Saturday, 18 September 2010

How To Render Lard in a Crockpot or Slow Roaster

Our butcher does not render the lard that our pigs produce for people, but they will grind it up and bag it to be included with the order. Still, rendering lard has set in our cultural imaginations as something dangerous, messy, smelly.....ect. I came across several historical accounts that involved houses burning down as a result of lard splatter during rendering or of severe, debilitating burn injuries. Most accounts talked of men with long sticks and huge kettles over open fires doing the rendering due to the danger factor.

I'm not kidding.

That doesn't work for our modern kitchens. At least not mine. I did a bit of research and found lots of links to sites that had people buying a couple lbs of lard and doing small batches on the stove top or in a dutch oven. But that's still not what I needed. Last year our butcher presented me with a full 5 gallon bag, frozen hard. It took three days to thaw mostly. I needed a way to do this thing in bigger batches and explain to customers how to do it too.

So my starting point was my experience last year. It wasn't hard, it did smell though, and the end results had some problems. This year I was having none of that.

My first batch was completed on Thursday and came out exactly how I wanted it to.

So start with the big old bag of frozen lard. This bag was about 3 gallons. I let it completely thaw in my fridge.

It would fit in my 7 quart crock pot, but I also have an 18 quart electric slow roaster that I wanted to try out. Either would have worked great. A smaller amount would work in a smaller crock pot too.

I scrubbed out all the equipment I was going to use. Any old food residue will contaminate, even dust from sitting in storage. Wash and rinse before use no matter how clean it looks.

I set the fat in the roaster and set it at 225 degrees (low on a crock pot). Some say to put 1/2 cup of water in too, but I didn't. I put the lid on and came back in 1 hr. In that time a lot of fat had liquefied so I scraped down the soft sides of the fat glob in the middle.

1 hr. later repeat.

Lots of extra room. A 7 quart crock pot would have been more than enough.
 1 more hr. later and it had all liquefied and the meat chunks that will be cracklings were floating on the top. I stirred and broke those up a bit more. No splattering involved. No really any bad smell either. Many of the accounts I read said this is a critical time to watch though. The cracklings will soon sink and then rise up again. When they sink and then rise, it is done. If you wait too much longer then the lard will start to brown and take on a more porky flavour.

So now I was checking every 20 minutes or so and I actually saw the sinking in progress. Yay!

Very clean and clear.
Once that happened I got my containers out. Last year I used old yogurt and ice cream plastic containers. Bad idea. They looked clean, but were not. The result was that the cracklings got contaminated and spoiled fast, the lard also developed mold and growth at the bottom once thawed in the fridge. This year I used sterilized for canning (washed in hot water and soap then boiled in water for 10 minutes) glass freezer safe jars. In our experience, lard can last up to 2 years in the freezer, though the official time is more like 1 year. It is supposed to last 3-6 months in the refrigerator. Cracklings are more of a meat product and will last 6 months to a year in a freezer and 1 week in the fridge. So when storing cracklings think about how they will be used and store in individual servings (sandwich size freezer bags or small freezer safe 1/2 pint jars are what we use).

As it was cooling. Chad thought it was lemonade concentrate and almost tried to drink some.

To put in the jars I got out my widemouthed canning cone and some cheese cloth/mesh folded over 4 times.  I just laid it in. I used a metal measuring cup and scooped the lard/cracklings mix into the mesh. The lard drained into the jars, the cracklings separated out. When enough cracklings built up, I dumped them into a big bowl to cool. I filled the jars just below the freeze line and capped with a sterile lid.


After cooling and freezing.

No splattering since it was all done at low heat. I laid a towel out to catch drips but those were minimal.

I did put my purse in the car (in case the house caught fire) and a bowl of ice water waiting (in case of burns). Neither was necessary.

Lard can be used in place vegetable shortening in any recipe. Crisco type shortening was developed to replace lard with its longer shelf life (of like 20 years, ew). Lard should not be shelf stable, ever.

Anyway. No mess, no stink/smell, super easy, clean jars. I'd call this year's process a success!

Simple Lives Thursday.....

13 comments:

  1. Very informative. I will store this away in case we buy a pig to butcher in the future.

    -Brenda

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  2. Great site; I rendered lard out of two pigs this year, my first venture. I've got the lard stored in one cup mason jars in the freezer. Any good recipes that use lard forthcoming?

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  3. Yes. AND recipes for cracklings too!

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  4. Yes, in previous times rendering could be dangerous. But then I also think that is was only because the heat got too high or the cook was busy with too many other things. Your information is great, thanks so much.

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  5. I'm so glad it worked out for you - I tried this last fall on the stove and accidentally ignited it. Just a bit of excitement. ;p
    thanks for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday!
    xo, Sustainable Eats

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  6. your jars are definitely nicer to look at than the sno-cap boxes at the store. yay for home-everything!

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  7. thank you so much for the information! I'm hopping to get some lard to try this with next time we butcher a hog! Thank you so much for doing the research testing and reporting on it!

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  8. Maybe I do need one of those pigs... Maybe next year?

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  11. @Melynda has the right idea. Lard (like all fats) are flammable. If you're going to do it over an open flame, you need to be VERY careful. That's the nice thing about crock pots. My first time was today, and things went smoothly. My lard is going to be used mostly for soap making.

    I will say that if you want to keep the cracklings to use, you need to grind the fat. I tried cutting my fat into small cubes, but it didn't matter how small I got the pieces, the results were still tasteless.

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    1. Cracklins ARE tasteless. No matter how you do them, they need to be seasoned. I skim them out and then heavily season with salt and cayenne, fry them up in a skillet and use like bacon bits.

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