Monday, January 20, 2014

Praise to the Lard, the Almighty

Saturday, when I wasn't making sauerkraut out of cabbages, spiced with shavings of my thumb--and we're talking after the thumb, here--I made lard.

Earlier in the day, I took the girls and went to pick up our half-hog from the butcher's. It was 2:00, and apparently they closed at noon, as the guy there grudgingly informed me. Every word seemed grudging. He was pretty surly about the 2 minutes I cost him to bring my meat out to my car, but I'm sure glad he did, since it took me, like, an hour and a half to get there. As requested, they also gave me a bag of fat from our pasture-raised pig (or maybe more than one, but I wasn't asking Surly McSlaughterhouse for details).

I was actually inspired by this post from Mack Hill Farm back in December to give lard another try, and Lisa's advice was very helpful. I made lard before (I recommend reading/re-reading that post--it amused me),  but it came out with a bit of a porky taste. This time, I hoped to do better. Nay, I resolved to do better.

I made sure to start making the lard well before Lauren got home, since I knew she would not be thrilled with me rendering pork fat in the house. Following Lisa's advice, I cut the fat into chunks and ran it through the food processor before putting it into the crock pot. I added water and let the teamwork of crock pot, pork fat and water do its collective thing. And then I added more water, so I could let it go overnight.

I wasn't really sure how to know when the water had all boiled off. I mean, it sank to the bottom (right?), because water is more dense than fat. So... yeah, no idea. But I just went ahead and started ladling it out, straining it through a coffee filter, and putting it into pint jars.

I have to say, it turned out great. It was the most beautiful, creamy white color when it cooled (as opposed to the stuff I made three years ago, that had a bit of a brown tinge to it), and it had none of the pork-ish flavor. I ended up with a little over 4 1/2 pints of lard, but that was from only about half of the fat, which means I've got some more rendering in my future.

It's a little crazy to me that I can end up with something like 18 cups of high-quality cooking fat just for the cost of some time. And yes, lard--especially from pastured pigs--is a high-quality fat. It's gotten a bad rep, but it's all kinds of good-for-you. Chris Kresser names it one of the five fats you should be cooking with, but probably aren't. Need I say more? How about The Washington Post? I found several mainstream media outlets that gave lard at least a gentleman's C for health, and the Post article came closest, but most of them miss the point, which is that the evidence for saturated fat being bad for us, the evidence for saturated fat causing heart disease, is extremely weak. So some will say that it has high levels of monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, and less saturated fat than butter, but will caution that it still has quite a bit of saturated fat, which misses the point. It's also the second-most dense source of dietary vitamin D. If it's from pastured pigs--as opposed to feedlot pigs eating corn, soy, and other junk--it has a favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

All this and it makes things taste better. All in favor, say oink!

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