Then my neighbor Lorraine offered me several large bags of pork fat which she had stored in her freezer, left over from the side of pork they purchased earlier in the year. So, I took the bags and stored them in my own freezer--until I realized we really, really needed to use up the stuff in our freezer, which desperately needed (still needs!) to be defrosted.
First of all, since these bags of fat were frozen solid, we moved them to our large cooler in our garage, which was also very cool (we're talking November). After 3-4 days in the cooler, they were ready and waiting for me to haul them in to the kitchen to get started on the massive project. Fortunately, I live in a household of guys. Strong guys. Who willingly help their mom when she asks. Nice, huh? :)
I was surprised to find the pork in pieces; I expected to find super large chunks that had to be cut down to size. A friend (and some blog sites) recommended that I run the pork through my meat grinder, so that's where Thomas stepped in to help.
It really was rather gross, and since there was so much pork fat--the bag above was the first of three--I ended up pausing partway through to clean the parts to the grinder.
After being ground, the fat was put into every available slow cooker I owned. I added about a quarter cup of water to each pot to prevent burning as the fat heated, turned the slow cookers on low, and let them do their jobs.
After maybe just an hour, the fat started to look like this, below:
The step I didn't take pictures of: One large metal bowl (about eight quarts), with a colander over it (the handles held it above the bowl), and cheesecloth lining the colander, was set up. I then simply ladled the liquid into the colander and let it drip down into the bowl. As the bowl filled, I transferred the liquid fat into a Pampered Chef four-cup measuring bowl with a pour spout, and poured the liquid fat into wide-mouth pint canning jars.
The picture below looks nice, but don't put the lids on yet! I filled the jars to within about a half inch to an inch from the top, then let them sit and cool on my counter. No seals/rings on yet!
After a long afternoon of grinding the fat up, I tried to fry up the cracklins--the remaining fat after letting all the liquid stuff drain off. They're supposed to turn crispy and crackly (hence the name), and you can use them in baking, on salads, etc. Well, I fried and fried and fried, and they just kept getting stuck in the pan and turned into a gooey mess. I decided I didn't want cracklins anyway, and dumped the whole mess out.
Then, I further decided I didn't want to put the fat through the meat grinder, either. So I just started loading it into the crock pot, below.
Success!! The un-ground pieces produced the same beautiful liquid! And I was able to fry up the cracklins to use in baking (more on that in a future post). Back to the rendering now...
Below, you can see that as the liquid fat cools, it becomes paler, then white in color. This is a very, very good thing!
Once everything is cooled, put seals and rings on, and store them in the freezer. How easy is that?
Okay, now on to super yummy fried up goodness, almost as good as bacon. Yep, bacon is pretty much at the top, but this comes in just below it. I took the little pieces of fat and just fried them up. More liquid fat was produced, so I drained that off and saved it, much like bacon fat, to be used in frying, and frijoles, and greasing pans...
Fryin' up the cracklins.
The fat from the cracklins will not turn white, and has more of the pork odor (the white stuff is just about odorless), so you won't want to use it in, say, pie crusts. But it's great for what I mentioned above--frying, frijoles (refried beans), etc.
And the cracklins? I stored them in quart-sized canning jars, right on the counter, and am still using them. Because, I discovered Cracklin' Bread. Seriously. I'll post that recipe real soon, y'all. (It's a southern thing.) UPDATE: Here's the Cracklin' Bread recipe I posted!
Rendered pork lard.
The end of the story? Not quite yet. I had spent an entire day doing this, and I was pooped. But, I felt accomplished! Like a prairie woman, doing things the old-fashioned way. And, thankful for the Lord's provision, even in fat!
A few days later, and a couple days before Thanksgiving, Fernando and I went to our farmer, picked up our Thanksgiving turkey, and brought it home. We lifted the lid to the cooler to put a bag of ice and the turkey inside, and---there was one more bag of pork fat. Sigh. At least the second pork-fat-rendering job took a lot less time, and was easier because I sort of knew what I was doing.
Back to life,
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