The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. ~ Psalm 16:6 nasb

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rendered Pork Lard

I've purchased rendered pork lard from my farmer for the past several years.  It's so much better than anything you can get in a grocery store (lard, shortening--ew, right?).  Pork lard, you may ask?  Okay, I don't purchase lard, or shortening, from the store, to use in anything.  Yuck.  But the rendered pork lard from my farmer--that is what I use in my pie crusts, other baking, even biscuits and biscuit mix (you still have to store it in the fridge or freezer), mmm.  I'm getting hungry now.  But I digress.  I had heard about rendering your own pork fat, but I didn't have any, so I never ever considered doing it.

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!

More Rendering

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.

Oink, oink!!

Back to life,

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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Annual Christmas Declutter


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

Well, Christmas is over, and it's time to put the decorations away.  Being Mrs. Practical, and having guys who are not into decorating, I don't have many Christmas decorations to box and store.  Also, I've already blogged about decluttering Christmas decorations a few years ago, so you may refer to that post for more details.  In that blog post, I shared how I got down from five boxes of Christmas decorations to four.  In my photo below, you can see that I'm back up to five.  This is only because last year, I was adventurous and decided to make tabletop Christmas trees with some wired garland that mysteriously appeared at my front door.

Also, I shared in that old blog post about how I labeled the individual ornament boxes with the ornaments stored in each one.  That is due to my excessive list-making urge.  My goal this year and beyond, however, is to simplify.  So the individual ornament labels are now gone.  Here we go with the details...

Once Joseph--sweet young man that he is--helped remove all the ornaments from our tree, and once I had everything spread all over the floor (grouping like ornaments together--I have a few "sets" of glitter snowflakes), I took inventory, same as two years ago.

As you may know, I collect snowflake ornaments; since the ornaments fall into pretty much two categories (snowflakes and other, lol), I don't feel the need to label the individual ornament boxes anymore.  Away with those labels!!

I sorted through my non-snowflake ornaments, setting aside most of them (the two shoe boxes below).  I also put aside those red ribbon bows, which I've hung along our front porch railing for several years, but not for the past two years.  They were a little smashed and old looking.  Plus who wants to go out in the cold to tie decorations on the porch?  Not me.

Side note--don't you just love that Hot Wheels shoe box in the above photo?  My youngest guy is 18, so you know that box has been around for a loooong time!  Okay, back to decluttering.

Even though the individual ornament boxes are no longer labeled, I wanted to update the labels on the (now) four large 44-quart Rubbermaid boxes.  So, I removed all labels everywhere and went to work.  First, I sorted all the decorations into the four boxes, below.

You may see two tree skirts in the two boxes on the right.  I use the one in the far right box, and the other one--well, it was made by my mom (both of them were), and I'm keeping it for one of my guys.  If they don't want it, out the door it goes.  It's just one item, it fits in the box with room to spare, and I'm not letting go of it yet--so there.  Don't bug me about it.  :)

I use Microsoft Word to create single-cell charts, make the border a nice wide one so I have something to cut out, and I use a font called Nickolodeon, which is on every label in my entire house.  Keepin' it uniform and all, folks!  I label the front side with the word Christmas, and the back side with what's actually in the box, so that I know I can fit everything in the boxes next year.

These boxes are stored in our basement, which needs a lot of decluttering again.  I'll be down there soon when the urge overtakes me!

Back to life,

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Simplify -- Bedroom Dresser


Our Goal

A simple and beautiful house
that the Lord can use as a peaceful haven
for my family and others.

Click here to find out why/how I started!

Part of having a simple house is that it works for you.  What I mean by that is this:  your stuff doesn't own you, and you are in control of your stuff.  You're able to live your life, and your "stuff" helps you do that.  It does take a few minutes' extra effort, but it saves so much in the long run!  Let me show you in pictures.

We're back in my master bedroom again, looking at the entry door and the dresser sitting just inside the room.  My long-term goal is to get rid of the dresser (Gasp!  Yes!) once we get some kind of closet organizer in our master closet.  Then a simple table (like an open sideboard) will sit here, to display my doily from Italy, my jewelry box from Korea, the candle holders, and the lamp.

Inside the dresser, I've organized the clothing so that everything can be found immediately, without sifting through stacks of things--these are shorts, workout sweats, long underwear, and t-shirts.  See what I mean about making your stuff work for you?

I'll share the method for folding (sometimes called the sushi method) in a future post (have to take pictures, haha!), but you can also look for a YouTube video, I think by the same name.  You'll find the same method there.

