Saturday, March 14, 2015

Making Lard

Come on over to the farmhouse and lets explore the simplicity of making lard together

I'm always learning something new. Some of my new escapades lead to some profitable skills...years of "monster bread" has led to our farm fresh breads we sell. Years of experimenting in the garden with my children has led to our full time family farm. Batch upon batch of jam making sessions with a child stirring a pot at each eye has led to batches of fruit filled jams made with 90 cups of berries!..but then there are the fiascoes! My first rendering of lard falls into that category. 

I want to give you a short...very short, smokey description of the first time I rendered our own lard. I was sooo proud of my boys! They were teenagers, and had raised our first hogs down by the creek in the woods. I had watched them learn to care for them, chase them down when they got out, and now it was butchering time...Little House on the Prairie style. Or should I say, Little House on the Mountain style! They crouched over a a book on butchering, discussed their strategy, and headed out to try their hand at it. (Yeah for our home schooling approach!) After the first rough cuts, they brought the fat to me to render.  Soon they were cutting up the chops bacon, and roasts. 

I cut it in medium chunks to fit into a roaster pan and slid it into my oven. In the excitement of packaging our meat, I just let it "do it's thing" in a hot oven. Soon there was SMOKE, and running children. I had burnt it!

So, with much trepidation (since my reputation is ingrained in my young men's minds) they brought me a package of fatback  last week to render...."take lots of pictures", they said. Then I was sent SEVERAL links to read. 

Guess what?! It's not hard or even time consuming at all! I made a few mistakes last time because I
was distracted and tried to hurry the process. (And because it was before my smart phone days!) 

I'll give you my straight forward advice...then, go to a market soon and pick yourself up some "fat back"
to make some yourself.

#1 Defrost your fatback by leaving it in your refrigerator overnight.

#2 Cut your fat into small pieces, or better yet grind
it. (I cut mine up and it did just fine. Next time I'll compare the two ways and grind mine.) 

#3 Take out your crockpot, adjust to low setting.

#4 Put 1/4 cup of water in the bottom of your crockpot.

#5   Add your cut up fatback. And give
it a stir. Put your lid on, and gather your
supplies for draining and storing your lard.
#6  You can be creative, but here is what
I found to work best for me. Wide mouth
canning jar for easy access to the lard storage,
canning jar funnel, small sieve, small piece of
cheese cloth, and a ladle.

Put these things right next to your crockpot with a small plate.

#7  After an hour or so, I checked
back in on my lard. There was a small amount of
melted fat on the bottom of the crock. I ladled it into my jar that had the canning funnel in it with small sieve covered with cheese cloth on it. (Whatever works!) I had read that it was important
to take the melted fat out as it melted so it wouldn't burn
...good idea, especially with MY reputation!

#8  Check back in on your crock pot whenever you get a break, removing the melted fat. This only takes a couple of minutes each time. Once you've ladled several scoops in your filtered jar you'll notice the cheese cloth is removing small bits of brown meat. I didn't try and clean the cloth, but kept ladling into the jar over the course of an afternoon.

By mid-afternoon I had pulled 1 full quart from the crock. Think ahead and have a clean plate nearby to put the funnel on when you're ready to cap your full jar.By supper time I had 2 quarts of home rendered lard. 
On the bottom of the crockpot there was crispy brown pieces of meat. These are called cracklings, and are used for seasoning dishes like green beans and cornbread.

Since we were making corn bread to go with our soup for supper we mixed up a small batch of...

Crackling Cornbread

1 1/4 C. Flour
1 1/4 C. Coarse Cornmeal
1 TBS. plus 1 tsp. Baking Powder
A light 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/4 C. Buttermilk...more if you are using freshly ground wheat like we do.
1/2 C. plus 2 T. Butter, melted
4 Eggs
1 C. Cracklings (optional)

With a wire whisk combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a "well" in the center. Pour in wet ingredients, and stir just until ingredients are combined. 

Place cast iron skillet, corn stick pan, or even regular muffin tins in the oven before beginning to heat up.
After your batter is mixed, pull out the pan and put a small amount of bacon drippings, (first choice) lard, or oil in each compartment. Let melt, but do not let the pan cool off.

Spoon the batter into your hot pan. Bake at 400
degrees till golden and even brown around the edge, and a knife inserted comes out clean.

Serve with hot butter and enjoy!