These days, the fats I use in my kitchen look vastly different than they did even a few months ago. While I’d long ago stopped buying canola oil (it’s often rancid at the time of purchase, and during processing the omega-3 fatty acids actually turn into trans fats similar to those in margarine), I was still most often drizzling my cast iron skillet with a healthy dose of olive oil.
Don’t get me wrong — I love olive oil, it’s one of my favorite fats, ever — and is the safest vegetable oil to use. But the more I read, the more I became convinced that I should not use it for high-heat cooking, but only for dressings and drizzling, or cooking at lower temperatures. When olive oil is heated near the smoking point, the monounsaturated fat (75% of its makeup) also turns into a trans fat.
So these days, when I’m going to sear meat, or saute vegetables at a high temperature, I reach instead for coconut oil or rendered animal fats — chicken fat skimmed from stock-making, bacon fat reserved from the pan, duck fat purchased from my local butcher, or pork lard — this, I render at home.
Something I’m doing today — and while I posted about it last winter, I didn’t give very detailed instructions. All you need is a crockpot, a fine-meshed sieve or cheesecloth, and glass jars to store your finished product. In fact, the most difficult thing about rendering lard will likely be finding the leaf lard (high-quality fat from around the kidneys) you’ll need to get started (leaf lard is different from rendered lard, you can read my original post to find out how). Since the nutritional value of animal fat depends heavily on how the animal ate and lived, I recommend buying from a local farmer who can tell you exactly how the pig was raised. They should be free to roam and root, and eat quality grain when not foraging.
Thanks to my pig farmer, Mandy, for providing these directions on her family farm’s website (I’m paraphrasing, but following the original instructions exactly — click on the link for “pie crust,” she provides a great recipe using your finished lard!).
Recipe: Pork Lard (how to render)
- 1-3 pounds leaf lard (the high-quality fat taken from around the kidneys of a pig)
- Chop the leaf lard into small (1/2″) chunks. Add to a slow-cooker along with 1/4 cup of water.
- Cook on low, stirring about every half hour or so. After several hours, the fat will melt away and leave the cracklings floating on top. Do not let the cracklings burn, or the lard will have an off-flavor.
- Scoop out the cracklings with a slotted spoon (yes, you can eat these!). Strain the fat through cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve into clean glass jars.
- Store in the refrigerator (will last 6-8 weeks) or freezer (up to a year).
Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.
This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.