For many, lard is an ancient food that is no longer eaten today. It wasn’t that long ago that lard was a staple in pretty much every kitchen. Today it is considered by the majority of people to be a very unhealthy, artery clogging, heart disease inducing, high cholesterol promoting food. What if I told you that all of that was not true, and that lard was actually very healthy?
Let me first say that the lard found in your grocery store that comes from pigs raised indoors and in confinement is not what you want to be eating. The lard you want to eat comes from pasture-raised pigs. Lard from pasture-raised pigs is the only lard that contains vitamin D. Yes, you read that right, vitamin D. In order for pigs to synthesize vitaminD in their fat, they must be exposed to sunlight. Pigs raised in buildings will not have vitamin D in their fat due to the lack of exposure to sunlight.
Lard is the second highest food source of vitamin D. The first is cod liver oil. Just 1 tablespoon of lard from pasture-raised pigs contains 1,000IU’s of vitamin D! Lard is also a good source of Omega 3.
I remember when I was pregnant with my youngest. My vitamin D was so low that my doctor put me on a supplement. I took that supplement every day and my levels never came up enough to make a difference. You want to know why? The reason is that Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. You cannot absorb vitamin D without an accompanying intake of fat. This is why consuming lard is the ideal way to get vitamin D into our bodies. The vitamin is in a fat that our bodies knows how to use.
In order to get lard from pasture raised pigs, you should visit your local farmers’ market.
Some farmers sell rendered lard. If you can’t find a local farmer that does, you can easily render it yourself. It is so easy!
There are two main sources that are used from pigs to produce lard. One is fat back and the other is leaf fat. Lard rendered from fat back will have a slightly stronger taste than leaf lard. I use lard from fat back for stir frying vegetables, frying potatoes, cooking eggs, etc. I save my leaf lard for things like pie crusts and biscuits since it has a mild taste that pastry chefs love.
Fat back is usually sold in blocks that look like this…
Leaf fat looks like this…
You can render lard in a crockpot. All you have to do is thaw your fat (if it is frozen) and cut it into small pieces. You want the pieces to be the same size as much as possible. Oh, and if your fat back still has the skin attached, you will want to cut that off before rendering.
Add 1/4 cup of water to your crockpot and turn heat to low. The water will keep the fat from sticking and bring and will eventually evaporate. Add the pieces of fat to the crockpot.
Make sure to leave the lid off and keep the heat on low. I give the fat a stir every hour or so as it melts. Eventually the pieces of fat will melt. The time it takes to render the lard depends on how much fat you are melting. I usually render lard on a day that I don’t have to go anywhere.
Let the fat melt until all that is left are small brown pieces floating on top. These are known as the cracklings. Line a bowl with cheesecloth and ladle the fat into the cloth. The cheesecloth will allow the melted lard to flow through and catch the cracklings. Don’t throw these away! Instead fry them in a pan with a little salt for a yummy snack.
You will end up with lard that looks like this.
I use my canning funnel to put the hot lard into mason jars.
Once your lard cools, you should end up with beautiful, white lard.
My crockpot can hold ten pounds of fat. This typically gives me two quarts worth of lard. I usually store my lard in the refrigerator, which will last at least one year. You can store it on the counter at room temperature for 3-6 months. I would just make sure to check how it smells. You will know if your lard has gone bad because it will have a bad odor.
And just in case you are wondering, my husband and I just had our yearly physicals. My vitamin D was 41.4 and my husband’s was 50.7. The level that doctors want to see is anything from 30 and up. Of course our doctor was speechless when I told him that we take no supplements, and that our vitamin D comes from lard and the sun. He was also shocked at our excellent cholesterol levels. I guess we a living proof that lard can be very healthy.