Saturday, 18 September 2010

How To Render Lard in a Crockpot or Slow Roaster

It is not my usual posting day but I simply could not wait to share this so I got special permission to make this extra post!

by Danelle @ My Total Perspective Vortex

Our butcher does not render the lard that our pigs produce for people, but they will grind it up and bag it to be included with the order. Still, rendering lard has set in our cultural imaginations as something dangerous, messy, smelly.....ect. I came across several historical accounts that involved houses burning down as a result of lard splatter during rendering or of severe, debilitating burn injuries. Most accounts talked of men with long sticks and huge kettles over open fires doing the rendering due to the danger factor.

I'm not kidding.

That doesn't work for our modern kitchens. At least not mine. I did a bit of research and found lots of links to sites that had people buying a couple lbs of lard and doing small batches on the stove top or in a dutch oven. But that's still not what I needed. Last year our butcher presented me with a full 5 gallon bag, frozen hard. It took three days to thaw mostly. I needed a way to do this thing in bigger batches and explain to customers how to do it too.

So my starting point was my experience last year. It wasn't hard, it did smell though, and the end results had some problems. This year I was having none of that.

My first batch was completed on Thursday and came out exactly how I wanted it to.

So start with the big old bag of frozen lard. This bag was about 3 gallons. I let it completely thaw in my fridge.

It would fit in my 7 quart crock pot, but I also have an 18 quart electric slow roaster that I wanted to try out. Either would have worked great. A smaller amount would work in a smaller crock pot too.

I scrubbed out all the equipment I was going to use. Any old food residue will contaminate, even dust from sitting in storage. Wash and rinse before use no matter how clean it looks.

I set the fat in the roaster and set it at 225 degrees (low on a crock pot). Some say to put 1/2 cup of water in too, but I didn't. I put the lid on and came back in 1 hr. In that time a lot of fat had liquefied so I scraped down the soft sides of the fat glob in the middle.

1 hr. later repeat.

Lots of extra room. A 7 quart crock pot would have been more than enough.
 1 more hr. later and it had all liquefied and the meat chunks that will be cracklings were floating on the top. I stirred and broke those up a bit more. No splattering involved. Not really any bad smell either. Many of the accounts I read said this is a critical time to watch though. The cracklings will soon sink and then rise up again. When they sink and then rise, it is done. If you wait too much longer then the lard will start to brown and take on a more porky flavour.

So now I was checking every 20 minutes or so and I actually saw the sinking in progress. Yay!

Very clean and clear.
Once that happened I got my containers out. Last year I used old yogurt and ice cream plastic containers. Bad idea. They looked clean, but were not. The result was that the cracklings got contaminated and spoiled fast, the lard also developed mold and growth at the bottom once thawed in the fridge. This year I used sterilized for canning (washed in hot water and soap then boiled in water for 10 minutes) glass freezer safe jars. In our experience, lard can last up to 2 years in the freezer, though the official time is more like 1 year. It is supposed to last 3 months in the refrigerator. Cracklings are more of a meat product and will last 6 months to a year in a freezer and 1 week in the fridge. So when storing cracklings think about how they will be used and store in individual servings (sandwich size freezer bags or small freezer safe 1/2 pint jars are what we use).

As it was cooling. Chad thought it was lemonade concentrate and almost tried to drink some.

To put in the jars I got out my widemouthed canning cone and some cheese cloth/mesh folded over 4 times.  I just laid it in. I used a metal measuring cup and scooped the lard/cracklings mix into the mesh. The lard drained into the jars, the cracklings separated out. When enough cracklings built up, I dumped them into a big bowl to cool. I filled the jars just below the freeze line and capped with a sterile lid.

After cooling and freezing.

No splattering since it was all done at low heat. I laid a towel out to catch drips but those were minimal.

I did put my purse in the car (in case the house caught fire) and a bowl of ice water waiting (in case of burns). Neither was necessary.

Lard can be used in place vegetable shortening in any recipe. Crisco type shortening was developed to replace lard with its longer shelf life (of like 20 years, ew). Lard should not be shelf stable, ever.

Anyway. No mess, no stink/smell, super easy, clean jars. I'd call this year's process a success!


