Monday, November 7, 2011

Show Lard Some Love

Over the years lard has gotten a bum rap. Replaced by hydrogenated shortening. Shortening is cheap and convenient with a long shelf life. But is it good for us? I don't believe so. I prefer "real" foods. Give me lard, butter, eggs...nourishment my body can use. Good luck finding lard nowadays. And no, I'm not talking about that hydrogenated lard you can sometimes find in cans. It might as well be shortening. I want good old fashioned unadulterated lard. Lard is rendered from pig fat. And where can you get pig fat? You might be able to make friends with a butcher. But I realized I was throwing away  potential lard on a regular basis. All that lovely fat that comes attached to the pork bought at the grocery store. Now I trim that fat and keep it in my freezer until I have enough to render into lovely lard. It's not difficult to do. You chop up the fat into small pieces and place it in a heavy saucepan. Then add a little water. I don't measure. Don't add too much water or it will take a lot longer for it to evaporate. Now heat the fat on medium heat to just bubbling, stirring often. Then reduce the heat to low. Stir it frequently. The fat will melt and the water will eventually evaporate off. You will have little chunky bits in there called cracklings. Those will rise to the surface then at some point sink back to the bottom. When they are at the bottom of the liquid lard, and all crispy, your lard is ready to be strained. I line a metal strainer with a piece of clean cloth and pour the fat through that and into a heavy glass jar of some type. This strains out the cracklings which can be saved, salted and used as a salad or baked potato topping. Your lard will be liquid and a golden color.

Put a lid on it and place it in your refrigerator. It will eventually cool and thicken into beautiful white lard. Use it in place of shortening. Hint: it makes AMAZING pie crusts. It is best used within 4 to 6 weeks. You can freeze it for longer storage. Or you can pour it into sterilized canning jars while it's hot, put on the canning jar lid and ring, and it will seal as it cools. I have heard it can keep for years this way.

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