I know what many of you are thinking right now. Lard? On Healthy Green Kitchen? Has Winnie gone bonkers?

Nope. I am as sane as ever, I promise. This post may seem surprising to you, but it’s really no different than any of my others. After all, when I post recipes, I always celebrate real food and healthy fats. And lard is both.

Pastured Lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

What’s that, you say? Lard is a healthy fat? Yes, it’s true. I too used to think lard was gross, and that eating it would give me a lard ass tushy. I also assumed putting it into my body would put me on the fast track to a heart attack, but I don’t think these things any more.

I am not talking about the partially hydrogenated lard you’ll find at the grocery store, though. That stuff IS NOT healthy. What I am talking about is lard rendered from the fat of from pastured pigs: pigs that have access to fresh air and sunshine, pigs that eat grass and other things pigs are supposed to eat (not pigs who spend their lives in cages eating grains). Lard from pastured pigs is high in vitamin D, and like olive oil, lard is classified as a monounsaturated fat (lard is about 40% saturated…that’s less than butter).

{I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that there’s really nothing wrong with saturated fat from natural sources. In fact, saturated fats are very important! There’s long been a misguided notion that all saturated fat does is contribute to heart disease, but this simply isn’t the case. Saturated fats are vital to the structure of all cells in the body, they boost the immune system, and they are necessary for the absorption of minerals such as calcium. Adequate saturated fats are also necessary for optimal storage and assimilation of the unsaturated omega-3s. Meaning: omega-3 fats are even more effective when they are combined in the diet with some saturated fats.}

Lard has a high smoke point so it’s one of the best fats for high temperature cooking (such as frying). Unlike many oils (and vegetable oils, in particular), lard is considered a “stable” fat: it does not form free radicals when heated. Lard also imparts that coveted flakiness to pie crusts and turns pastries that you make with it into seriously divine treats.

Rendering your own lard from pastured pork fat is easy. You’ll need what is called “fatback” or “leaf lard” (the fat from around the kidneys) to get started. If your intention is to use your lard in pastries, then definitely go with the leaf lard because it’s creamy white and has a very neutral flavor.

I couldn’t find leaf lard so I used fatback I bought from my favorite local farmers.

How to render lard from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

It was very inexpensive ($6) for the 5 pounds of fat you see above. If using fatback, then you’ll need to use a very sharp knife to slice the skin away from the fat. If you purchase fatback from a butcher, they can probably do this for you.

Rendering lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

When any and all of the skin is removed from your fat, you need to cut it into pieces. The lard will render best if the pieces are relatively small. (When all the skin was gone, I ended up with about 3 pounds of chopped fat).

Once your fat is ready, you may render it in a few different ways. You can place it in a heavy duty pot on top of the stove or you can put it in a pan in the oven that’s set at a relative low temperature (I haven’t done it this way, but I believe around 275-300 degrees F. is perfect). You may also render lard in a crockpot. Some recipes call for adding a little water to the fat (1/4-1/2 cup); I believe this is recommended to keep the fat from getting too hot and possibly burning. I kept a close eye on my fat as it was rendering, though, so I didn’t add any water.

I rendered my lard on the stove over heat that was high enough to melt the fat, but not too hot that it might burn. I stirred the fat around every now and then: it took a little over an hour for the fat to be fully rendered. If you render your lard in the oven or in a crockpot, it will take longer.

Be aware that the lard may smell strongly of pork during the rendering process. It’s best to do this on a day when you can open the windows in your kitchen. My daughter was not a fan of the smell AT ALL.

When the process is complete, you will end up with a good amount of liquid (that’s the rendered lard), as well as some solids, too. Allow everything to cool a bit and then strain through a cheesecloth lined colander. The solid pieces that you strain out are called cracklings. These are like crunchy pork croutons that can be added to salads and other dishes. They are extremely flavorful, but if you don’t like them, I bet your dog (or a friend’s dog) will happily gobble them up.

How to render lard from Healthy Green Kitchen

Carefully transfer your lard to glass jar(s) for storage and place in the refrigerator or freezer. (I ended up with about 3 cups of lard from 3 pounds of chopped fat.) You will notice that the liquid lard may be dark yellow/light brownish when you pour it into your jars, but don’t worry: it will lighten up a lot when it solidifies. You may also notice that the liquid lard has a distinctly pork-like scent, but don’t worry about this, either: in my experience, lard does not impart strong “porky” flavor to your food. Lard will keep for several months in the refrigerator and much longer in the freezer.

You can use lard rendered from fatback to cook eggs, meat, veggies, etc. You can also use it for pan or deep frying just about anything. I made some sweet potato fries with mine and they were really tasty: not greasy at all (and there was no trace of “porky” flavor). I plan to fry homemade doughnuts in my lard soon :)

If you have rendered leaf lard, you may use it instead of butter (or in combination with butter) in baked goods. Make sure to try it in a pie crust.

And if you cook in cast-iron (I do, and I highly recommend it), lard is also great for seasoning your pans.

