Whenever we purchase grass-fed beef or pastured pork from a local farmer, we ask for the fat, too, so that we can render lard or tallow. It’s a great way to save money since the rendered fat can be used in cooking, soap making, and skin care.
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Grind or Cut Your Fat Before Rendering
I was first inspired to render fat after reading Long Way on a Little by Shannon Hayes. And then I recalled that The Foxfire Book had information on rendering lard.
Here’s what The Foxfire Book has to say in the chapter “Recipes for Hog”:
The fat is cut up into pieces about the size of hens’ eggs and put in a pot containing just enough water to keep it from sticking to the sides when cooked. The pot is then placed over a fire, and the fat is allowed to cook slowly. It is stirred often. By evening, the grease will have boiled out, the water evaporated, and the hard residue called “cracklins” will have fallen to the bottom. The grease is poured into containers, allowed to harden, and is used all winter for cooking. The cracklin’s are saved for bread.
I’ve since learned that if you ask your butcher to grind your pork or beef fat, the job of rendering goes much more quickly. But cutting it up yourself will work just fine.
Stovetop or Crockpot: Either Works Well
Pork fat can be rendered into lard, or beef fat into tallow either on the stovetop or in a crockpot. Either way, place a small amount of water in the bottom of the pot to keep the fat from burning before it begins to melt.
Keep the heat on low and stir occasionally.
As the fat melts, strain it through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer into a canning jar.
When cool it will turn white and harden into lard or tallow. Lard will remain soft enough to scoop with a spoon even after being refrigerated, but tallow will need to be broken with a sharp knife to remove pieces of it.
Lard or Tallow; Which Do I Prefer?
The question ‘which do I prefer?’ really depends on what I am making. Lard is wonderful for pie crusts and Welsh cookies. Tallow has a stronger smell, but does a better job of browning meat than lard. And I prefer tallow for soap because it makes nice hard bars that don’t melt away in your soap dish.
The old-timers really did know how to use every part of the animal, didn’t they?
Recipes That Use Lard or Tallow
Soap or Skin Care
How To Render Lard or Tallow
- pork or beef fat
- If possible, ask your butcher to grind the fat. Otherwise, cut the fat into 1" cubes.
- Add a tablespoons or so of water to the bottom of a crock pot or stock pot.
- Place on low heat, and add your pork or beef fat.
- Stir occasionally.
- As the fat melts, strain it through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer into a canning jar.
- When cool it will turn white and harden into lard or tallow. Lard will remain soft enough to scoop with a spoon even after being refrigerated, but tallow will need to be broken with a sharp knife to remove pieces of it.
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