Homesteading Basics: How to Make Your Own Lard

By ERIN TURNER

I had various other topics swirling around in my head for this week’s blog but as I sit here at the computer, the smell from my kitchen and the sounds of my crock pot bubbling away made me compelled to share with you our annual ritual this time of year….rendering lard.

Now I am fully aware that the word “LARD” has been the source of lots of debate and for a few decades has even been a dirty word in the world of nutrition and diet.  But as the pendulum swings back towards some balance of healthy fats and traditional foods, lard is once again being spotlighted as healthy and pure.  It is something which our grandparents and great-grandparents depended on for their cooking needs.  It was readily available this time of year when each homestead butchered their animals in preparation for the winter.

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When we started butchering our own hogs about 6 years ago, our friends’ mother (thanks LouAnn Sharkey) offered to render lard for us.  It was a new concept for me and I really wasn’t sure what in the world I would do with tubs of lard!  But when the rendered lard came back to me snowy white, soft and faintly scented I knew I needed to give this traditional food a chance in my kitchen.

It made its debut in my Thanksgiving Day pie crusts.  Wow, how did I ever make crusts without lard before?  The crusts were flaky, rich and silky…heads and shoulders above a crust made with butter!  Then came the Chocolate Chip cookies which were wolfed down without a single thought of calories, fat or cholesterol!  Only the pure delight of homemade goodness was on our minds.

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Now, I will clarify that lard is lard. And that means it is a fat and needs to be consumed in moderation.  So, despite finding new ways to enjoy it, I surely wasn’t replacing any of our healthier fats such as olive oil when I sauté up our fresh veggies or make salad dressings.   No, lard is simply a substitute for butter or the dreaded hydrogenated Crisco in recipes.  Just keep the lard consumption in moderation and it’ll all be good!

I was so delighted with the results of my culinary tests with lard that the following year I determined I needed to learn this homesteading task of rendering lard myself.  As I researched the internet I continued to read many accounts of using crock pots to render it down and its ease appealed to me.  So, I pulled out the crock pot and filled it with chucks of white fat we had trimmed off our butchered pigs.

As the heat increased, the fat began melting and turned into a liquid which we then filtered through a paper towel and a funnel into glass jars.  Then the moment of truth came a few hours later when it cooled.  We proudly lifted up the glass jar full of a snowy white, soft yet firm, faintly scented substance which would eventually made some incredible edibles!

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It really is just that easy…melt the fat from the pig in a crock pot, filter it and jar it.  It needs to be stored in the refrigerator or in the freezer.  I keep little jars in the freezer and one big stainless steel tub in the refrigerator.

If you are thinking about adding lard to your baking regimen, I would highly suggest making your own.  You can purchase fat directly from the butcher at the grocery store or at a butcher shop.  There are some commercial lards showing up on the grocery store shelves but beware as many of them have been hydrogenated making them as unhealthy as Crisco. Making your own is the best way to be sure you’re getting pure lard!  Plus, there is something magical about making your own lard and then baking with it.  You’ll feel like a true pioneer!

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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