Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You Had Me at Pork Fat!

It's been another one of those crazy weekends! 

First off, I went to an all day Paleo workshop with the fabulous Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites and author of Practical Paleo (which, by the way, is one of the best books I currently own) and partner Liz Wolfe of Cave Girl Eats and soon to be author. I already love listening to these two talk in their podcast on the Balanced Bites website and found their workshop to be very informative.

Secondly, I ran the oh so dreaded Mudslog! Let's just say it was a 12k full of mud, trails, mud, tough obstacles, mud, an extremely cold pond and more mud... I ended up finished with a pretty decent time, only a few minor scrapes and surprisingly clean. 
(Yay crazy running outfit! Note the lack of mud...)

Despite all of this mayhem, I managed to find some time to hearken back to the good ol' days and make something that I doubt many today ever think about. 

When you cook a meal and need to use some sort of fat to brown meat/ saute veggies, your first instinct is probably to go for some olive oil (or maybe some butter or coconut oil). I've discovered that, while olive oil is great, it's not really the best oil for the high temperature cooking. Butter and coconut oil are generally better for this method. Bacon fat (I heart bacon fat!), tallow (rendered beef fat) and schmaltz (yes, it is a real word! It just happens to be rendered chicken fat) are even better. 

While I love cooking with bacon fat and butter, my new favorite cooking fat is LARD! Hurray for rendered pig fat! (I can just hear everyone screaming, "Oh no! You can't use that! It'll clog your arteries!" Don't get too worried about saturated fats. This stuff is culinary gold!)  The only problem is that you can't just pick this stuff up at the corner grocery store. Sure some farmer's markets may carry it, but the best way to get it is to make it yourself:

Rendering Lard
(Good reference site is here)
  • pork fat (enough to fill your crock pot)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Cut the pork fat into small pieces (as small as you can cut... or better yet, grind it up!)
  • Pour the water into a crock pot. This is an important step as it will prevent the fat from burning.
  • Add the cut up (or ground) fat to the crock pot and turn the heat to low.
  • Check the crock pot after an hour or so. You'll notice that the fat has started to melt. Give everything a stir and let the whole thing continue to melt. The chunks of fat (cracklings) will continue to render their awesomeness, don't worry. 
  • The whole thing will be done when the fat has rendered down to mostly liquid and the cracklings have settled to the bottom of the crock pot. Mine took about 3 hours.
  • Ladle the cracklings/fat into a fine mesh sieve or a cheese cloth lined strainer over a bowl. From here, you can pour the liquid into glass jars and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the jars and stick 'em in the fridge. The strained liquid will be a light yellow color and will turn creamy white and thick when chilled.
  • You can take the cracklings and put them back into the crock pot and let them continue to cook on low until they get crispy (or you can toss them). The flavor of these is quite intense, but taste really good on salads! Any more liquid rendered from the cracklings can also be saved and used for cooking, but it will have a stronger porky flavor.

 (Before refrigeration)             (After refrigeration)  

Your end product should be creamy white. (I know mine ended up slightly darker. The lighting in that photo was also pretty bad!) It doesn't smell porky and has the texture of shortening. Don't be put off by the idea of cooking with this stuff! It melts beautifully, has a high smoke point and makes the BEST pie crusts!

So, my friends, be not afraid of the goodness that is lard! It's a wonderful cooking fat and is easy to make!

No comments:

Post a Comment