Lard, a Tasty and Healthy Alternative + How to Make Your Own

As it turns out, lard is not as bad for us as we have been led to believe.  But, before I get into that, I discovered while I researched this, that products like Crisco became a popular replacement for lard (rendered pork fat) and tallow (rendered beef fat) because they were cheaper.  The low pricing was because Crisco was originally made from cotton seed oil.  Cotton seed was previously a waste product of the cotton industry, so this was a win-win for Crisco.  Even back in the early 1900's, lard and tallow were used not only for cooking, but to make candles and soap.   The high cost of lard, tallow, and butter drove many consumers to switch to Crisco and then to other products such as margarine and other butter substitutes. 

So, enough of the boring stuff, here's why you should add lard to your diet:

  • Lard makes food taste good!  It’s also heat stable which means you can use it for cooking, baking, and it’s GREAT for frying. 
  • Lard is a healthy replacement for super processed hydrogenated products like shortening, which contain all those bad fats.  Lard is 50% monounsaturated fats (this is the heart healthy fat!),  butter is 32% and coconut oil 6%.  Lard wins hands down. 
  • Lard has a neutral flavor and will not affect the flavor of your food, unlike coconut and olive oils which impart their own flavors.
  • Lard is a great source of vitamin D.  Indeed it is the second highest food source, however, this is only true of lard produced from pastured pigs.  This is because pastured pigs spend all day outside exposed to the sun.  Pigs are more efficient than people at producing vitamin D, which they store in the fat under their skin. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the USA, we all need more Vitamin D!
  • Lard is higher in omega-3’s than salmon, again, this is true only of lard from pastured pigs.
  • People who eat more cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories actually weigh less!  Numerous studies have found that there is NO BENEFIT to a low fat diet.  Lard has all these things.
  • Oleic acid, the main fat in lard, is strongly associated with decreased risk of depression.
  • Studies show that lard possesses anti-cancer properties.

Now that we’ve determined that we all need to eat more lard, you might want to know where you can get the good stuff from pastured pigs?  You can render your own from fat that comes with the purchase of a half or whole hog from our farm!  Follow the easy instructions below to render your own lard.  The same instructions also work for beef tallow.

How to Render Lard, Tallow, even Goose fat

Ingredients:

  • Leaf fat or Back fat - flavor will be better with leaf fat 
  • or a combination of leaf and back fats
  • 1/2 cup water

Chop or grind the fat into small pieces.  The smaller the better as this allow all the impurities to render out completely.  You will not get as much lard if the chunks are bigger.  Better yet, when you order a whole or half hog from us, you can ask the butcher to grind the fat for you!

Pour the water into a pot with a heavy bottom and add the fat.  Cook it over very low heat for several hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Alternatively, you can do this in your slow cooker.  Reduce the water to 1/4 cup and place water and fat into your slow cooker.  Set it to the lowest heat setting.  Stir it once in a while, every 15-20 minutes will do.

You will know your lard is ready when when you see bits of brown cracklings.  At this point you can strain the lard.  You can either use a very fine sieve or your colander lined with 2-3 layers of cheese cloth.  I like to use both the cheese cloth and the sieve to remove the finer particles for a snow white lard with no debris at the bottom.  It is worth purchasing a canning funnel.  These fit right onto the top of a jar and allow you to pour your lard directly into a canning jar with minimal mess.  In this case you can line the funnel with four layers of cheese or butter cloth, or better yet, set a small sieve into the funnel and pour through the sieve into your jar.

Lard can be stored at room temperature.  If this makes you uncomfortable, you can store it in your freezer for a year (or more) or in your refrigerator.

Pointer - select jar sizes that provide ideal quantities for your intended use.  For instance, a half cup jar would be a great size to use your lard for either pie crust or biscuits!  Wide mouth jars are also easier to get a knife into to scrape lard out.

Cheesecloth, small sieve, two styles of canning jar funnels, and a variety of jars in which to store your lard.  I used rubber bands to secure the cheese cloth inside of the red funnel.  

Cheesecloth, small sieve, two styles of canning jar funnels, and a variety of jars in which to store your lard.  I used rubber bands to secure the cheese cloth inside of the red funnel.  

Finished lard.

Finished lard.

Rendered goose fat.  I trimmed the fat from the goose before we roasted it.  It was a very small quantity, and produced only about a cup of rendered fat, but the small quantity made it render quickly.  I think I had it done in less than 20 minutes.

Rendered goose fat.  I trimmed the fat from the goose before we roasted it.  It was a very small quantity, and produced only about a cup of rendered fat, but the small quantity made it render quickly.  I think I had it done in less than 20 minutes.