Cutting up a pig is tricky business. On one hand you want to get every usable chunk of something or other in order to divvy up the cost into to more sale-able weight….but on the other hand I don’t want to store backbones for the rest of summer hoping that someone comes along that is interested. Fat is one of those cuts that is highly valued by a few and can be hard to get. Unfortunately, we see all the cuts of a hog come and go while the fat remains.
First off- why lard? This article says it all. In short, lard is tastier, healthier, certainly less wasteful, cleaner, more versatile, cheap, and a little bit fun. Our key worry (warning: self-serving promotion coming) is that fat stores stuff- bad stuff. All the benefits of lard are lost if you use fat from factory animals. Start with pure fat and you’ll get pure lard. We sell fat for $1 a pound….which is the amount that goes to the butcher shop. We find that 5 lbs makes 2 quarts. So 64 onces of lard for 5 bucks…..compared to 15 bucks for Crisco. Granted it takes a bit longer…..a lot longer.
So how long does it take to make lard – all day. Start with partially thawed fat and a sharp knife and cut the fat into chunks as small as your patience allows…for me that is about 1″ chunks. You are after surface area- the more the quicker. If there are some chunks of meat in the fat you can remove it or leave in for cracklins. We cut it out as there is usually not much there and wouldn’t even make for a snack.
Next, we need to melt the fat. Ideally, we are trying to convert this into a clear liquid. We have tried this on the stovetop and the oven; however, the crockpot method is definitely the best. Best in that there is little chance of burning or browning the lard making a muddy lard. It is also safer- you are working with a flammable material here so sealing it up in a crockpot makes a lot of sense. One other advantage is the smell won’t permeate the house as bad as an open top pan.
Take you chunks and fill up the crockpot- turn on low and wait….all day. It takes a while, stir occasionally in an effort to break up the chunks and move the fat around through the hot spots on the crock. There will be some stuff the does not render. This will be dealt with later, just try to get to the point of diminishing returns.
Ladel the lard (both the liquid and the remaining chunks) through a strainer into clean jars. The lard will shrink- so it is okay to fill the jars to the top. Some people do this a couple times, or through finer filters. We find one time and just a flour sifter work fine. Cool after filling and use at will!
Now go make some tortillas!!!