Rendering animal fat into lard will not only save you money, but provide you with a sustainable source of cooking and baking material from the hogs you raise yourself. This may be the easiest and cheapest self-reliance skill you will ever learn.
Tallow and lard are high heat stable, and unlike polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable and canola oils, take far longer to turn rancid. Animal fat has an exceptionally high smoke point of about 420 degrees.
Lard And Tallow Benefits
Both lard and tallow are rendered animal fat. The only real difference between the two is what animal produces it. Tallow is made traditionally made from beef livestock (goats, bear, deer, and sheep in particular) although cattle fat is commonly referred to as suet, in some regions. Grass-fed cattle are often touted as producing the most delicious form of tallow. Lard comes from hogs.
Animal fat boasts high amounts of potassium, linoleic acid, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, selenium, niacin as well as A, D, E, and K vitamins. Linoleic acid boats anti-inflammatory properties (source 1, source 2) that some natural remedy fans even use to help combat cancer.
There are two types of fat on an animal, leaf fat and back/butt fat. Leaf fat has a cellophane type coating that should be peeled away before rendering. You won’t likely be able to remove all of it, and the covering over the thinner fat will not hurt you, but the taste and baking capabilities of the tallow could be diminished if too much is left.
Both tallow and lard are actually generally considered far healthier to consume than many types of cooking oils or fattening ingredients in recipes. The pure and natural animal fat is specifically consumed by some diabetes, heart disease, and cancer patient because it is highly soluble and not typically considered an artery clogging agent.
Animal fats also possess omega 3, omega 6, and glycosphingolipids. This type of fatty acid may help fight gastro-intestinal infections.
Baking and cooking with lard or tallow tends to make the recipe substantially more rich and moist. Contrary to what some folks may think, animal fat does not stink when being rendered or when using it to fry foods.
In fact, a recipe where both lard and actual butter not that nearly plastic margarine stuff is used, not only tends to taste better, but produces a mouth-watering delicious smell during the preparation process.
How To Render Lard
Chilled animal fat is always easier to cut and manipulate. Remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw at room temperature for an hour or so before attempting to cut into chunks.
If you are working with a large batch of animal fat, you may need to put the lard or tallow back into the freezer if it thaws too much – making it too slick and sinewy to chunk easily.
Rendering Lard Directions
1. Cut the fat into chunks. You can do this by hand or with a food processor. But, the hand chopping method is actually quicker when working with chilled animal fat, and there is a lot less clean up this way.
2. Place the animal fat cubes into a large pot – cast iron is highly recommended.
3. Melt the animal fat over only medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. If rendering the lard on an open flame, a grill, or in a smoker, do your best to keep the heat between 200 to 250 degrees. If you scorch the fat, you will smell an odor almost immediately.
4. When the majority of the animal fat transforms into a liquid state and has a slightly brown cast, it is ready to be removed from the heat.
5. Allow the animal fat to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes or so. If you wait too long, it will begin to gel and must be placed back on a heat source briefly to liquify it again.
6. Pour the lard through cheesecloth at least once, grasping the cheesecloth firmly as if you were ringing out a washcloth, to get every last drop from any remaining chunks of fat.
7. The lard should be stored in a Mason jar or similar container – but do not affix a tight-fitting lid. A lid could cause the lard to go rancid at a far faster rate. Instead, place a clean dish towel or several paper towels, over the lard once it has been placed in the refrigerator. Lard should keep for about six months before going rancid.
Tallow And Lard Rendering Tips
• The crunchy coating on top of the fat is actually a good thing. During the heating process, impurities in the animal fat will be cooked out and begin to caramelize – especially when using fat from bee animals.
• Lard from Angus or Hereford cattle often have less of a golden brown hue and more of a creamy white texture than other rendered animal fat, when it cools.
• Animal fat can also be rendered into lard or tallow using what is called the “wet method.” To process fat this way, mix together one cup of water for every two pounds of fat and render in the crockpot.
• Although you will not render as much lard, you can process the fat from ducks, chickens, guineas, turkeys, and geese. Lard from poultry birds and waterfowl is generally also considered to produce moist and rich bake goods.
Lard Dough Recipe
This is my favorite dough recipe. I use it to make all different types of doughs, including an incredibly moist pie crust.
• 8 tablespoons of ice water
• 1 and ¼ cups of sifted flour
• ¼ teaspoon of salt
• 3 tablespoons of lard – or tallow
• 2 tablespoons of butter
1. Combine the salt and sifted flour
2. Add in the lard and butter
3. With either a whisk or pastry cutter, cut the lard and flour mixture until you wind up with tiny little balls about the dimension of peas. A fork will also work for cutting, but completing the process that way is a whole lot more work.
4. Stir in the ice cold water – and I mean ice cold almost like a slushie, level of cold, water. You might not need the entire 8 tablespoons to get a dough consistency; pour in a little bit at a time an knead until a dough forms and is melded into a ball.
5. The dough can be frozen for future use or as part of a recipe immediately.
BBQ Cracklings Recipe
1. Place some of the animal fat that was not strained through the cheesecloth on a baking sheet.
2. Baste them liberally with BBQ sauce.
3. Sprinkle them with salt an pepper and/or your favorite seasonings.
4. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes until they have become slightly less crisp than bacon – about as crisp as toast crust.
Lard Non-Cooking Uses
Lard and tallow have a plethora of uses outside of the kitchen, as well:
• Lubricant – Both lard and tallow can be used as a knife grease. It can also use the animal fat to lubricate machinery.
• Soap – Rendered animal fat can be used as a base ingredient for making a very creamy soak that infuses moisture into dry skin.
• Leather – Use lard or tallow to condition any manner of leather – it works especially well on horse tack yet is gentle enough for thin fine leather, as well.
• Candles – Allow the lard or tallow to enter the gelt state just slightly, so it remains still pliable. Put it inside an oil lamp or Mason jar with a wick – or cotton scrap fashioned into a makeshift wick, and use as a candle or emergency lantern fuel.
• Fuel – Lard and tallow can be used as an ingredient in biodiesel fuel.
• Skin Care – Rub animal fat or rendered lard onto chapped skin to infuse it with moisture and help heal even deeply cracked skin.
Have a favorite lard recipe or non-kitchen use to share? Please post it in the comments section below.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she’s an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.