Limette said...

Thanks for this. We are getting our first pig next week and I've been wondering about how to render lard.

Mama Podkayne said...

I know! SO many people are getting their pork right now and asking the question, that's why I rushed to get this post up! :)

The Mom said...

I've been doing this for a few years now. It's so easy, I'm surprised at all the warnings. My butcher gives me the fat with the skin in big sheets. I cut them into smaller chunks, slice off the skin and freeze in gallon bags until I'm ready to use them. The lard in the fridge seems to last pretty much forever, although we tend to use it up relatively quickly.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I'm glad you used jars, to prevent chemicals from leaching from plastic containers to food, always use the hot and cold rule - if the container was originally made for cold storage, yogurt, cottage cheese etc., only use for cold food items. Hot foods in containers used for warm or hot type foods originally.

Beautiful lard.

Mama Podkayne said...

Thanks! One of the reasons I put the cracklings in a bowl was to cool it first since I might be putting it in little plastic freezer bags. I just wasn't sure yet, but I know not to put it into plastic hot.

Our soapmaker friend wants any unclaimed lard poured into big plastic buckets though. Thoughts on that for soap use? Would the chemical leach matter?

Paula said...

What do you use cracklings for, anyway?

I've read that lard is perfectly okay for you, as long as it's non-commercial, which I believe is partially hydrogenated for shelf life, which is NOT good for you.

If we got a pig, or even part of a pig, I would so ask for pork fat, and would so render my own lard!

Mama Podkayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mama Podkayne said...

Sorry, typo caused me to remove my response. Here it is! My actual post next week will go into more details about recipes and uses, but.....

my favourite uses for cracklins....

As they are they are not completely ready for use, so fry and brown them up until they are fragrant and crispy. The ones I work with ARE ground since the fat had been ground. Then I add them to the base of my cornbread, or mix with bread crumbs for casserole toppings. Sprinkled in salads as you would bacon bits, yum if you get them extra crispy. You can season them and use as part of breadings for fish....

LindaG said...

Great information. Thanks for this! :)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Some soap making oils I buy are packaged in plastic buckets, whether or not any chemicals leach during the filling process when the oils are hot and liquid would depend on the plastic type. I would venture a guess that bucket size, closure and ease of handling/storage is more of a concern to companies than any potential leaching. Since most food manufacturers don't even care. Unless you had very sensitive skin it probably wouldn't make much difference. Plastic is hard to escape and oh so convenient to use.

I use recycled coffee cans for storing my tallow and lard for soapmaking, and canning jars for my cooking fats such as leaf lard or suet.

Eliza said...

I have had recipies that call for crisco when making cookies, would this give my cookies a porky taste? Normally, I have used butter instead. Just curious.

chad said...

Absolutely no porky taste if you follow the process Danelle outlined - she made cookies to hand out at an event today and everyone loved them. I asked her about it and you can substitute the lard 1:1 for crisco in the recipe - I think she does a similar 1:1 conversion for corn syrup to maple syrup with good results.

Mama Podkayne said...

Yup, what Chad said. Today's cookies I specifically used a recipe that called for Crisco and corn syrup. I made plain old sugar cookies and subbed 1:1 lard for crisco and the same with maple syrup instead of corn syrup. No porky flavour, no maple flavour either, just simple sugar cookies. The texture was perfect too.

Christina said...

I'm very jealous of your butcher access; I haven't found one in my area yet (San Francisco Bay Area) nor a store that's willing to package all the remnants of their "boneless skinless chicken breasts". What a waste!!

hendrickhomestead said...

Thanks for the post. I found your blog when searching to see if rendering lard in the slow cooker was possible, and here you are! I have lamb and beef suet coming in the next few weeks, and this should make it a bit easier.

Jennifer said...

So, I tried this method today, and I am disappointed to report that my lard turned out an off-white, almost light tan color. Can I assume it is going to taste really porky?

I didn't wait until the whole "sinking and rising" thing happened, because some of the cracklings were starting to get browned and the whole thing was smelling very porky, and I just couldn't take it anymore. Honestly, I found the smell kinda revolting. :(

I suppose all I can do is try the lard and see how it tastes, huh?