February 28, 2015

How To Render Lard

Over the years, we have learned that with every season comes the harvesting of home grown farm products.  Living near several large groups of Amish, one begins to really appreciate the 'old' way of living.  One thing we have learned is that it isn't really the 'old' way of living as much as it is a smart way of living.  Now mind you, I'm not ready to get rid of electricity or running water, but I enjoy knowing how to live without them if necessary.

This latest adventure of 'diving in' to the culture consisted of having a pig processed by some of our Amish friends for us.  I have to say that our family does not eat a lot of pork.  In fact, I can probably count on only two hands how often we eat a little bacon in one year, but the thought of buying it in the store.....well I just won't do it.  We have went years without buying pork period.

A few years ago, I was delighted to be invited it one of Amish communities Bishop's home because he was excited to teach me how to make his bread.  It was mainly a rough cup of this, a handful of that and a few spoons of lard.  Of course I wrote all of this down and had to really make some adjustments into measurements I knew how to work with.  The best thing was, he sent me home with a coffee can full of lard they had from that fall's pigs they had butchered.  We had bought his bread for months because it was incredibly delicious and know I had the secret ingredient!  For the next few years, I asked every Amish friend we have, to buy lard from them.  I learned quickly that they do not turn loose of it easily.  So this last fall, I began to ask around about having a pig butchered for our own purposes.  Now we have a freezer full of THE best bacon we have ever had, and several glorious jars of pig lard for bread making.

Pig lard doesn't begin by looking very glorious though.  As you can see, it looks pretty disgusting.

We have a few large pan trays that we got second hand through a commercial kitchen store.  I think they are used in buffet lines, but work great for all kinds of things in the kitchen.

Pig lard shrinks as it melts but there has to be room for the liquid so don't use something that will cause the liquid lard to run over.  Remember you will be moving the pan in and out of the oven with hot liquid in it, so move slowly and again, make sure your pan is big enough.  I speak from experience!  The first time I put way too much in the pan.  These pics are from my second rendering.

You'll want to set your oven on 275° and set your tray in the center of the oven.  Once it begins to melt, you'll want to decide how much melting you are comfortable with removing your tray from the oven with the liquid in it.

Halfway is where I am comfortable with removing my tray.  At this point, you can use a dish towel that you have designated for this purpose or a cheesecloth to strain your liquid lard.

See how pretty and golden it is in the bowl and almost clear in the jar?  Remember this is hot grease, but not hot like when you think of hot frying grease.  Do not let it scare you away.  Keeping the temp low really helps with the danger level.  It is not hot enough to ignite in your oven.

Carefully ladle off the liquid from your tray into your strainer.

Using a metal canning funnel, I carefully ladle it into large mouth canning jars.  The lard will not expand when cool, you can fill up the jars fairly full.

The first time you ladle of the lard, it will look like liquid gold and cool into a pure white lard.  As you can see in the pic below, its cooling from the bottom up.

After you ladle off all of the liquid you can the first time, put your tray back into the oven so it will continue to melt.  It works best if your lard has been ground up because the 'cracklins' break apart easy.  Cracklins are what is leftover as your lard melts off.  They are great to use in corn bread and all sorts of things, adding lots of flavor!  Cracklins look almost just like cooked sausage.  

After your lard melts some more, take your tray back out of the oven and ladle it off again.  This time it will be a bit cloudier and will cool into a more golden looking lard.  Your pure white lard from your first strain is best used in baking.  The lard rendered after that is wonderful for cooking with.  See the pic below, the jar in front is from the second strain.

One last thing.  We keep one jar of lard in the fridge and freeze the rest of the jars to keep the lard from spoiling.  It does have a shelf life, but we don't go through it fast enough sometimes so we have learned to freeze the extra instead.

Believe me, if you have never rendered lard before, it is an extremely easy thing to do and extremely rewarding!  The health benefits are great too, especially compared to any processed oil or shortening in the stores and the taste is incredible!  

February 19, 2015


It has been many months since adding a new post.  With the passing of my Father, family needed to come before blogging.  It still does, however, with time comes healing and an ability to not only get back into life again, but to also take the time for the little things that take quiet concentration like this blog.  

Much has happened on our homestead since my last post and God has truly walked beside us every step of the way, picking us up when we stumble, dusting us off and pointing us in the right direction again and again as often as we need it.

Our little homestead has dove deep into the fun adventure of really raising rare breed poultry and all that it entails.  We have completed a few construction projects along the way and added on to the house structure too.  Currently we are working on another building to house many of the poultry breeds we have fell in love with and are working diligently to improve on by extremely selective breeding and hard culling.  

In the midst of all of this, we were blessed to be able to attend some fun fiddle events with our daughter who competed in several contests last year and did extremely well.  In her Junior division, she is now second in the state of Missouri, second in the state of Oklahoma, second in the Grand Lakes National Championships, third in the Mid-American Fiddle Championships and fifth in the great state of Texas.  She also came in first in many local smaller competitions.  Not too bad for her first real year of traveling to these major events.  The young man that actually placed first ahead of her in several of the competitions listed, was the Grand Master Fiddler in Nashville and plays a mean fiddle, guitar and banjo.  We are friends with that family and that's the wonderful thing about this circle of musicians, it is never truly a "competition" when your heaviest competitor will set down his fiddle to pick up his guitar to back you up when it is your turn.  We love the incredible network of the "fiddle family" we have been adopted into that is nation wide.

Today we have been house bound due to the ice and snow for almost five days.  It is beautiful and I am not sure I ever get tired of being at home.  The past few days we've had chicks hatching and have also been kept busy filling the bird feeders outside. 

In my absence, I have continued to take pictures constantly of everything we are doing, including yummy recipes that are irresistable!  So stay tuned! 

March 11, 2014

This Week on the Homestead

Last week, finally, we were pleased to find a calf in the barn!  We had a feeling about one of our cows calving first due to the signs, but sometimes you just don’t know for sure.  By the time we saw the calf, Mama already had it dried off and it was nursing like there was no tomorrow.  Its legs didn’t even seem wobbly, so we figure it was at least twenty four hours old already.  It is a beautiful chocolate brown with a fuzzy coat that makes it look like a little teddy bear. 

February 14, 2014

A Variety of Chicken Eggs and Colors

Aren't these beautiful?

We have been getting such a wonderful variety of colors when gathering eggs lately, that I couldn't resist putting them all in a row for comparison.  The darkest ones are from my favorite hen that is actually a

February 10, 2014

Lavender Orpington Chickens

This is an update for all of you who fell in love with the little silver chicks we brought home last spring.

The top picture is of two of these baby chicks that are now

January 29, 2014

This Week on the Homestead

So how many of you have had their fingers just itching to get into the dirt with this January thaw?  

I know I have!  I did not give in to it, but instead have been gathering eggs to incubate.

Hatching eggs is a bit more rewarding when starting this early in the season compared to planting.  I have learned that from experience and have had a greenhouse over run with so many plants that

December 12, 2013

This Week on the Homestead

What a beautiful, crisp, fluffy snow we’ve gotten!  We didn’t get enough ice to bother us much, which is a wonderful blessing.  Watching the snow fall here in the woods was quite a sight to behold though.  With all of the impending winter storm warnings we received, we had plenty of time to replenish the wood pile, add some much needed insulation to the chicken coop, bed the bunnies down with extra hay, and fill the bird feeders all the way to the top.  The only thing left to do was


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