Tag Archives: pigs

Rendering Lard

One of the nice things about a homestead type of farm is that you can raise a lot of your own food. We’re in the throws of chicken butchering now, but we also raise up a couple of pigs each year for our own use. We hire out the butchering still, but I always ask for the organs and the fat. We’ve grown quite a taste for liver; I’ve learned how to cook it perfectly. Heart is incredible, intensely flavored of whatever animal it came from. (We’ve had sheep, beef, and pig hearts.) I haven’t steeled myself for tongue yet.

But I do render the fat into lard.

It’s a time consuming process, usually done in the heat of summer when you least want to do it, and I confess I always wait until the last minute. You know, when I need the freezer space. Right before we start processing chickens. Autumn is very hard on me.

In years past, we rendered by chopping the lard and simmering in a slow cooker. It worked all right, but it took a long time to work through all the fat, and multiple women with a knife. Last year, I bought two roasting pans from Walmart, and we chopped the fat and baked at low temps in the oven till melted. It was faster, but it still took a couple of days and two to three of us to get through all the fat. Chopping is tedious work.

This year, I read Moby Dick. Gosh, that book was long. And tedious. Just as tedious as chopping hog fat. But I can’t say I’m sorry I read it, really, and it did speed up my lard-rendering time considerably. Not quite enough this first year to make up for the hours spent reading, but I’m sure it will come out even eventually.

See, the Pequod had a mincer on staff, and his job was to, well, mince the blubber before it went into the “try” pot. Why, yes! I thought, reading along. The finer it’s minced, the more “oil” we should be able to render out of it, and more quickly, too. But I don’t have a mincer on staff, and I don’t want to spend even more time chopping fat. I’ve got cows to milk, children to educate, dinner to cook, and babies to hold, you know? So I got onto Amazon before I even finished the chapter and ordered an electric meat grinder.

That did the trick! I rendered two hogs’ worth of fat by myself in two mornings.

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How To Render Lard

Equipment Needed:
2 roasting pans (Mine are just like this, but purchased at Walmart for $10 each.)
electric meat grinder (I got this one. I’m very happy with it.)
sharp knife (This is a fine choice.  Get a sharpener, too. This one is great.)
cutting board
large bowl
ladle
fine-mesh strainer (Like these, but check Walmart.)
canning jars or 5-gallon food safe buckets*
oven

What To Do:

  1. Thaw your fat, if you’ve been storing it in the freezer and dreading the day you have to do this job.
  2.  Preheat the oven to 300°.
  3.  Slice the fat into strips that will fit into your meat grinder.
  4.  Put a roasting pan under the grinder blade and process the fat through the meat grinder. I found my grinder liked it cold, but not partially frozen. It could handle warmer or semi-frozen stuff, but not as well.
  5.  Spaghetti-like strands of fat will build up in your pan. Move it into all the corners so as to fit as much as you can into the pan. It will shrink somewhat in the oven, so it can be a little heaped, but you don’t want to be worried about sloshing oil around later.
  6.  Bake at 300°. It’ll probably take about half an hour to render down. I put the first pan in, then start in on slicing and grinding and filling the second pan. By the time I get that one into the oven, the first pan is melty enough that it needs to be stirred.
  7.  Do stir periodically. It helps to break up the clump of fat that will form as it melts and render more completely.
  8.  When you’re tired of waiting or the fat looks as completely melted as it’s going to get (browned bits stop rendering) pull it out of the oven.
  9.  Position a fine mesh strainer over your storage container* and begin ladling the liquid fat into it. You don’t want any leftover bits of fat or meat contaminating your finished product.
  10.  Rinse and repeat until all of your fat has been rendered!

*Storage Containers: I have used quart canning jars to store the lard, but it takes a lot of jars and it can be difficult to get the lard out later. I think there is no way to speed up or improve upon this process except by using 5 gallon food-grade buckets. That’s what I’m going to do next year.

The rendered lard should store fine at room temperature for as long as it takes you to use it up.

What To Do With Lard

Lard can be used in many recipes that call for butter or margarine. It makes the flakiest pie crusts and the fluffiest biscuits. It can also be used for deep frying delicious things like donuts or apple fritters. Lard is the primary ingredient in homemade soap, too. (I don’t know how to make soap yet, so don’t ask!)

I’m sorry I can’t include any pictures of the process; my hands were a bit greasy.  It’s pretty straightforward, though, and I know you can do it!

Little Explorers

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I noticed the little piglets up by the near fence yesterday, and so I brought the baby over to see.  We startled them, and the whole lot of them ran squealing up the opposite bank.  That’s when I noticed the mama in the water.  She grunted and heaved herself out of the pond to chase after her brood.  “Sorry, Mama,” I said, genuinely apologetic. “I know how you feel.”

Today, they have managed to escape their pen, wee rascals that they are, and they’ve been exploring the bank of the pond and a little of the yard.  I took pictures.  The dog sat patiently waiting for some sort of sign that she should round them up.  I have no idea what commands are needed for shepherd dogs, but I think I’d best find out, because it’s what she loves to do!

