Praise the Lard
Lard is just one of the healthy fats we use in our farm kitchen. We need multiple choices because different cooking methods and heat levels require different fats. It’s well known that scorching, smoking fat is not a healthy cooking method. Choose the right fat for the recipe.
We rarely use olive oil for cooking and if we do, it’s only at low heat. Mostly, we use the Organic Roots olive oil to dress cooked food with it’s wonderful flavor – think oven roasted potatoes tossed with garlic and olive oil. Butter is used for low to medium heat cooking as the milk solids will burn at high heat unless the butter is clarified. It’s excellent for our morning scrambled eggs or an omelette.
High heat cooking needs a high heat stable fat. This includes stir frying and oven roasted vegetables. Chicken fat is excellent but not always available in the quantity we need. Coconut oil is also a fine choice. But, our favorite choice is our homemade lard made from BBF Leaf Fat or Back Fat.
We can’t live without our homemade lard. It makes high heat roasting a breeze. The fat never gets tacky on the roasting sheet and veggies come out of the oven with beautiful caramelization. It oils every sheet, pan or muffin tin for our baking.
Both Leaf Fat and Back Fat make good lard. Leaf Fat is the choice if you are looking to use your fat for everything from baking to roasting. It may be preferred by some bakers for its neutral flavor. Back Fat is also good for all uses, but some folks prefer Leaf over Back if you’re using it primarily for baking. We use them interchangeably for all uses in the kitchen and do not detect any pork flavor from either fat.
Here’s our tried and true recipe for making your own high heat stable lard from BBF Pork Fat using a crock pot.
3 – 6 lbs BBF Pork Back or Leaf Fat
The number of pounds of Leaf Fat you begin with depends on the size of your crock pot. We have a larger, oval shaped crock pot that can fit 6 lbs of diced fat. If you have a smaller crock pot, you may only fit 3 lbs. We like the crock pot method because it maintains a steady, even heat.
With a sharp knife, dice the fat into 1/2″ wide pieces (pictured above). Dicing the fat will speed up the rendering process – turning the solid fat into liquid – and prevent air pockets from forming as the fat cooks. Add 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of your crock pot and fill with diced fat leaving 1″ space at the top. The added water will prevent scorching. Cover with lid.
Begin cooking the fat. Once you see there is some liquid in the pot (may take 1 – 2 hours), begin giving the fat a good stir at least once an hour to redistribute fat and speed up the process.
Heat the pork fat until pieces of fat have shriveled, slightly colored (lightest tan) and most of the fat has rendered from the individual pieces. Also, the number of surface bubbles is an indication of when the fat is ready to be strained. If the fat continues to bubble happily without stirring, the lard is not ready. The lard is not done until the active bubbling at the surface has almost completely stopped. This is an indication that most of the water has cooked off the fat.
As the bubbling slows, more frequent stirring will help speed the process. You don’t need ALL the bubbling to stop but it should slow down quite a bit from the most active cooking phase when bubbling is steady. The goal is to render the lard from the solids and boil off most of the water.
When the lard is ready, we set up a small fine mesh strainer set inside a wide canning funnel and ladle the fat into pint mason jars. We store the fat in the refrigerator where it keeps for a very long time.
You’ll be left with the cracklings or the bits from the fat that did not render. We store them in a glass container and use them for dog treats.