Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend Farm Day at Cook Pigs Ranch in Julian, CA for a tour of their farm as well as how they raise their pigs. I must say, they do things RIGHT at Cook Pigs. Their pigs live better lives than a lot of humans that I know. Not only are the pigs free to roam around good sized pastures, they also have abundant access to water and shade from the oak trees that drop acorns for the pigs to munch on. The pigs also enjoy a bounty of avocados, macadamia nuts and even fresh pressed apples from the Julian Hard Cider company just down the road. They’ve got it made and it translates into some of the tastiest pork I’ve had. While I was there, I also was able to get my hands on some of their amazing product. I got a wide variety of items from simple cuts that I was familiar with like ground pork, shoulder, and pork chops, to some more adventurous items like liver, trotters (feet), tails, and even an entire head! I have a few ideas as to what I’m going to do with that beauty but that’s for a different post later on down the line.
One item I was able to get my hands on is also something that I’m most excited about: 10 POUNDS of raw leaf lard. Leaf lard is the highest grade of lard It comes from the visceral – or “soft” – fat from around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It lacks any real pork or meaty flavor, making it an excellent neutral-flavored cooking fat with a high smoking point. Leaf lard is particularly prized by bakers for use in producing moist, flaky pie crusts, something I hope to improve upon myself in the future. It’s also one of my favorite cooking fats for eggs and veggies.
Now, I have been rendering my own lard/tallow for a little over a year so I figured with this excellent find of high quality pastured leaf lard (it seriously has been one of the hardest things to find for me…until now), I should do a step by step post on how to do it at home in a crock pot.
- 3 lbs of pork leaf lard, chilled
- ¼ cup water
- About 2 hours before you start, place the auger of your food grinder attachment for your stand mixer or the blade of your food processor in the freezer to get it cold. You want it as cold as possible while grinding lard so it doesn't soften up.
- Remove leaf lard from refrigerator and cut into 1 inch cubes.
- Place cubed lard into freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Enough to cool the lard but not freeze it.
- Remove lard and auger/food processor blade from freezer and grind lard using the fine grater plate. If using a food processor, simply process lard until it is broken down but not so much that the lard becomes a large glob.
- Place water and lard in a crock pot set on low and allow lard to render for 6-8 hours. Lard will be completely rendered once it stops bubbling and the remnants called 'cracklings' left over are golden brown.
- Strain cracklings from lard and save for later (these are like pork popcorn)
- Pour remaining lard through a cheese cloth or even a nut milk bag to remove any remaining solids.
- Pour lard into containers and refrigerate. If done properly, lard can last months in your fridge, although it will probably be used faster than that 😉
If you do not have a crock pot, you can follow the same method on the stovetop with a heavy bottomed pot.
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