good! Ranch dressing makes everything healthy, right? :)

    dr. momi, If I could borrow about three more crockpots, I would definitely do it that way. It would take several DAYS to get it all done with just my one crock pot.

    Mama Pea, I'm a butter kind of pie crust making gal as I don't think I've had lard in the house for years. But now, I'm going to HAVE to make it with at least 1/2 lard. Can't wait to see, I mean eat, the difference!

    Candy C., the lard from the crock pot turned out just fine, and lighter color. I was afraid it wasn't going to get hot enough to make cracklings, but it did, just took a LOT longer.

    Nancy, I often wonder what happens to the parts that people don't want. I hope they don't throw it out. Maybe they re-sell it? I'm assuming the darker lard will be smokey tasting so we'll use it for frying up our eggs for breakfast.

  8. I'll pass on head cheese as I have PTSD from watching my German great grandma make that stuff LOL, but I'm down with the rendering! Nice job on that stuff!

  9. Next time have the processor grind the lard. It cuts the rendering time way down.

    I prefer on top of the stove....I would have set the crock pot on high. You can also add some water to the bottom of the pan to keep the fat from sticking....there doesn't seem to be any left when it is all rendered.