Rendering lard is a lost art – a worthwhile technique forgotten in a fat-phobic, Lean Cuisine-centered culture. Many cooks, seeking out local foods and forgotten traditions, have rediscovered how to render lard in their homes. Learning how to render lard needn’t be a difficult task; it requires clean fat, clean water, a good stock pot and a quiet afternoon in the kitchen. The reward of a beautiful, creamy white jar full of freshly rendered, pastured lard is worth the minimal effort.
Pastured lard is a remarkably good source of vitamin D and of monounsaturated fat – the same fatty acid found in olive oil and avocado that is heralded for its benefits to cardiovascular health. Odd that lard, given its fatty acid profile and vitamin content, earned such a bad rap over the last few decades. Like many wholesome, nourishing fats, lard seems to have been swept aside for a time, but it’s quickly earning a much-deserved renaissance – ensuring that taking the time to learn how to render lard is worth your effort both in terms of its redeeming nutritional value as well as in celebration of the wealth and variety of your local foodshed. Hogs, and their nutrient-dense fat, are widely available.
- 2½ pounds pastured leaf lard or hog fat
- ½ cup filtered water
- With a sharp knife, trim any blood spots or remaining meat from the lard.
- Chop the fat into ½-inch cubes.
- Add the chopped fat and the filtered water to a heavy bottomed stock pot and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
- After about 45 minutes to one hour, the water will evaporate, the fat will begin to melt and the cracklings - little bits of browned fat - will begin to float to the surface of the pot. Continue to gently stir the melted fat periodically, taking care not to let it splatter.
- Eventually those cracklings will sink to the bottom of the stock pot, at that point you may remove your pot from the heat.
- Line a fine mesh sieve with a 100% cotton cheesecloth and strain the melted fat, reserving the cracklings for another use (they're quite nice salted and eaten as a snack or served in place of breadcrumbs in a gratin).
- Pour the melted fat into mason jars and allow to cool. The melted fat will be golden-brown in color, but, when cooled, will appear a creamy white.
- Use your freshly rendered lard in pastries or as a fat for braising vegetables or seasoning meats.