Homemade lard, wet-rendered from pork fatback.

How to Try Out Lard

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LARD is fat from a pig and used for cooking and flavoring. This fat is called lard whether it’s been tried out (rendered) or not.

Trying out is melting fat to skim out the impurities so it is clean to cook with.


Every housekeeper knows how unfit for really nice cooking is the pressed lard sold in stores as the “best and cheapest.” It is close and tough, melts slowly, and is sometimes diversified by fibrous lumps. And even when lard has been “tried out” by the usual process, it is often mixed with so much water as to remind us unpleasantly that it is bought by weight.

The fat should not be suffered to stand long without being tried, because even in cold weather, some parts of it may soon become musty, and nothing can then restore its sweetness. Remove all the lean bits, as they will adhere to the kettle, and cause the fat to burn. Simmer gently over a steady fire, and give it your whole attention until it is done. A moment’s neglect will ruin all.

The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin. Leaf lard has little pork flavor, making it ideal for use in baked goods, where it is valued for its ability to produce flaky, moist pie crusts.

Cut out the kidneys carefully, and remove any bit of lean. Then pull off the thin inner skin, and cut up the leaves —into bits about two inches wide and four long. Wash these quickly in tepid water, drain on a sieve, and put over a slow fire in an iron vessel rather thick bottomed. Add a little cold water—a cupful to a gallon of cut up fat, and let cook gently until the lumps of fat color faintly. Increase heat till there is a mild bubbling. Keep the bubbling steady, stirring often to make sure no lump of fat sticks to the pot and scorches. Scorching taints and ruins the whole mass. When the cracklings are light-brown and float on the top, it is nearly done, and should cook slowly.

When done, strain it into your vessels with a thin cloth put over a colander. If you put lard in stone or earthen jars, it should be cooled first, as there is danger of their cracking. White oak firkins [casks] with iron hoops and covers to fit tight, are good to keep lard, and if taken care of will last for twenty years.  If your family is small, bear in mind that the lard keeps longer in small than large vessels. Set away the jars, closely covered, in a cool, dry cellar or store-room.

If leaf lard is not to be had, take ten pounds of solid white pork, as fat as possible. Cut in pieces uniformly the size of your finger, and put in a vessel with a thick bottom—one of iron is preferable—adding one pint of water. Put on the range, keep tightly covered until the water has evaporated in steam, then leave off the cover, letting it cook slowly, until the scraps turn a light brown. While still quite warm, strain through a colander, pressing the scraps hard with a potato-masher. Pour the liquid into cans and set away. The next day it will be found snow-white, solid and of a fine and equal consistence; and for cooking purposes, quite as good as fresh churned butter in making biscuits, any kind of pastry, or frying eggs.

The fat that has the skin on should be cut very fine, taking the skin off first. Soak the inside fat all night in salt and water. Wash it in the morning, and put it to boil without any water in the pot. It is not so nice as other lard, and should be strained by itself. It does very well for frying.

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Post – The Fine Points in Making Lard

Post – Larding and Daubing Lean Meat

Buy on Amazon: Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient


Posted in Cooking.


  1. Lard is supposed to be good for you these days if it doesn’t come from pork fed antibiotics and other garbage. I understand it makes the best pie crusts ever but never had it. I grew up in Crisco days, too. Ack! I use olive oil, coconut oil, and Kerrygold butter now.

  2. Oh the things I learn…thanks for this. I don’t think I’ll be doing any trying out…..at least not anytime soon….

    • I’m partial to olive oil and coconut oil, but who knows? I’m fairly adventurous. If I ever did go to the trouble to try out lard, I’d have to find a farm where the pigs are allowed to live outdoors, and not confined in cages.

  3. I remember my mother using lard many years ago. It gave a distinctive taste to what it was used in.

    • My mother never did use lard, although her mother did. When I was a kid in the 1960s, Crisco (a vegetable shortening) was popular.

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