Pig butchering time has come around again. Last weekend we had our pig slaughtered on farm and with the help of our parents did the butchering at home. This year we had only one pig instead of two, so the process went more quickly. Beyond the usual meat cuts we also made 3 varieties of sausage (Chorizo, Luganega, and Breakfast), scrapple (see last year’s blog on scrapple making), and rendered lard. We are also trying our hand at dry curing one of the jowls, the recipe is called Guanciale and it is the simplest process for dry curing meat we could find. We need to see how that comes out and make sure we don’t die of botulism before sharing that process with the world.
Lard and animal fats in general have been much maligned in recent decades, but it seems the tide is turning and animal fats are coming back into acceptability these days. Lard is a good fat for high heat cooking and contains a lot of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin D. We also think it tastes delicious, so we render all of the fat that gets trimmed from the pig into lard. We use it for cooking and baking. Here is the basic process:
- Trim any extra fat that you don’t want to stay with the meat cuts throughout the butchering process and collect it in a bowl. Some people separate the fat from the belly from fat that is more from the back and rest of the body as they have different qualities. We have never separated them though as there are already too many bowls and different things to keep track of at that point and have found our lard to be totally fine for our use.
- If you have access to a grinder, it really helps to grind the fat before melting. You don’t have to, but it makes the process go faster and will probably yield more.
- Put the ground fat in a pot and boil at medium heat. Definitely keep an eye on it and stir to keep from sticking. The fat that we got from one pig fit into two pots one about 1 1/2G and the other 2 ½-3G. The smaller pot took about 30 minutes to melt fully. The larger pot took closer to one hour.
- When the lard is ready to pour it will take on a golden color (both the liquid fat and the bits that are floating in it). The bits are called cracklings and they are edible, though we usually feed them to our chickens.
- Have a pot or bowl ready with a colander lined with cheesecloth over it. Pour hot fat through the strainer. We poured into an 8 cup Pyrex so that the liquid could then be poured into pans easily.
- Press the cracklings that end up in the cheesecloth with a spoon until most of the fat is squeezed out then set them aside. You’ll probably have to pour through several batches.
- Pour liquid fat into shallow pans and let cool until solid.
- Cut lard into sections, wrap in freezer paper and freeze. I am told my Grandma Mast used to have a lard can that was filled with lard and stored in the root cellar and that kept just fine. If you have a root cellar you could try keeping it there, freezing seems a little less risky though.