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How to Make Lard

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My mother never used lard when I was growing up.  She used Crisco shortening in a can. It was thick like lard or butter.  As an adult, I used both shortening and vegetable oils.

But lately, I’ve begun using butter, or coconut and other healthy oils.  I haven’t tried using lard yet, but will when I find some that are not processed, and where the pigs are pasture-raised 


Pure lard should contain less than one per cent of water and foreign matter. It is the fat of swine, separated from the animal tissue by the process of rendering. The choicest lard is made from the whole “leaf.” Lard is also made by the big packers from the residue after rendering the leaf and expressing a “neutral” lard, which is used in the manufacture of oleomargarine. A good quality of lard is made from back-fat and leaf rendered together. Fat from the head and intestines goes to make the cheaper grades. Lard may be either “kettle” or “steam rendered,” the kettle process being usually employed for the choicer fat parts of the animal, while head and intestinal fat furnish the so-called “steam lard.”  Kettle rendered lard usually has a fragrant cooked odor and a slight color, while steam lard often has a strong animal odor.

In making lard, all the leaf or flake fat, the two leaves of almost solid fat that grow just above the hams on either side about the kidneys, and the choice pieces of fat meat cut off in trimming the pork should be tried or rendered first and separate from the remainder. This fat is the best and makes what is called the leaf lard. It may be put in the bottom of the cans for use in summer, or else into separate jars or cans and set away in a cool place. The entrail fat and bits of fat meat are cooked last and put on top of the other or into separate vessels, to be used during cool weather. This lard is never as good as the other, and will not keep sweet as long; hence the pains taken by careful housewives to keep the two sorts apart. It must be admitted, however, that many persons, when refining lard for market, do not make any distinction, but lump all together, both in cooking and afterward. But for pure, honest “leaf” lard not a bit of entrail fat should be mixed with the flakes.

It takes plenty of time to make lard. The cooking must not be hurried in the least. It requires time to thoroughly dry out all the water, and the keeping quality of the lard depends largely upon this. A slow fire of coals only should be placed under the kettle, and great care exercised that no spark snaps into it, to set fire to the hot oil. It is well to have at hand some close-fitting covers, to be put immediately over the kettle, closing it tightly in case the oil should take fire. The mere exclusion of air will put out the fire at once. Cook slowly in order not to burn any of the fat in the least, as that will impart a very unpleasant flavor to the lard. The attendants should stir well with a long ladle or wooden stick during the whole time of cooking. It requires several hours to thoroughly cook a vessel of lard, when the cracknels* will eventually rise to the top.

* cracknels – crisp, fried bits of fat pork

A cool, dry room is the best place for keeping lard. Large stone jars are perhaps the best vessels to keep it in, but tins are cheaper, and wooden casks, made of oak, are very good. Any pine wood, cedar or cypress will impart a taste of the wood. The vessels must be kept closed, to exclude litter, and care should be observed to prevent ants, mice, etc., from getting to the lard. A secret in keeping lard firm and good in hot weather is first to cook it well, and then set it in a cool, dry cellar, where the temperature remains fairly uniform throughout the year. Cover the vessels after they are set away in the cellar with closely fitting tops over a layer of oiled paper.

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