D's Grandma J. was one of the best cooks around. Everything she made was good from her apple pie bars to her German Potato Salad. I remember a conversation with her once, when I had asked her for her secrets to making the delicious treats she often baked. And I also remember cringing when she smiled and said, "It's lard. That's the best thing you can use." At the time, the thought of using lard sounded absolutely disgusting. I mean- even the word sounds gross. But the truth of the matter is that lard is actually a really great natural and useful product that can be used often on the homestead in a variety of ways. When we got a pig butchered this fall, though I was excited for the cuts of meat we got, like the bacon, I was most excited to get the lard! I was eager to partake in the tradition that has been done for thousands of years. Anything that my ancestors did as a natural way to live off the land is something I'm looking to try!
Why Lard Is Good For You
Now, really, eating too much lard is NOT good for you. However, eating lard in moderation can actually be beneficial for your health. Lard is rich in cholesterol. Our bodies make cholesterol already, but eating good, healthy cholesterol, like that found in lard, actually reduces the burden on our own body to produce cholesterol. This cholesterol consumed from lard and other healthy whole food options then helps to support natural body processes like inflammation management and hormone production.
In terms of other health benefits, lard is 60% monosaturated fat. Most of this monosaturated fat is oleic acid, which is actually an essential fatty acid needed for our bodies to decrease LDLs and lower "bad cholesterol". This oleic acid is also found in olive oil.
Lard is also extremely high in Vitamin D- just one spoonful of lard from a pastured pig contains 1000 IUs of Vitamin D! Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, has tons of health benefits of its own and has been shown to help treat depression, help with calcium absorption, boost immune systems, and protect bone, muscle, and heart health. Only trailing liver and cod liver oil, lard is one of the highest natural sources of this vitamin.
Rendering lard really is not that hard. Basically, all that you're doing is cooking the fat down into a liquid form and draining off the excess. That's it!
To render your lard, you'll need to first gather your materials:
Our lard came back from the processor already ground, which was really nice and made this process go much more smoothly.
To begin, cut the lard into small pieces and place them into the roaster. This will help the lard to cook down evenly.
This is a slow process and should be cooked down on very low heat. I turned my roaster at about 200 degrees and just kept an eye on it throughout the day, stirring it occasionally. When the fat began to float to the top and turn brownish, I knew that it was time to strain and jar the lard.
To strain, I simply poured the contents of the roaster through a strainer into a pot. The leftover fat, called the "cracklings", can be consumed too, though we didn't eat them. Instead the birds very much enjoyed the fatty treat!
From the pot, I poured the clean liquid lard into jars and left it outside to solidify. I actually did the whole process outside as it can be a little smelly and not everyone is fond of the aroma. As it solidifies, it should turn snow-white and be odorless. You can see on the left my first batch that had solidified and was ready to go, while the second batch on the right was still in liquid form, hot, and just beginning to cool down and solidify.
Once it's solid, you can keep it just like you would any other oil, though know that it will liquify in a warm area (and that can be a problem!). Traditionally it can be stored in a cool place for up to a year if rendered properly. I chose to freeze mine (by leaving it outside), which is the safest method. You could also choose to store it in the refrigerator as well.
Uses of Rendered Lard
Rendered lard has traditionally been a valued asset on the homestead and can be used in a variety of ways:
Overall, the process was not that difficult and we were left with a nice storage supply of lard for the year. I am looking forward to making soaps, baking treats, and cooking dinners with this useful by-product on our own homestead.
Do you use lard?
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