Crackling Biscuits – Using Lard Byproducts

One of the goals I have set for myself is to not throw anything out that might possibly have a use, and yet not keep things around that are unnecessary.  This might sound contradictory and in some ways it is, but when it comes to food, it serves me very well.

Not wanting to waste any part of the foods we buy or grow, I have been able to come up with new recipes and uses for many things that would have otherwise been thrown out.  It gives me a great sense of comfort knowing that I am making the most of what we have.

The other day, while I was making lard, I knew that once all the lard had been melted out of the pork fat there would be crispy pork fat left over.  For years I have been making cracklings from pork that has a fairly high fat content but still enough meat to make them tasty and enjoyed the lard by-product I was left with once the cracklings were done. When faced, however, with a pork fat byproduct after rendering lard I wasn’t sure what could be done with it.  This by-product was practically all fat.  What could I possibly do with crispy fat?

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Marrying someone with a different ethnic background than myself has opened many doors when it comes to culinary experiences.  I am basically a mutt of ethnic lines — English/Irish, German, Russian-Polish, French, and there is even a rumor there could be some American Indian in the mix.  Hubby, however, is Serbian through and through, born there and not coming here until he was a young boy.  Albeit he is American at heart and to see or talk to him you’d never know he wasn’t born here, he still enjoys many of the customs and tastes of his homeland.

When Hubby learned that I was struggling to find a use for the crispy pork fat leftover from the lard rendering, he immediately suggested I make some crackling biscuits.  He told me that his mother made these whenever she made cracklings and had some that were all or practically all fat.  Intrigued I told him I’d give it a try.

Not sure exactly what an Internet search would produce, I spent over an hour going through page after page of recipes for crackling biscuits. It’s amazing how many are out there.  Some of the recipes were from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, and yes, Serbia.  I printed off five recipes that were all very similar, from different areas, and spent time comparing them.  Finally, after discussing the ingredients with Hubby, I decided to combine several of the recipes into one quick and easy one.  Starting off easy and then working my way up to something more difficult, if need be, seemed like the thing to do.

It was interesting that Hubby didn’t want me to go with the Serbian recipe I had found.  When I told him that the Serbian one included wine though he laughed.  He told me that there was no way his mother would have had wine to put in the biscuits when she learned how to do it.  They didn’t have anything, let alone wine for cooking.  Flour, salt, and cracklings were hard enough to scrape together.

The biscuits came together very quickly and seeing as Hubby didn’t want me to use yeast, as it would have made them light and fluffy, something you’d never accuse his mother’s biscuits of being, they were in the oven in less than 30 minutes.  I set the timer for 25 minutes and we waited.  The moment they came out of the oven, Hubby was standing at the counter.  He took one off the tray, burned his fingers, but still continued to break it in half.  His first comment was that it wasn’t cooked inside.  I told him that he needed to let them cool on the cookie sheet. Reluctantly he put it back.  A minute later he picked it up again and popped half of the biscuit into his mouth.  You see, patience isn’t one of Hubby’s virtues.

I watched as he swished the biscuit from one side of his mouth to the other, prolonging my torture.  Finally, after just a moment longer he smiled and said, “Perfect.”  He proceeded to eat four more biscuits and with each one told me something else he liked about it:  The texture, the amount of cracklings, the heaviness, the taste.  Then, as he was eating his sixth he confessed that he never liked his mother’s biscuits warm.  He always waited until they were cold and then would eat them sparingly.  Not so with mine.  By the time they were cool, nearly half the biscuits were gone. That spoke volumes.

Crackling Biscuits

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  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup. Milk
  • 1 1/2 Cup Pork Fat Cracklings (shredded)
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Tbsp. Pork Fat Lard

Combine the flour, salt, and shredded cracklings in a large bowl with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Make a well in the center of the crackling mixture and add remaining ingredients.  Stir until well combined.  Knead lightly with hands until mixture forms a dough.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and pat to 1/2″ to 1″ thickness.  With biscuit cutter, cut biscuits and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake biscuits at 400 for 25 minutes.  Cool completely on cookie sheet.  Store in sealed container.

Nothing is better than pleasing Hubby’s pallet, except of course topping one of my mother-in-law’s recipes, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Rendering Three Types of Lard

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.

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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.