Here are some more great-looking recipes I found that use lard:

Toasted Almonds with Herbs and Lemon from Nourished Kitchen
Zesty Cilantro Roasted Chicken from Food Renegade
Welsh Griddle Cakes from Serious Eats
Mom’s Lard Pie Crust from Taste of Home
Sicilian Sesame Cookies from Briciole

And here are some more posts about rendering your own lard:

Make Your Own Lard from The New Homemaker
How to Render Lard from Nourished Kitchen
How to Render Lard and Tallow from Cheeseslave
How to Render Lard from Homesick Texan

A few posts related to the “healthiness” of lard:

Lard: The New Health Food from Food and Wine
Healthy Fats and Oils Part 1 from Healthy Green Kitchen
Healthy Fats and Oils Part 2 from Healthy Green Kitchen

And Some Selected References:

Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol
Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection
Real Food: What to Eat and Why

Lastly: Disclaimers + Disclosures

 

24 Comments

  1. 1

    Beth @ Tasty Yummies — April 10, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

    Love this post. I wish I had this back when we got our half-pig from our farmer last year. I actually said no to him when he offered us the lard. I didn’t know what to do with it, how to store it etc. It definitely overwhelmed me. I need to make sure to reference this next time I order a pig from a farmer :) Thanks for taking the time to share.

  2. 2

    gluttonforlife — April 11, 2013 @ 12:24 am

    Aside from in baking, my favorite way to use lard is for fried chicken. Edna Lewis’ recipe is unparalleled! If your lard is a golden color, that is called “Mexican lard” and has a slightly stronger flavor. To keep it pure white, render more slowly, over lower heat.

  3. 3

    gluttonforlife — April 11, 2013 @ 12:25 am

    And thanks for the great information and instructions! :-)

  4. 4

    Kris — April 11, 2013 @ 8:33 am

    Winnie, I am so glad that you created this post! I have been considering doing this for a couple of years, since a friend of mine did it. But I’ve been a bit intimidated for all of the reasons you mentioned above. I’m absolutely going to try it now thanks to your post. You hit on all the points and made it seem completely easy. Thank you, again!

  5. 5

    Jenny — April 12, 2013 @ 9:34 am

    I’m convinced that real lard is one of the healthiest fats anyone can consume. It has such a beautiful fatty acid profile, and it’s such a good source of vitamin D. Its culinary applications are unparalleled.

  6. 6

    Lisa — April 12, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    This post is pure brilliance, thank you so much for sharing it, you’ve inspired me to make my own lard

  7. 7

    Sarah Crowder — April 12, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

    Great post! I’ve cooked and baked with lard but never rendered my own. Putting this on my project list.

  8. 8

    Joan@Chocolate and More — April 12, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    Great article. I’m no stranger to Fat Back, living in the rural south, we use it to season oil for frying fish, hush puppies, pretty much anything we want to fry. And then we fight over the craklins. Next time I go to the butchers, I’ll see if I can’t get some bulk fat back and do a little rendering of my own.

  9. 9

    Judy at 2 Broads Abroad — April 12, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Thank you so very much for posting this. I will definitely will try this method. Totally agree that lard with butter makes the best pie crust.

  10. 10

    Laura MD, PhD — April 16, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    Woah, sorry but your claims of the health benefits of saturated fats just are not true. In fact, high saturated fat intake is inversely associated with bone density (in other words, your claim about it increasing calcium uptake is bunk… if you’re talking about vitamin D absorption being dependent on fats then you’re demonstrating your ignorance of that process). It is associated with increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

    Your claim that it is essential for every cell in the body…. well, that’s true, but unlike omega-3s your body can make its own saturated fat and does not need extra.

    Laura MD, PhD Vanderbilt University (not some barely accredited place called Bastyr)

    • Winnie replied: — April 16th, 2013 @ 7:18 am

      Hi Laura, I welcome comments and I am all for healthy debate, but your tone is so condescending and disrespectful to me (in a space that’s the virtual equivalent of my home, not yours), it makes me not want to bother replying to you at all.

    • Winnie replied: — April 16th, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

      Laura.
      Amidst the snark I did find some comments I wanted to respond to.

      You wrote: “high saturated fat intake is inversely associated with bone density” and “your claim about it increasing calcium uptake is bunk”.

      My response:

      Are you referring to this: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/1/159.full.pdf+html?
      The types of saturated fats that I recommend from natural sources include dairy products and meat from grass-fed cows and organic coconut oil. I very much doubt these are the types of saturated fats consumed by the subjects of that study. (Also, I never said anything about consuming high amounts of saturated fat.) As for the point about minerals: you are technically correct that fats are not required for the absorption of calcium (since it is water soluble), but fat soluble vitamins (including vitamins A, D, and K, which are found in saturated animal fats) do indeed assist in the utilization of minerals in the body.

      You wrote: “It is associated with increased risk of heart disease and cancer.”

