Last Updated on January 19, 2023 by Share My Kitchen
Learning how to make your homemade lard is one of the essential things you need when it comes to homesteading skills. This will give you the feeling that you are channeling Ree Drummond in the kitchen.
Modern homesteaders understand, of course, that it’s okay to use modern tools such as an instant pot, an electric stove, or a slow cooker, to get the job done.
However, it doesn’t matter how you cut, dice, grind, or render it. Making your homemade lard is something you must have in your repertoire. The finished product will also be helpful whether you are making a melt-in-your-mouth flaky pie crust, frying food, or seasoning cast iron skillets. You can even make your soaps and candles in the comfort of your own home!
What is Lard?
Lard is simply pig fat processed through rendering (or cooking) it until it becomes liquid. Then, it’s left to cool and solidify to form with a similar texture to butter.
There are two types of lard. The first is made around the kidneys, and it is also known as “leaf oil” or “leaf fat.” Leaf lard is the most suitable type of lard to use for baking, and it’s prized for its purity.
The second type of lard is made from the back of the pig, and it is called “back fat” or “fatback.” It is also much harder but can still be converted into lard. When it’s in its solid state, it is usually diced up and added to sausages. The lard made from the back fat is more suitable for cooking once rendered since it has a more distinct porky flavor than pure leaf lard, which is flavorless and odorless.
This recipe needs leaf fat because this is the most common type of fat used in home cooking and baking. However, fatback can also be used if that’s what you have on hand.
Lard vs. Shortening
Lard is a natural source of solid fat, which can be used for cooking and baking. It has been used for over millennia. It was commonly used in homes throughout North America and Europe much the same way as butter up until the 1800s.
Technically, lard can be considered a shortening type since it is defined as any type of solid fat at room temperature and used in baking. The name shortening comes from shortening the gluten fibers in baked goods, making them crumblier, flakier, and less doughy.
There’s also “shortening,” as most people call it nowadays, which is vegetable shortening, or Crisco.
Crisco vegetable shortening, a highly processed hydrogenated oil made initially from cottonseed oil, was created by Procter & Gamble at the beginning of the 20th Century. The company started a very successful, as well as misleading, a marketing campaign that persuaded people to switch from traditional and natural fat sources, such as butter and lard, to what they dubbed the “altogether better and more nutritious fat,” or hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Vegetable shortening is basically to lard what butter is to margarine.
As Crisco became more popular, lard started to lose its demand, which was the case for the next 100 years. However, people are becoming more mindful about their food choices, and they are more aware of the dangers posed by highly processed foods such as hydrogenated vegetable oils. Traditional foods like butter or lard are returning to popularity.
Where to Get Pork Fat for Homemade Lard?
You could buy lard at the grocery store, but that is not as enjoyable as making it yourself. Also, many of the lard you see in grocery stores contain preservatives such as BHA and BHT, which are both on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List of food additives. On the other hand, homemade lard is pure pig fat.
Making your homemade lard is easy if you raise your pigs. If you are hiring someone to butcher your pigs, make sure you ask for the leaf lard and fatback if you want it.
However, if you don’t raise your pigs, you can still obtain pork fat when you ask your local butcher for it or make friends with a local pig farmer.
This is an excellent example of how building community can be so helpful for anyone trying to become more self-reliant than trying to do it all alone.
How to Render Lard at Home
Now, you have your pork fat, and you’re ready to render it into pure homemade lard, which you can use for baking, cooking, frying, greasing, and everything related to homesteading. What’s the next step?
It is very easy to render homemade lard. You can use either an Instant Pot or a slow cooker. However, it will still work if you only have a stockpot or stovetop.
Freeze the Pig Fat
The first step to making the process as simple as possible is to freeze the pig fat. It is easier to trim and chop frozen pig fat before you render it down.
Once the meat has been frozen (or very cold), remove any skin. Then, trim any bits of meat from the fat.
Slice the Fat
Next, slice the fat into small pieces. This can be done with a food processor. You can even use a meat grinder, but it can make a lot of mess. It is recommended to use a sharp knife to cut the fat into smaller pieces, approximately 1/2-inch cubes.
The smaller the fat is diced or ground, the faster it will cook down. However, don’t be afraid to dice the cubes slightly larger. It will take longer to cook and render, but it will still be fine.
Prepare Your Cooker of Choice
Add 1/4 cup of water to your Instant Pot, slow cooker, or stockpot. Then, add the pig fat.
If you use a stock pot or slow cooker, don’t put the lid on; cook over low heat for several hours. This will allow the fat to melt and render. Without the lid, the water will evaporate. The water is needed to prevent the fat from burning.
You should keep an eye on the homemade lard and check it once an hour or so. After the leftover meat and fatty bits have risen to the top, strain the lard through a fine mesh sieve. Then, reserve the liquid fat.
The liquid fat should be stored in a glass container (or multiple glass containers, depending on how many you have). At first, the liquid lard will appear yellow, but it will become solid white as it cools.
When using leaf fat, your finished homemade lard should be odorless and has a neutral flavor once it has cooled.
You can also return fatty bits to the slow cooker to keep them down. The liquid fat that has accumulated will taste slightly “porkier” than the first rendering. Therefore, it is better for frying savory foods.
You can also fry any leftover fat bits in a pan until crispy and enjoy them (pork cracklings). Sprinkle them with salt, and add to soups and salads as a topping!
Keep your lard in the freezer or fridge. Lard is very long-lasting, and it can be kept in the fridge for several months. It can also last in the freezer for longer.
However, if it smells terrible, it could be past its prime. Toss it and make a new batch.
How to Use Your Homemade Lard
After you have rendered your lard, it’s time for you to start using it! You can use your lard for any recipe that requires shortening. It is incredibly delicious in homemade biscuits and pie crusts.
Your homemade lard can be used to fry food, grease, or season cast iron cookware. You can even make homemade candles and use them to moisturize your skin, lips, and nails.
Ingredients for Homemade Lard
- Cold leaf fat (kidney fat from pigs)
- ¼ cup water
- Trim any meat from the fat and remove any skin. Then, the fat needs to be cut into small pieces. If you have a food processor, you can use it. Otherwise, you can just use a knife. *Frozen or very cold pig fat is easier to cut, so it is worth freezing it first.
- Put 1/4 cup of water in a slow cooker or a stockpot over low heat on your stove. Add the pig fat. Leave the lid off, and cook over low for several hours. This will allow the fat to melt and render. Without the lid, the water will evaporate. The water is needed to prevent the fat from burning.
- You should keep an eye on the homemade lard and check it once an hour or so. After the leftover meat and fatty bits have risen to the top, strain the lard through a fine mesh sieve. Then, reserve the liquid fat. The liquid fat should be stored in a glass container (or multiple glass containers, depending on how many you have). At first, the liquid lard will appear yellow, but it will become solid white as it cools.
- You can also return fatty bits to the slow cooker to keep them down. The liquid fat that has accumulated will taste slightly “porkier” than the first rendering. Therefore, it is better for frying savory foods. You can also fry any leftover fat bits in a pan until crispy and enjoy them.
- Keep your lard in the freezer or fridge. Lard is very long-lasting, and it can be kept in the fridge for several months. It can also last in the freezer for longer.