There are occasions when you’re cooking that nothing can surpass rendered pork fat. You’ll be amazed at how much more flavorful your hash browns are, or any potato for that matter, when cooked in pork fat. Or how robust your sautéed green beans will be. Or delectable your collard greens. Or how flaky your pie crust will be. Or how rich your quail or pheasant will taste when seared in pork fat.
Instead of buying commercially available lard bricks at the store, I prefer to render pork fat myself. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to do, and how long it can keep in the refrigerator in a Mason jar. The key when rendering pork fat is a good relationship with your butcher. This is where Steve, the butcher at Roth’s Vista Market, comes in. Butchers trim fat from cuts of pork daily before packaging the meat for sale. I’ll usually give Steve a call or drop by a few days before I need the pork fat and ask him to save a couple of pounds for me. The last batch cost only about $6 for about two pounds’ worth of fatback, the layer of fat under the skin on the back of the pig, with or without the skin. Unlike organ fat, fatback is firm and white, and readily available from your butcher.
I use a wet method of rendering lard, which makes it less messy but a little time-consuming. The entire process takes about three hours.
You start by cutting the fat into pieces about an inch square. Then dump the fat into a sturdy large pot and add enough water to completely cover the fat. Bring to boil over high heat, then lower to medium and literally boil the oil out of the fat, stirring occasionally. At some point, the water will be completely evaporated from your pot and you’ll be left with oil. You’ll usually hear a sizzling or popping the last of the water is burned off by the hot oil. Lower the flame and keep rendering the last bits of oil out of the pieces of fat, which will have shrunk to about half their original size. You’ll know it’s time to stop when the pieces start to sink and stick to the bottom of the pot.
Turn off the flame, strain and discard the pieces of rendered pork fat. Let the remaining oil cool for an hour before you spoon it through cheese cloth and strain it into Mason jars and put the jars into the refrigerator. The lard should last several months when refrigerated.
Watch the video in the player above for more details.
And remember that saying from Emeril Lagasse: Pork Fat Rules!