      My response:

      With respect to the association between heart diseases and cancer, I believe the following studies put that on very shaky ground:

      Siri-Tarino, Patty W, et al. “Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies Evaluating the Association of Saturated Fat with Cardiovascular Disease.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91, no. 3 (March 2010): 535-46. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.

      —. “Saturated fat, Carbohydrate, and Cardiovascular Disease.”
      American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91, no. 3 (March 2010): 502-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26285.

      Werkö, Lars. “End of the Road for the Diet-heart Theory?” Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal 42, no 4 (August 2008): 250-5.

      As for the association between saturated fats and cancer, I do not believe that a diet high in the whole, real foods such as the one I recommend (which includes some all-natural saturated fat) puts you at risk for cancer. Saturated fat in the context of a poor diet might be a different story; a diet high in trans-fats and damaged polyunsaturated fats is definitely a different story.

      You wrote: “your body can make its own saturated fat and does not need extra.”

      My response:

      Yes, the body can certainly make its own. I never said otherwise. That said, I believe saturated fats from real food sources can and should absolutely be part of a healthy diet. I believe they can be consumed without guilt or fear.

      By the way: none of this has anything to do with lard. It’s not a saturated fat.

      Again, I welcome comments, but please be respectful when you leave them.

  11. 11

    David Werner — April 16, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    Interesting dialogue. I have no idea about any of this content and can’t throw my hat in that ring. However, I do know academic discourse.

    Laura, at the end of the day your accreditation counts less than your character, of which you demonstrated little. I enjoy reading when an author and a reader engage in meaningful dialogue, but find snarkiness and arrogance so distasteful.

    -David

  12. 12

    ALIK — April 22, 2013 @ 8:08 am

    Thank you very much for publishing this kind of article. I like your article very much. I want share my website details to you please give me some information to increase performance like your website Another one Good Housekeeping is the most trusted online source for advice about food, diet, beauty, health, family and home, plus exclusive product reviews from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

  13. 13

    The Healthy Epicurean — April 22, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    Excellent and informative post. I totally agree; lard if far healthier than these horrific so-called ‘healthy’ fats that are available to buy. Most of them contain too much Omega 6 in relation to Omega 3, which is dangerously inflammatory. Here in Southwestern France we use duck and goose fat instead of lard…

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  14. 14

    Ashley — April 23, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

    Great post. Glad I read the comments too! ;)

  15. 15

    Jasmin — April 25, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

    isn’t it “monounstaturated”? I’m confused :)

  16. 16

    Lucy — April 26, 2013 @ 12:12 am

    Great post and good rebuttal. I LOVE lard pastry. Great for sweet or savory and is an easy to make short crust pastry. I have a recipe on my blog http://healthyfarminghealthyfood.blogspot.com.au/p/recipes.html

  17. 17

    My favorite use-up-the-leftovers meals – part one – Frittata | thriftygoodlife — May 29, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    [...] glug of grapeseed oil or  (free-range) pork/bacon fat (read here if you don’t believe it’s [...]

  18. 18

    The Comfort of Rendering Lard, the Thrill of making Cracklings! | amy + fire — June 10, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    [...] repetitive (if that IS what you’re looking for, check out The Healthy Green Kitchen’s post, or Robb Wolf’s instructions). However, I can offer up a little more insight, love, and care [...]

  19. 19

    Jon Mebus — June 22, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    Cardiovascular disease refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system, principally cardiac disease, vascular diseases of the brain and kidney, and peripheral arterial disease..*.;

    Cheers http://picturesofherpes.cold

  20. 20

    Tamar — July 25, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    Have you ever tried straining the fat through a coffee filter instead of cheese cloth? I have some large filters I use for straining yogurt and wondered if that would work for making lard as well……

    Thank you!

  21. 21

    Last CSA pick up of 2013 » Crampton's Market — October 8, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    [...] Just follow the simple instructions that the fine people at ‘healthy green kitchen’ provide. They give instructions for rendering pork fat, but beef or bison fat is essentially the same.  It really is easy, especially if you have a slow cooker.  Just be certain to do it on a day when you can have the windows on your house wide open, as the smell of rendering fat isn’t all that yummy.   http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/how-and-why-to-render-your-own-lard.html   [...]

  22. 22

    Mike D from England — October 21, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

    I grew up in a rural farming community in England before oils were available for cooking. My mum used lard for cooking, frying (best french fries in the world) and baking. She used to spend 4 hours baking very Sunday morning, mostly for my father as he loved pies and cakes. He also had fatback bacon for his breakfast at least 4 mornings a week. Lived till he was 85 and eventually pasted away from Alzheimer’s. Lived for 10 days without being able to take sustenance, the doctor said his heart was so strong it wouldn’t give up. Sorry to go on but when I look around the cemetery in our town, it is full of farmers and there families who were in their 70′s and 80′s over a 100 years ago and they sure didn’t have anything but what was available locally and on the farm. I am 70 years old and a great believer in LARD in moderation. Oh, I forgot, one of our great pleasure when I was young was pork dripping on fresh bread yummy.

    Mike

Leave a Comment