I asked for the leaf lard from the recent pork share I participated in. And, oh, why not, I’ll take the fat back too!
I ended up with one package of leaf lard, which was about one pound, and four packages of fat back, nearly twice the weight each. What I would ever do with close to 8 pounds of fat back is open to question — until I suddenly hit upon the answer.
Suet (from beef or lamb) is used as a base for bird feed blocks. Okay, when the bears go into hibernation, I’ll be feeding any winter birds around here. The source will simply be from a pig, not an ungulate. I certainly don’t want to eat 8 plus pounds of pork fat! Or deep fry in all that! So, I’ll just render the majority of this stuff into the porcine version of bird suet!
My chickens might even appreciate a little of the stuff, especially in the winter, when grubs are harder to come by. (Yes, chickens are omnivores.)
Leaf lard is the fat that surrounds the kidneys and environs. It is prized by chefs and, yes, bakers. It imparts no taste but improves the texture of many types of baked goods. (Just be sure to tell any vegetarians, vegans, Orthodox Jews and Muslims who might be partaking that the goods in question contain pork…) It has a relatively high melting point, and a high smoke point. Fat back does have some of the taste of pork, and is deemed of lesser quality than leaf lard. But, it does have its uses in cooking, but I just don’t want anywhere so much!!
Prep Time: However long it takes you to chop the lard and into what size.
Cook Time: Depends on how much lard, and the size you chopped it to. Plan on up to a couple hours.
Rest Time: Cool enough to place in fridge.
Serves: It depends! What will you do with it???
Cuisine: General European.
Leftovers: Of course! Will last for a month in the fridge.
Rendering Leaf Lard
- 1 pound, more or less, of leaf lard.
- About a quarter cup of water.
Chop up the leaf lard. I chopped mine by hand to 1/4 inch bits. The smaller you chop it, the faster it will render. Some people throw it through a meat grinder (I don’t yet own one). Some people plaster it through a food processor, which, frankly, I didn’t want to think about cleaning afterwards.
Put in a good pot, on the range, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.
The water is necessary to keep the fat from burning before it starts to melt. The water does need to boil off. Otherwise the rendered lard will not last as long, and will lack the proper useful texture. (Or so I understand, but I am copacetic with the principle.)
Stir periodically. I left the lid off the pot until the end process.
This is not the most pleasant aroma on the planet, so you may want to vent your kitchen accordingly. I didn’t mind it that much. Cruciferous veggies have a stronger smell, and I don’t mind that much, either. (TBH, the only food aromas I truly dislike are hazelnut and asafetida. I have not yet had the privilege of sniffing durian.)
At any rate, after an hour and a half of a low simmer, drain off your rendered fat through a narrow-gapped sieve, and collect the liquids for later. Smash down the harder pieces with the back of a serving spoon or similar implement, straining the liquids into your chosen vessel.
Allow this liquefied fat to cool, and store it in your fridge. You can aliquot portions, and freeze parts if you desire.
At any rate, any lard or animal fat you obtain like this can be rendered down in a similar process. Time may also vary by the type of fat, but I have yet to experiment with that. Just plan to be around and in your kitchen during the process. I do consider this homesteading activity to be part and parcel of “waste not, want not”. Down the road (I really don’t eat grains often, so I won’t guarantee when) I will make some pastry product using this leaf lard.
The fat that doesn’t render down can be fried to crispy edible fat-crisps. Frankly, I didn’t find this portion all that interesting, and I am afraid, after sampling to check, I discarded that. YMMV.
If you decide to render down leaf lard, fat back, or suet… please do go with locally pastured sources as fat does tend to retain, unintentionally or not, “additives” of uncertain and unwanted origin.
Hmm, in the Recipe Index, should I file this under “Condiments”? Hmm, I think I will.
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