Friday, October 28, 2011

Rendering Lard and all that Jazz

Well, it is that time of year again. The old lard jars are running empty, so it is time to render lard so we can enjoy fluffy biscuits and flaky pie crusts for at least another year or so.

If you have never rendered lard then let me share some tips to help get you started:

1. If at all possible, share the job with a friend, a good friend. You know the kind: the one that knows all your habits and weaknesses and loves you anyway.
2. Give yourself plenty of time for this project. It's not hard, but it can be time-consuming.
3. Remember the goal: yummy biscuits and melt-in-mouth pie crusts.

Okay, so back to the friend that I was speaking of. My friend Carolyn and I have been sharing this job for a couple of years now and it works out beautifully for both of us. This is how it works: when our children start asking for chicken 'n' dumplings or biscuits and we tell them "no", it's because we are running low on lard. We'll email each other for about a month or so saying we need to make lard and then finally one day we actually grab the big hunk of hog fat out of our freezer to thaw.

We decide which one us will render the fat. When making this decision, we take two factors into consideration: time and sanity. The person with the most time and the least sanity gets the job of rendering the fat. This year that person was me. Last time it was my friend. That's the beautiful thing about lard, it always works out perfectly. Once finished, we split the jars of lard between the two of us. Take a look at WHY my friend didn't have time this year.

Have you ever tried cutting up 30 pounds of hog fat? Well, let me tell you, you better have a strong arm because you just about have to wrestle it into the roaster pan. Don't despair, it can be done and once it is, you'll have yummy, beautiful, creamy white lard.

Now the easy part. Just turn the roaster oven on low heat and let it go for a day or 2 days until the cracklings are a nice golden brown. Some people leave the heat on until the cracklings crisp up and sink, which is fine, but not my preference.

Strain the lard through some cheesecloth. Pour the lard into clean wide-mouth jars and cap them. I like to process my jars in a pressure canner for 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. That way I have a nice seal on the jars and I know for sure they are shelf-stable.

Look at these lovely jars of lard! Makes my heart sing!

Now what to do with the cracklings...we made suet balls for our chickens and wild birds.

The boys loved making them. You think children love handling Play-Doh??? Just hand them a hunk of cold cracklings mixed with lard and watch their eyes light up! Of course, I cringed every time I heard a piece of bird seed hitting the kitchen floor, but it all swept up nicely in the end.

And look how happy our beloved chickens are! The little bantums were hesitant at first, but once they discovered how yummo it was, there was no stopping them.

We rolled the others up in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer so the birds could enjoy a tasty snack this winter.

Mommy is happy, Mommy's friend is happy, the children are happy, the chickens are happy...everyone is happy and happy is good!

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