Here’s how ya do it:
Cube the lard and add about one cup of water. Slowly melt the fat over low heat for a couple hours.*
Once the lard is melted, strain and reserve the cracklings, if you want to use them for cornbread, etc. Pour the lard into a bowl with two cups of water. Chill the lard/water mixture in the refrigerator until solid. Magically, the lard solidifies on top of the water and lard debris. Lard debris: meditate on that.
Scoop off the solid lard and discard the water and debris. Slowly reheat the lard so that you can funnel it into storage jars. Store the lard for about three months in the refrigerator or one year in the freezer.
Lard is soft at room temperature. Kind of pretty, huh?
Homemade biscuits using lard.
I used this recipe to make pizza dough with lard.
It turned out pretty okay, but needs some work. It was too crisp—like a saltine cracker.
Why render lard? Although there are vats of hydrogenated lard (read: trans fats) at the grocery store, freshly rendered lard has gone from being a kitchen staple to a fat for the margins—back-to-the-land types or whole-food gourmets. Little use for excess fat and the demand for lean meat, has resulted in selective breeding for lean animals. According to USDA statistics compiled in Fat by Jennifer McLagan, “in 1950 a pig yielded 33.2 pounds of fat, but in 1990 this figure had fallen to just 10.1 pounds.” Crazy! Now we use brining techniques to make pork more palatable. Like all fats, lard is a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. If you care about this sort of thing, the surprising part is that lard is mostly monounsaturated (approximately 45%). For me, the attraction to lard comes from the ability to render it myself. I can’t make olive oil or canola oil or vegetable oil. I probably can’t afford to make as much butter as I need. But I know where this pork fat comes from and I can easily render a batch twice a year. And it makes for better biscuits and pie crusts, to boot.
*I rendered two batches of lard: one on the stove, the other in the oven. I found the stove-top method to be superior because I had finer control of the heat and I could easily check on it. I like to check it a lot; I’m still paranoid from my first attempt at rendering lard.