I use pork lard as it is really the only type of fat that is easily available at my farmer’s market. And I like the faint hint of bacon as well, as I am a hardened swine eater. The lard comes in a long rope, which I then cut down to approximately one inch cubes. The last time I rendered lard I did it on the stove top and I discovered that I was left with a lot of cracklin’s (chicharones they are called here) which no one in my house eats so it seemed kind of a waste.
On a suggestion from a reader, I tried using the crockpot this time and was much happier with the results. After cubing the lard up into smaller pieces, I put it in the crockpot with approximately 1/2 cup of water. I then turned the thing on and walked away from it for about six hours. I ended up with much more of the liquid fat and much fewer chicharones – not only that, but the peculiar smell seemed lessened. I am not sure if that was because I kept the lid on it for the most part or if it was a result of the slower cooking. In either case, I was quite pleased with that particular side effect, as to be honest, the smell made me a tad nauseous.
Here is a picture of the finished product cooling on my counter. I use a wire stir fry straining tool to remove the chicharones, however I do not strain the lard aside from that. As you can see from the picture, there isn’t a lot of sediment in the finished product, however if one were more concerned about getting a perfectly clean lard, cheesecloth could be used to capture all the small bits.
The end result was a beautiful pie crust – to be honest, this is the first time I have ever successfully done a lattice work crust and I am pretty sure that the lard is responsible for my success.
In addition to making great pie crusts, lard also allows for the most incredible fried chicken. I regularly try my hand at southern classics as my partner is from Alabama and misses the food from his part of the world. Until this last attempt, my fried chicken was almost always dry and frequently under seasoned. By using 50% lard and 50% peanut oil (I didn’t want to use all my lard up on chicken), I was able to make the juiciest, most flavorful chicken to date – the under seasoning is still a bit of an issue because frankly, I can’t believe anything needs that much salt. It also created a beautiful golden brown color and a fabulously crispy texture. Sadly I have no pics of the chicken, but I highly recommend using lard for this purpose.
This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays blog carnival.