Growing up on the farm we made lard in an iron kettle over an open fire. That’s the old-fashioned way to melt pig fat. You had to watch it constantly and keep the fire hot. Too hot and you would scorch the lard, too cool and the fat wouldn’t melt.
I make much smaller quantities today, and it’s simple and easy thanks to my good old crock pot.
Where Find Lard
If you are not on a farm, you can find lard at many butcher shops or small processing plants. Of course, you can also have the butcher save the fat from your own pig if you have one slaughtered and packaged. Ask them to separate the leaf lard from the rest, as you will want to render it by itself. (Render is the proper name for melting pig fat)
Leaf lard is the highest-grade fat from around the kidneys and the inside of the loins. It is used mainly for baking, as it has little or no pork flavor.
The rest of your lard will be from the fatback and trimmings that the butcher has left over when cutting and packaging your pork.
How to Make it
Put about half of a cup of water in your crock pot or slow cooker. This keeps the fat from scorching until enough of it melts to replace the water. The water will evaporate off by the time you are done.
Turn the crock pot on medium to high, add the chunked-up fat to the water, and place the lid on top. You can expect it to take around eight hours if you get your crock pot just hot enough to melt the fat and not much hotter. Getting the temperature too high can result in scorching or burning the fat, which gives it a burnt taste and dark color – not what you want!
Stir the fat occasionally as it renders, which will help you determine if it’s getting too hot and aid in breaking up the small bits of meat, etc. that will not melt.
When the lard is about done, you will notice that it has stopped melting and you have only smaller brown pieces much like curds. If the skin were left on the pig, this would be cracklings. Growing up on the farm, we always left the skin on the pig so it meant straining the lard and pressing these cracklings in a lard press.
Almost all pigs today are skinned, so what you have left after the fat renders completely can be strained off and fed to the birds, chickens or thrown away.
I use a small strainer that fits a quart Mason jar and cut a small piece of cheesecloth to fit the bottom of the strainer. This ensures nice, clean lard, although if you do have a bit of material get through, it will settle out if you let the lard solidify at room temperature.
Once the lard has rendered down, simply pour through the strainer into clean containers and allow to cool. I prefer to use glass jars. Once the lard is cooled down, refrigerate it. You should freeze it if you are going to keep it for the long-term.
This method of making lard is easy and can be completed while doing other things. Just make sure to check it often in the beginning to make sure it’s not getting too hot.
All that’s left is to enjoy your lard for cooking some delicious food and baked goods!
What advice would you add for making lard? Share your tips in the section below: