Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paleo Good Fats: Rendering Lard

I know it's hard not to think lard ass when you read this post, but hold your eye rolls, this will not make your ass fatter (unless you sit on it 23 hours a day).  Lard used to be the go-to fat for most home cooks, how many grandmother's used coconut oil?  But it fell out of vogue during the microwave heyday and was replaced by some unsavory counterparts, can we say Crisco?  If you can find lard in the store, it's usually hydrogenated and pumped with preservatives, so do yourself a favor and make some yourself.

Still not convinced?  Lard is high in Vitamin D and just behind olive oil in monounsaturated fats (or MUFAs, which I have trouble saying without laughing), and tolerates high heat when cooking with it.   Monounsaturated fats are the 'good fats', and including them in your diet (according to the Mayo Clinic) improves "blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease.  Research also shows thats MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be helpful if you have Type 2 diabetes".

I got my pork fat from my Cook Pigs Ranch visit.  But you may be able to find it in specialty markets, or if you have a butcher they may carry it or can order it for you.  My suggestion, find a farmer.  They probably have tons.  

Rending Lard

1 pound pork fat (leaf or back fat, see photo below)
Large dutch oven
Big glass jar

Step 1: Cut up you fat into tiny cubes.  This is easier to do if your fat is slightly frozen. Mine were about 3/4 of an inch cubes, and I'd suggest doing them smaller.  

Step 2: Put fat into your dutch oven with about 1/4 cup of water and turn heat on medium.  Stir frequently so the fat doesn't burn on the bottom.  Once the fat starts to melt, you won't have to stir as often.  You never want it be a full boil so adjust the heat as needed. 

Step 3:  It will start to look like chicken broth with croutons on top, this is normal.  The pieces of fat will also pop a bit, this may scare the dog, but don't be alarmed.  When the pieces start to sink, you're ready to strain.  Mine took about 2 hours.

There are two types of pork fat used to render lard.  The back fat on the left, which I used, and the leaf fat on the right.  Leaf fat comes from around the kidneys and is popular to use for pastries as it is almost flavorless.  

Step 4:  Allow it to cool slightly, then strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a large mason jar. (I'd suggest the cheesecloth - I didn't have any and the sieve left some sediment in the bottom on my jar).  The liquid will be brown, but as it cooks on the counter it will turn white.  Store in the fridge or freezer

Step 5:  This is totally optional, but the little solid bits that are left can be baked or friend to eat as snacks or put on salads.  They are an acquired taste I can't say we were fans.

I use my lard to make eggs, add richness to soups, or as a butter substitute.  It does not have a strong flavor, but will give your meals some depth.

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