For the past several years I have been using peanut oil for deep frying and in place of vegetable or canola oil whenever called for. Other than coconut and olive oil, peanut is supposedly the next best option.
Recently I finished the last of the 4 gallon container I’d bought and went in search of a new one. To my dismay, the store I usually bought this at had discontinued carrying it. So, off to the internet I went. In searching for bulk peanut oil, I began to get somewhat discouraged, as I did not want to pay shipping. The only other option I had was to buy smaller containers at the grocery store, at nearly twice the amount of money per ounce. Suddenly, I decided that peanut oil was not going to work.
In researching other options I realized that I used probably the best possible type of oil product in some of my baking and frying already, but had never considered using it exclusively — lard. I save the fat every time I make bacon and strain off the fat (lard) when I make cracklings. Why it hadn’t occured to me to use lard more often, escapes me. Although I might not have had enough “clean” home-collected lard to do everything I wanted, I knew for certain that lard could be purchased at any grocery store.
Remembering that I’d seen those green and white boxes of Armour lard in the meat department at our local grocery store, I headed over there. Not finding what I needed, I asked the butcher. She told me that they no longer carried the lard I remembered, but had another brand. She directed me to the International Aisle. Confused I asked her how “lard” could be stored on the shelf without refrigeration. She told me “lard” did not need to be refrigerated.
Ok then! I knew immediately that this woman knew absolutely nothing about lard. If the lard she was directing me to was “real” lard, it would most definitely have to be refrigerated. I left her and went to the International Aisle, located the lard she referred me to, and proceeded to read the ingredients. Just as I thought — Hydrogenated. If I wanted artificial, I’d be using vegetable oil. Back to the drawing board.
For the next several days I went to four different grocery and international stores and found all of them had exactly the same brand of lard as well as the familiar green and white box of Armour lard, which it turns out was also hydrogenated. Frustrated, I finally went up to the meat counter of the last market I went to and talked to the butcher. I told him I wanted “real” lard and seeing as it didn’t appear I was going to find it, wondered if it would be possible to get some pork fat and render my own. He was very supportive and told me that he would save the pork fat for the next week for me and I could pick it up on the weekend.
I was excited! As nice as it might have been to be able to just run up to the store and buy lard right off the shelf, making my own lard was even better. I would know exactly what was in it, when it was made, and have yet another use for all my canning jars. Could this get any better?
A few days ago I went to pick up my pork fat. I hadn’t asked how much the fat was going to cost, but figurered pork typically costs less than $4.00 a pound, so anything less than that would be fine. The butcher handed me a 10 pound bag of pork fat — no charge. I guess seeing as he was just going to throw it out, he didn’t think it necessary to charge me. Score!
The next step was to start rendering lard. Lard is easy enough to render, but what some people don’t know, is that there are various types of lard that are produced from pork fat depending on what temperature you use to extract the lard. I have never rendered lard that does not have some hint of pork flavor, but the temperature the fat is melted at determines how much flavor the lard will have. The higher the temperature, the more flavor; the lower the temperature, the less.
Wanting to render several different types of lard I decided to begin the rendering at 200 degrees and work my way up to 400. First, I melted the lard slowly for 8 hours at 200 degrees. After draining off the lard I returned the fat to the oven and increased the temperature to 300 for an additional three hours. Finally I strained off the liquid lard and returned the fat to the oven and increased the temperature to 400 and let it cook for several more hours until the fat was completely crisp and light brown. The smoke point for lard is 370 so increasing the temperature to 400 gives this final bit of lard a smoky pork flavor, very tasty in breads.
The above picture does not do the varying colors of the lard justice. Starting from the left is the whitest of the lard, which was rendered at 200 degrees. The middle quart is beige and was rendered at 300 degrees. The final pint is the darkest and was rendered at 400 degrees.
For two days I worked on the lard and in the end I had one quart of lard with just a hint of pork flavor, one quart with medium pork flavor, and a pint of lard with heavy pork flavor and it’s all real. Success! Now I have lard for baking, lard for frying, and a pint of very special lard for some very special recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.