Now that you have the inspiration to cook with lard, several good reasons not to be afraid of it and a great local source to get it from, here is how to get started rendering and using it at home. I too was a bit intimidated at the thought of rendering lard in my own kitchen, but it turned out to be much easier than I expected and, with a window open in the kitchen, the smell that I had been warned about was hardly noticeable. This week I made an unbelievable batch of cinnamon sugar cookies with the rendered lard and have included the recipe to get you started. Tis the season to do some healthy baking!
When you buy your lard, it will come in a large white mass, but don’t be intimidated. Most sources will sell you lard by the pound and each pound will yield you about a pint. If you are not ordering leaf lard from Full Circle’s green grocery, make sure you get it from a reliable source that has good quality, well raised and clean products. Leaf lard is the best quality and most ideal for baking but fat back will work well too.
Cut the lard into small 1-inch pieces. Put the pieces in a medium sized cast iron or heavy bottomed pot with ½ cup of water for every pound you are rendering. The water will keep the fat from burning and sticking to the pot in the first stages of rendering. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently and making sure the lard does not cook too quickly. The process is slow and cannot be rushed or you will end up with some porky tasting and awfully oxidized fat.
The fat will start to melt in about 40 minutes, at which point you may hear some crackling and popping, which is normal. As the pieces of lard release their moisture they will begin to change color and look golden brown and fried. Keep stirring regularly (every 10 minutes or so) for about and hour. You can see when the lard is finished rendering when all moisture has been released and the remnants, called cracklings, have no clear or fatty look to them. There will be a considerable amount of liquid in your pot and the cracklings will start to sink to the bottom.
Let cool slightly and then pour through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into a clean mason jar. The liquid will be yellowish at this point but will become opaque and white as it continues to cool and harden. Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or in the freezer for up to a year. In addition to baking, lard is excellent in savory cooking too. Try cooking your eggs, meats or veggies in lard instead of oil.
½ cup lard
½ stick (4tbsp) butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp cinnamon, plus more for rolling
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
Cream lard, butter and sugar in a standing mixer or large bowl. Add egg and mix until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to lard mixture and mix until a stiff dough forms. Scoop dough into small ping pong sized balls and roll between palms until smooth. Roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space cookies 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass or the palm of your hand. Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Let cool before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Pack in colored cellophane bags or wrapped in plastic and tissue paper for a great Christmas gift!