They Eat Lard

31 Jul
What a great title for a horror movie!

What a great title for a horror movie!

I am working on something a lot less snarky but it’s not ready for publication, so since I rendered some lard yesterday morning I thought I’d take a few minutes to run down the procedure in case any of the unsuspecting victims who stumble on this blog might not know how to make it. It’s quite easy, and since we know now that lard is actually good for you, there’s not much reason not to use it. It also tastes wonderful.

Of course, I’m not talking about the hydrogenated glarp you buy in the store, usually in the “ethnic” section.

Real lard is just pork fat which has been melted and the remaining solids removed. Most people make it from pork fatback, which you can think of as uncured bacon with no meaty part in it – it’s just fat. I used a pound of fatback, which cost me $3.50 from a butcher that supplies very good, hazelnut-finished animals. (If you happen to be in Portland, I really recommend these guys. And they don’t know me from Adam so there’s no quid pro quo going on here.) The pound of fatback will make enough lard to just about fill a 16 ounce tub.

1. Cut the lard into small pieces, put it in a kettle and add enough water to come up about even with the top of the lard. The water is there to keep the lard from burning at the beginning of the process. At first, you can use a pretty high heat, but this first step is just to boil off the water and get the lard started. Once most of the water is gone you must turn the heat down. Here’s my lard after it’s started to boil, with some water still in the pot:


2. Turn the heat down and let the lard bubble, stirring occasionally. As the lard liquifies, the solid bits will get smaller and more and more liquid will surround them. The bubbles will get smaller and smaller, and eventually the small pieces of solid matter will start to turn brown – at this point I pour off the liquid into a metal bowl:


3. While the liquid cools I finish rendering the cracklings, which is what those solid bits are called. I do this away from the liquid so that if I mess up and overdo it I won’t give the rendered lard a browned taste. You can still use it if you do, but you probably wouldn’t want it in anything that isn’t a savory dish. I don’t eat grains so pastry is not on my menu, but if you want to you can make the best tasting, most flaky pastry you ever had with this stuff. This is what our great-grandparents’ pies were made with.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

Lard cooling; it will be entirely ivory when done.

4. That’s it. Put the rendered lard in the refrigerator, where the lard will turn white (unless you really overcooked the cracklings first, LOL), salt the cracklings and taste ‘em; they hit the “french fry spot” better than anything else I’ve found since I stopped eating starchy carbs. Or put them directly on something and have a snack:

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

My usual patented, mismatched lighting for eating

You can, of course, render other types of fat too. Here’s how you can make tallow if you have some beef heart handy. I realize that’s not too likely, but some might find it interesting, although the basic technique is the same as that used here for lard. In the absence of beef hearts (which usually have quite a bit of fat on the outside) you can do the same thing with suet, which you could get from a decent butcher.

Stay young and monstrous.


Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Health, Recipes & ingredients


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2 responses to “They Eat Lard

  1. Oolichan

    August 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Great article … thanks! … I’m heading out to my local butcher to get a pound of pork fatback. Will give it a try! All lard that I’ve been able to find in the stores has chemicals in it; this article convinces me that I need to make my own.

  2. tyrannocaster

    August 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    You’re dead-on about the supermarket lard – that stuff actually deserves the reputation that lard has within the general public, but the homemade item is fantastic; in fact, I was thinking this morning that maybe I should write a post on what to do with these rendered animal fats for the simple reason that so many of us are no longer in the habit of using them. Well, maybe I’ll get around to that, but it does seem fairly self evident that you can fry stuff in them, at least. I noticed that the lard seems to work a lot better for frying eggs than ghee or butter does, at least in terms of the food sticking and cleanup afterwards. I don’t ever use nonstick pans (don’t want to ingest the teflon) so this is a matter of some interest to me. I have a dedicated egg pan but the eggs often stick in it to some degree with the ghee, but with the lard there is way, way less of a problem. Of course, each of the oils has its own taste and sometimes you don’t want it so you can’t do everything with just one. I would never fry eggs in coconut oil, for example, even though in general I like it. And I wouldn’t use lard or tallow in a Tai dish for the same reason.

    Interestingly (to me, at least) the tallow is radically different from the lard; at refrigerator temperature it is hard and brittle – you can break it into chunks for storage by just sticking a knife into it. The lard, however, stays spreadable in the refrigerator. The tallow, because it is so solid at room temperature, is a lot harder to clean out of a frying pan afterwards and I have ended up using it for things like soup, which I generally start by browning onions, where the tallow is absorbed into the soup and the pot is still easy to clean out later. Lard is, overall, easier to work with IMO.


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