Later the kids ran to the house, shouting, “The piglets are in the yard!  Can we pet them?”

“If you can catch one, you can pet it,” I replied.  They never did catch one, but they had fun trying.

The Pig Whisperer

blog sleeping hogs pigs

Aren’t they sweet?  You wouldn’t think “sweet” as a good adjective for a pig, but these two really are.  Bob, the darker fellow in the front, is a borrowed boar.  He was living in a small concrete pen until the day came to visit our Miss Piggy, and he was weak and scared and timid.  A couple of weeks of sunshine and fresh air and a large pen to wander in have done him a whole lot of good, but he’s really thrived under the gentle care Dave has lavished on him.

Dave is our resident pig handler.  He enjoys working with the pigs like I enjoy the cows, and he has spent hours out in the pen, just sitting nearby, talking and touching Bob as much as he could.  After the first few days, Bob was following him around and initiating contact instead of shying away.  He’s been here three weeks now, and he has finally begun to stand his ground for food.  He’s almost a normal pig!  (He still won’t walk down the hill to the water, though. 🙂 )

We’re hoping to get two litters of piglets out of Miss Piggy this year, but we’re not sure Bob is doing his job.  Miss Piggy keeps showing him how, but Bob hasn’t shown any interest.  At least, not while we’re watching.  We’ve read that pigs mate at night, but who knows?

If Bob works out, we’d like to add a freezer to our offerings, where our shareholders can choose to purchase healthful meats, in addition to our usual dairy offerings.  That’ll mean, too, that you won’t have to buy your chickens all at once.  🙂  And there just might be a store front in the works.  No more navigating the children’s shoes and coats in the mudroom!

 

The Case of the Wandering Pig

“A little help here!”

Brenna and I were happily chatting away over the steady rhythm and hum of the milking machine when the call, slightly garbled, came to us from behind the barn.  I looked at her quizzically.  “Did you hear something out back?”

She shrugged and got up to check.  A moment later, she ran back in.  “Daddy’s back there with a pig!”  I was in the middle of milking a cow and could not leave her to help just yet, but Brenna grabbed a bucket of grain to try to lure the wayward pig inside.

Miss Piggy was disoriented and scared and having trouble seeing in the gathering darkness.  They were having a hard time enticing her in when I turned off the machine a few moments later.  “Here’s a feed pan,” I said.  “If she can get a taste, she should follow it right in to the stall.”  That did the trick!

Now that the pig was safely secured, I asked, “How’d she get out?”  She’d been grunting for her dinner when we left for the barn, so she hadn’t been out long.

“She went out through the corner by the apple tree,” David panted.  “I called, “Pig’s out!” but nobody came.” He looked at me a little accusingly.  “Then she got confused and she ran all the way down to the neighbors’ house and all the way back again.  I could have used some help.”

“Well, we’d have surely come if we could have heard you,” I said cheerfully, “but we can’t hear much over the milking machine, you know.” He knew, but he’d been distressed to find himself out chasing a pig after a long, tiring day and he’d lost his cool a little bit; that had made the job harder. Escaped animals are already scared and they won’t be caught if they sense any angst.

My baby heifers.  Unrelated to this whole story, except that they slept in the barn, too.  But they're pretty, aren't they? :-)

My baby heifers. Unrelated to this whole story, except that they slept in the barn, too. But they’re pretty, aren’t they? 🙂

So Miss Piggy slept in the barn last night.  Daisy was displaced from her usual stall.  Maybelle was surprised and mildly alarmed at the strange grunting, slamming noises coming from next door.  Annabelle, who gets the main barn floor, poked her head over the door to see what she was dealing with.

I gave the pig a little alfalfa when I fed the cows, and a little more grain, and checked that the door was sturdy enough to withstand her powerful snout.  “Y’all are good hostesses,” I said to the cows.  “Be good, don’t worry and sleep tight.  All will be well.”

Morning brought it’s own problems.  The cows were upset by the change in their normal routine, and the pig was grunting anxiously from the corner stall.  We acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary, calmly cleaning stalls, brushing cows and going about our usual activities.  The cows followed our example and settled down.  By the time we had the third cow in for milking, it was light enough – and the barn was empty enough – to safely move our pig back home.  David carried a bucket full of milk, which she followed willingly enough, but I couldn’t get the gate unfastened in time and she lost interest and wandered off again.  It took David a few minutes to get her back to the gate.  Then, she wandered through easy as pie!  I had the bucket by now, but I couldn’t see her dish to pour the milk out for her.  “Where is your dish?” I said aloud, and she ambled along in front of me with obvious purpose.  “I guess you know where it is.” So I followed.

Meanwhile, David repaired the fence, so, hopefully, she won’t get out again.  At least, not that way!  As we walked back to the house, she seemed to be investigating the gate that she hadn’t known was there…