How to make lard & how to use it

Back in November, I made our first batch of lard from pork fat from our naturally raised pigs.

This was completely new to me.  As a child of the 80s, I saw Crisco & margarine as the go-to shortenings in our house.  Crisco was used for pastries and margarine was used both as a spread and for baking.  The butter and lard of previous generations had gone to the wayside in favour of "better alternatives" (I can even recall seeing margarine commercials on TV and Crisco advertisements in magazines).

These alternatives are made from vegetable oils that are hydrogenated to make them solids (to mimic butter & lard).  In the process, some trans fats are formed as well, plus a number of food additives like emulsifiers and colorants are often added.  All in all, they are a highly processed food.

Once our kids arrived, I started thinking hard about the food choices we were offering them.  Over the past decade, we have made a conscious effort to know more about where our food comes from.  In the process, we have turned to whole, real foods as much as possible.  As part of that change, we swapped our margarine for butter, and have never looked back.

Then last year we started getting the pork fat back from the butcher.  Truthfully, it had never crossed our minds to explore using the pork fat.  I'm so glad that we did!

Lard is super easy to make!  It is made by rendering the pork fat.  Rendering is heating the pork fat over low heat, either in a slow cooker, on the stovetop, or in the oven over several hours.  It works best to chop frozen fat into small pieces that will melt quicker.  Once melted, there will be small chunks of pork in the fat, so the fat is then strained a couple of times through three layers of cheesecloth.  Any residual meat can spoil the lard.

Lard is pure fat and has a long shelf-life of 6 to 12 months in the fridge. 

What can you use lard for?
1) Pastries:
Lard makes the best pie crusts!  It's especially great for savoury pies like tourtiere pie, but also works well for sweet pies.  Here's a recipe for a lard-butter pie crust to try.
2) Baking:
You can substitute lard 1:1 for butter in baking.  We've used it in muffins & bread recipes with good results.
3) Cooking:
Lard has a high smoke point so is great for using in your cast iron pans for stove top cooking.

All in all, we love that we have added lard as a fat option in our kitchen!  I feel more connected with the homesteaders of my grandparents and great-grandparents generations.
 
If you'd like, you can render your own lard at home using Lazuli Farms pork fat.

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