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Tuesday
Feb032015

Lard - a superfood

How to make your own lard

Lard has been demonized in modern day kitchen circles because it has become synonymous with fat which was equated with the opposite of healthy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Lard, when made from the fat of a pasture raised pig, is very nutritious.  It has all kinds of good fats in it and very little bad fats.  As a matter of fact, it's natural balance of essential fatty acids make it one of the healthiest fats with which you can cook.  It is 48% monounsaturated fat (the good stuff that makes olive oil a healthy oil), the high oleic acid content is a heart healthy essential fatty acid that reduces cholesterol, and it has a good balance of Omega-3's - especially when it comes from a pasture raised pig like our Large Blacks.

So why did lard get a bad name in America?  Well, that mostly was a result of marketing from industrial food companies like Crisco, touting their "healthy" alternatives.  It took us a few decades to figure out those the claims of manufactured and highly processed vegetable fats are nowhere near as healthy for the body or as tasty for the mouth as the old-fashioned lard.  After all, waist-lines have not exactly shrunk in the last 40 years.  Instead, we know most of these vegetable oils were developed to use waste products the parts of plants that could not be used otherwise.  Generally, this is a great idea.  However, when the resulting product takes vast amounts of new technology to make them palatable - such as hydrogenation - then the results aren't always better and many cases very harmful to our health.

Another reason lard lost favor in America's kitchen is because once pigs became intensively raised in industrial settings and their feed became more and more complex, the quality of the fat became less desirable.  Fat is one of the biggest ways the body removes toxins from the body.  The fat of an animal tends to have all of the positives and negatives of its diet condensed and intensified within.  Modern day store-bought lard has been highy processed, hydrogenated and preserved.  It has the unwanted trans-fatty acids and very little of the condensed goodness that lard from a pasture raised pig has.  It's no wonder cooks were looking for something different.  

Now there is an alternative though -- lard from Pasture Raised Pigs, like we have at Synergisitic Acres, brings back the wholesome, nutritious food we used to know as lard.  This was the lard your Grandma loved.  This is the lard that had far more health benefits than modern-day shortenings.  This the is lard you can feel good about eating.

Lard comes from the fat of a pig.  There are two types of fat that can be used to make lard.  One is back fat, the more abundant of the fats on a pig.  It is the fat that lies just beneath the skin insulating the flesh from the outside.  The second type is leaf fat.  This is the fat that surrounds the internal organs of the pig.  Leaf lard is the most pure of the fat and should be used when you want the absolute purest lard to use in delicate cooking like with pastries.

Before you can use the fat as lard, it must be rendered.  Rendered is a fancy term for a rather simple process of heating and straining the liquid fat before cooling it and storing it.  As a demonstration, I rendered some of our very special lard in our kitchen and documented the process.  I started with two pounds of frozen back fat.


We put this back fat into the crockpot on low with about 1/4 cup of water and put the lid on.  After about 45 minutes, the fat was soft enough that I could take it out and cut into chunks and put it back into the crockpot to begin rendering. This is the point where I made my first mistake of the process that I would not realize until later.  

After cooking the lard for about 2 hours, very little had rendered down, what was I doing wrong?  I started by turning up the heat on our crockpot to high and continued to let it cook.  More fat rendered down, but still not at a rate recipes seemed to indicate -- so I tried the next thing I could think of --  I cut the chunks into even smaller pieces and this worked like magic.

 

 Very shortly, the potion began to boil and bubble and rendering was now in full force.   After about one more hour of this, I skimmed off the first quart of lard.  When first removed, it looks rich and golden like fresh broth.

 

After cooling outside for just about 1 hour (granted it was 15 with a 20mph wind) it turns a beautiful pure, snow white color.  It is now ready to go into the fridge where it will keep for months.

 The 1.91 pounds of backfat when rendered created 1.5 pints of beautiful, nutritious lard.  

We sell backfat and leaf lard from our pasture raised pigs.  If you would like to buy this or many other pork products such as bacon, sausage, hams, bratwursts, and pork chops, take a look at our pork ordering page. We can bring it to you on our next delivery to Lenexa on Wednesday evenings or you can pick up on farm by appointment.  We are excited to hear how you use lard in your home!

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