For years fat has been demonized by everyone from the family doctor to the FDA. The food that made our great grandmothers cooking tastier, flakier, richer, and healthier was bastardized as being the silver bullet in the revolver that was driving the heart disease epidemic in America. Turns out the “experts” were jumping the gun in the war on Fat and ended up putting us in a worse predicament by promoting the use of sugar and starch to replace what had been working just fine for all of human history. This is not to say the FDA doesn’t do a good job of promoting healthy foods, they just, in my opinion, have a flawed formula by putting all animal fat into the same category as say Trans Fat and calling the good stuff bad.
Ok, enough ranting let’s get onto the show. It’s Fathers Day. Time to celebrate the men out there working hard to be good role models for their children and support their family. Fathers and fatty foods have a strong affinity with each other and for good reason. Fat is concentrated energy. Fat will keep you alive during a famine and fuels your body during long periods of high demand work. Bottom line, fat keeps us alive. And it’s damn tasty.
Today’s recipe turns the clock back to simpler times in our history when almost all of the food you ate came either from your farm or the farms around you. If you raised an animal you used all of that animal, anything less was considered wasteful, unhealthy, and disrespectful to the animal for giving their life for ours.
Pork fat, the stuff that makes bacon… well, bacon, and bbq’d ribs so damn good, is also an excellent fat to cook with. It’s stable at room temperature, holds up well to heat, adds a unique depth to many foods, and contrary to common belief has a significant amount of monounsaturated fat, you know the star of the “Meditteranean Diet”.
Rendered pork fat is called Lard. And it is simple to make. The hardest part is finding a good source. Fat is only as healthy as the animal it came from. Conventionally raised pigs (fed primarily on grain) have an unhealthy level of omega 6 fats that contribute to unhealthy cell membranes and a propensity to inflammation. Pasture-raised pigs, on the other hand, have a more balanced fat ratio and in my opinion, should be the only source of fat to make your lard. Look for a local butcher or farmer who sells pasture-raised pork. If you are lucky enough to have one close, ask them for some back fat and they will happily sell it to you, for cheap! This is a simple technique but does take time. I made this batch overnight. Ok dads, let’s cook
- 3-4 lbs pasture raised pork back fat
- Large stock pot or crockpot
- 2-quart size glass jars for storage
- Cut the fat into small enough pieces to fit into the pot
- Pour 1 cup water into the pot and put the lid on
- Cook over medium heat on the stove or high on your crockpot for 1 hour checking periodically and turning to make sure the fat is not sticking to the bottom
- Use a knife to break up the fat to smaller pieces then move the pot to the smallest burner on your stove and turn to the lowest setting
- Cook for about 8 hours. As long as it is not boiling it can stay longer if your schedule requires it
- Using a potato masher or large fork break up the fat into very small pieces
- Put a colander over a large pot or bowl and pour the rendered fat into it and let drain
- After all the fat has drained you can do an additional strain through a finer sieve if you like
- Pour into the glass jars and store in the refrigerator
- Use the lard for cooking eggs, roasting veggies, baked goods, greens, cabbage, in soups, stews, and stir-fries