I decluttered this drawer, and now I own seven t-shirts, two pairs of sweats, two pairs of long underwear, and three pairs of shorts.  Seven tees seem like a lot to me, but a couple are grubby ones for gardening and sweaty chores, one is specifically a workout shirt, and the other four are for "general use."  I think that's okay, and I might just pare them down a little more once everything moves to the closet.

Yeah, I'm being brave to show you my bra drawer!  I nestle them together; they're underwire, so this seems to help them keep their shape best.  That bright teal item is my swimsuit, and behind it is my beach towel.  Next to the beach towel are sports bras and two specialty bras (with built-in lace panels for modesty) because hey--I need those.  Really.

Eight regular bras (seven in the drawer, one on me!)--yeah, that's a lot, I think.  I just purchased four of them, and am keeping the four old ones as long as they do their job.  If they still hold up well (they're Soma; they are amazing and last), I may donate them (Soma has a bra donation event the beginning of each year).  For now they stay, and trust me, I wear every one of them.

Using the same method of folding as with my t-shirts, I figured I'd try it on my underwear, trouser socks, and stockings.  I was able to combine two drawers into one with this method, and still have a bit of room left over.  Yeah, too much underwear.  I'll have to evaluate that soon.

Below is the top center drawer--pretty empty now!

Here's a now-empty drawer!  I'm on my way to saying bye-bye to this dresser!  And yes, even though I love this dresser, its style, the cedar-lined bottom drawers, it really is time to let go of it.  It's hard to keep it dusted, and more empty drawers means I have to fight to not purchase more stuff.

On to my beautiful inlaid pearl jewelry box, a gift from Fernando on his travels to Korea.  Right now, here's what's in it.  Burglars beware--the two pairs of pearl earrings are gone now, as are the rings.  There's really only $100 or so of minimal items in here, so no use trying to find my house.  Plus we're gun owners.  'Nuff said, okay?

To show you I haven't reached perfection, here's Fernando's junk drawer.  I told you I don't mess with other people's stuff.  He's very ready to go through this drawer now, so it won't look like this for long!

I just can't end this post with a nasty picture.  Here are a few prettier ones of candle holders on my dresser.  I love these!

There, that's better.

Back to life,

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ornaments for the Tree

Kinda random here, but I took some macro pictures of some (mostly) new ornaments for our tree this Christmas.

This first one I found when we got our Christmas tree.  In the little gift shop at The Growing Place, I almost walked right into a display of hand-crafted ornaments--all snowflakes!  Since my aim is to cover our tree with snowflakes of all kinds, I splurged and bought it.

My younger brother Jeff bought me a few ornaments, too, once he heard how I'm collecting snowflakes for the tree.  Here's one he bought for me.

This next one, tin and painted with a whitewash, I found in Alexandria Bay when Mom and I visited there. There were four different ornaments, and I bought one of each pattern.

Here is the second ornament Jeff bought me:

A hobby horse thrown in here, just for fun and just because I took a picture.  :)

A glass ball with silver "snowflakes."

I love snowflakes!  They proclaim the glory of the Lord!!

Back to life,

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Friday, January 16, 2015

A Simple Family Christmas

What a beautiful, wacky, fun, special Christmas Day!

Here is the story in pictures.


Thomas handed out the first gift.

Fernando got a dumbbell.  :)

New pajamas for Joseph.

Jeff (above) got the infamous Victoria's Secret box!  It has been in the family for 27+ years, and has been passed from hand to hand almost every Christmas.  It ended up in our family last year, so we wrapped Jeff's gift in it this year.  The tradition continues!

Char "admires" Jacob's wrapping job.

Jeff made the picture frame for Mom; Danny chose a photo to put in it.

I got my bricks back!
I had wrapped these for "ballast" in a light gift a few years ago,
and Jeff kept them for three years before using them in my gift.
Another family tradition!

Danny did a great job capturing my expressions as I opened my gift.

Another picture frame, also made by Jeff.  Can't wait to pick a photo to put in it!

Thomas thinks inside the box.

Matt and Jeff contribute a few friendly punches.

Due to a wrapping snafu, Danny and Thomas open their gifts at the same time.
They each got an extension set to go with their board game, Pandemic.

Can you believe this?  There were only 11 gifts, and we made that mess?  Unbelievable.

What a celebration!  I love my family.  Merry Christmas to you!

Back to life,

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