Why had I ever rendered my own lard before?
The trick to rendering lard is to grind the fat as you would hamburger before you start the rendering process. This is made easier if the fat is well chilled. You might want to cut the fat into 1” chunks, then freeze the chunks before grinding. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole process.
Once the fat is ground, then place it in a medium sized cooking pot. Add about ¼ cup of water, then turn the heat on low. As the fat starts to melt and render, you can ladle out the liquid, straining out any cracklings by pouring the melted lard though a cheesecloth lined strainer placed over a bowl. Rendering the lard should take about an hour.
As you can see from the photo above, the liquid rendered lard was a bit dark. This was the last jar I poured, and was at the end of the rendering session. Lard rendered earlier in the session was more clear, with less toasty pork aroma. Once the lard cools, the color will turn opaque and white. The lard should be shelf stable, but I put mine in the fridge.
If you are at a farmers market, you can almost count on finding farm raised pork. When you do, ask the farmer if the have pork fat for rendering lard. There are three types of fat on a pig: belly fat, fat back, and leaf lard. Belly fat is invariably turned into bacon here in the U.S. Fat back is the fat just under the pig skin, and has more of a pork flavor, great for frying and savory foods like tamales. Leaf lard is the least flavored of all of the pork fat, which is great when you don’t want a porky flavor competing with your sweet pie crust. Leaf lard is excellent when used in pastries.
I will say, even in the fridge I had one jar of lard go rancid on me. I think it had to do with too many meat particles slipping through my strainer. I should have know something was up when a yellow liquid separated and gathered on top. I will do more research on what exactly happened. As usual, I learn more from mistakes than I do successes. The other jars were fine, however.