Rendering Lard

Canning, Dehydrating, Freezing, Fermenting, etc.

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Rendering Lard

Postby George Collins » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:02 pm

On Tuesday, November 13th, I transported three hogs to the processing plant for paying customers. As this was my first venture in raising hogs for others, since all of these customers were family and friends, and as this was to be a practice run for the real, Berkshire run scheduled for the winter of 2013-2014, the three hogs were sold at cost.

The only compensation I received was those parts of the hogs that the other would have thrown away: head, fat and feet. I kept the fat and the feet and gave the heads away. I intend to learn how to make "hog-head cheese" one day but one thing at a time for what I have on the plate for today is cooking out the lard.

Youngblood rents the hunting rights to a bunch of Cajuns who are in camp today. One of those cajuns is reputedly a master at cooking out lard. I spoke with him last night and he agreed to help me render the lard today. I'll report back the results at the end of the day.

The reason I want the lard is mostly to make biscuits. Also, lard makes a the best pie crust I've ever eaten but as awesome as that pie crust is, I adore the qualities that lard and buttermilk impart to sourdough biscuits.

Here's the recipe:
2 slightly mounded cups of plain flour
1 Tbsp Sodium Free Baking Powder
1 cup Sourdough Starter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup of lard

Mix baking powder and flour, cut in lard until mixture resembles the texture of coarse corn meal, add sour dough starter then buttermilk. Mix until a gooey mess. Pour into a dough-bowl with two more cups plain flour mixed with a 1 Tbsp of Sodium free baking powder. Knead the dough until it forms a stiff dough ball. Pinch dough into biscuit sized portions and, with well-floured hands, form into the desired shape. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 14 minutes then, without removing the biscuits from the oven, broil on high for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack and paint tops and bottoms with melted butter.

Thank me later cause these ain't just no little bit better than any other biscuit I ever et. They WAY YONDER the best biscuits I've ever shoveled down my pie-hole.

Makes 8-12 biscuits depending on the size biscuit you like.
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby matt walker » Fri Nov 16, 2012 5:34 pm

Hmmm, I rendered a bunch of lard this summer and I have sourdough starter. Not only that, I just made a big batch of breakfast sausage last weekend. I'm going to just go ahead and thank you now, and then probably again later too. Thanks man!
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Fri Nov 16, 2012 5:57 pm

Will you be doing this process out side with a large kettle over an open fire? I do not own a large kettle, but I want one, lol. They occationally come up for sale at auction, but not too often any more. I do own a copper kettle, but it is not as large as I would like. :)
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby George Collins » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:43 pm

Image

Guy, this is a 25 gallon, cast iron pot that had been stored for right at 30 years. The reason I know that bit of trivia is because the last time it was used was to cook out lard when I was about 14 years old.

When we did it back then, we used an open wood fire. For this batch, we used a propane burner.

FYI, from right after daylight until sometime afternoon was spent getting the pot into shape. We could have easily spent much more time working on the pot but the fellow that ran this show said we were out of time. That is to say, if you get hold of a used pot that is badly rusted, save yourself some time and get it sand-blasted.

However, doing the job by hand taught gave opportunity to learn several valuable lessons about how to restore a pot of this size. It also gave opportunity to learn how such a pot should be cared for. And the guy helping me certainly knows what he is doing - he is an award winning cracklin' cooker AND a Cajun from South Louisiana. Tomorrow I will provide a more complete write up of the whole process.
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"If you can't beat them, bite them."
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:14 pm

That is a nice Kettle George. That is what I was talking about, :) nice size, heavy cast iron, great for cooking over an open fire. We have had some neighborhood picnics up here on the Hill over the years and Wilmer, the farmer at the end of the road cooked sweet corn in a pot like yours hung from a tri pod over a wood fire. It was great fun. :D
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby George Collins » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:59 am

Matt, keep a brother posted on how those cat-heads turn out. As a token of appreciation for their help yesterday, I'm making a triple run this morning to have ready for the Cajuns when they return from their morning hunt.

As it relates to the renderin of the lard, here are the notes I took yesterday:

"NEVER HIT YOUR POT WITH A HAMMER!!!!" Advice given simultaneously by Youngblood and my Cajun mentor as the sledge hammer was making contact with the edge of the pot in a vain attempt at leveling it up.

"NEVER ADD COLD WATER TO A HOT POT!!!". Advice given by Youngblood and my Cajun mentor ad nauseum throughout the day.

To bring the pot back into some semblance of usable shape:
Clean pot of rust (we used wire brushes spun by electric drill)
Boil water
Dip out
Paper towel out rest of water
Pour in salt
Scrub with paper towels
Pour in water
Dip out water
Towel out water
Pour in oil
Coat all inner surfaces of pot
Towel out excess oil
Add oil or water and trash fat and cook until done. 
Perform Salt scrub with 1/3 to 1/2 box of salt until salt no longer turns black
Rinse pot with water
Dry pot

Had the pot been in good shape when we started, none of the above would have been necessary.
Add oil
Add fat
Light fire
LOW heat!
Stir frequently at first. Once a substantial amount of lard has cooked out, stir very infrequently. (Every 30-45 minutes.)
Should take 3+ hours to cook out
If they start to stick, turn up the fire a smidge
Continue to cook until they just about quit bubbling (make sure fire isn't causing the bubbles by keeping temperature between 275 degrees and 305 degrees)
At 3hrs 45 min, took cracklins out
Ate supper.
After eating, the lard had cooled sufficiently and was poured into lard bucket through 8 layers of cheese cloth with two quart sauce pan. 

At this point, the cooking of the lard was complete. If lard is the sole desired product, the process would end here. 

To pop the "cracklins", we put ~2 gallons of oil back into pot and heated it with burner on high.  Once fairly hot,  a strike anywhere match was put in the oil, when it spontaneously combusted the oil was deemed hot enough and about a quart of cracklins were dumped in.  The cracklins were stirred constantly until ready which required only a very brief time (I would have timed this aspect of the operation but by this point of the day, Cajun "hospitality" had caused my vision to blur sufficiently to make my stop watch unintelligible.)

After using pot:
Wipe clean with rag.
Boil water making sure to clean sides.
Dip/wipe all water out.
Light burner until pot is completely dry.
Turn burner off.
Wait 10 minutes until pot is cool.
Spray with Pam. 
Wipe. 
Store.
"Solve world hunger, tell no one." "The, the, the . . . The Grinch!"

"If you can't beat them, bite them."
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby George Collins » Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:51 am

After cooking out the lard yesterday, I had just enough fat left over to fill two crock pots with ~1" square pieces. They were cooked on low all day (about 10-12 hours). I referenced two Internet sources for how to do so. One said she added 1/2 cup of water to her lard and the other website (Joel Salatin's) failed to mention any additions. At some point during the day, someone tuned the heat off on the Salatin batch and I have no idea for how long it sat in the counter without cooking.

The one thing different about rendering lard in a crock pot is that judging it "done" is more difficult than cooking it out in an open pot. In an open pot, the residue turns to cracklins. In the crockpot, they never did change substantially in appearance other than just getting a bit smaller. Additionally, the pot into which the 1/2 cup of water was used saw the pieces of fat stuck to the sides.

Does anyone know if that will affect the flavor?

Since the one pot that got accidentally turned off had much less oil in it, more cooking appears to be in order so I just turned both pots off and will resume cooking tomorrow.
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"If you can't beat them, bite them."
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby matt walker » Sun Nov 18, 2012 7:02 pm

George, I don't have enough experience with different techniques to comment much, but I'll tell you what I gleaned from my research and processing experience this summer.

In my understanding, the folks who add water, knowingly or not, are trying to control the temperature through the boiling plateau effect of water. In other words, you can render fat without burning it by combining with water such that the mix of the two will not rise above 212* until the water is gone. I've seen this technique used to make very white, clean lard by adding quite a bit of water, and then when it was all done refrigerating over night so the lard floats and solidifies and the water can be poured off. The recipes that call for a little water to be added are, in my opinion, controlling the temp the same way through the early stages until the water steams off.

My technique was to put the fat squares in a large cast iron dutch oven and put on fairly low heat. I watched it and within an hour or two the lard is starting to render. This early stage is when I skimmed off the best, cleanest lard. My understanding is that the pure, good fat renders more easily and makes the cleanest white lard, so you take it off as you go. My jars went from pure white to sorta bacon gold as the process wore on. As time goes on the tougher fat and connective tissue renders but as well the cracklins and meaty bits are starting to cook, adding that golden color and sorta bacon flavor. So, yeah, I render long and slow, and try to skim off the pure stuff early before the tougher bits start really cooking. By the time I've gotten to the end I've got cracklins and brownish grease in the bottom, and the last jars have a lot of flavor.

Not sure if all that is exactly right, I'm no expert, but that's kinda the premise I was working under when rendering the lard from my Tamworths.
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Re: Rendering Lard

Postby George Collins » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:01 pm

Matt, that explanation makes a head-full of sense re: the boiling plateau.

As for the differing types of lard, I will have to take your word on that one because no one 'round here has ever done it that way and as long as the gray heads are running the show, I feel lucky just getting them to help. And the way they've always done it is that you throw all the fat in one pot and go like hell till the job is done. In their defense, back when they were doing it, they were doing it for real and they had to be done, sometimes with several hogs, by dark.

So until I feel comfortable enough to go it with just the help of the wife and kids, I'll say, "Yessir!" each time I'm given instruction and once the basic process is mastered, then I'll try to improve upon it.

Having said that, I think it time to start a new thread . . .
"Solve world hunger, tell no one." "The, the, the . . . The Grinch!"

"If you can't beat them, bite them."
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Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:57 pm
Location: South Central Mississippi, Zone 8a

Re: Rendering Lard

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:48 pm

Taking knowledge from the Gray Heads is always a Good Thing in my opinion George. They pass along more than just knowledge when you spend time with them like that. I am sure that they imparted a few good stories, maybe a couple of jokes and alot of good memories as well. That and the fact that you now know NEVER hit a cast iron pot with a Hammer was well worth the time spent, plus you got a bunch of Lard rendered in the process. It sounds like a win, win to me. :D
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