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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rendering Lard- Cauldron Style

This week, last year; Farmer, Card Hawk, Crafty Lady, and I decided to render us some lard (side note: I can not believe how much more mellow of a winter it was last year... we have 5" of snow on the ground right now. humph).

 They had 4 hogs' worth of fat and we had 4 hogs' worth of fat. They had a lard press and we had a lard press. They liked using traditional skills and we liked using traditional skills. They liked shooting guns in their free-time and we liked shooting guns in our free-time. We have a lot in common and we couldn't think of anyone we'd love to render fat with more than them. If that doesn't make your heart all sappy then you're a robot. So plans were made.

Now, a perk of living on the same farm for 6 generations is that there are a LOT of random things literally laying around. Such as 3 huge hog cauldrons. The con is that they were laying around outside for more years than Farmer and I have been married.  Farmer and I picked up one and he got to work sanding, cleaning, and oiling that thing until it was Farmwife approved.

The big day arrived, along with our rendering friends, and a fire was made.

The guys took off to go shooting while Crafty Lady and I did all the hard work. The end.

JUST KIDDING! They did go shooting, but it was during a lull.

After the fire was strong, but small; we added our cut up hog fat. Crafty Lady and Card Hawk cut up their fat nice and small (finger size) while I cut up our hog fat about the size of a border collie's ear. Hindsight, the fat renders much faster and easier when it's cut smaller. The cracklins are also a more manageable size that way too.

The lard stirrer you see in the hands of Crafty Lady was made by a buddy of Farmer's. He made it long incase the fire was too hot to be closer to. As you want the fat to render low and slow, that didn't end up being an issue.

It worked best to attach cheesecloth to the top of the milk pail and have the guys ladle it directly from the cauldron to the pail, letting it strain there.

Then Crafty Lady and I poured the lard into jars, leaving PLENTY of room as we knew they were going in the freezer. The earlier the menfolk spooned out the lard from the cracklins, the less it smelled "bacon-y" and the whiter it was. We labeled those pt. jars with "b" for baking and the others "c" for cooking!

There were many jars... I think it was around 64 pints (8 hogs worth of fat). We are thankful for every pint as it doesn't look like this year we have enough hog fat to justify getting out the big cauldron.

I think we were 4-1/2 hours, 3 gallons of sweet tea, and 2 boxes of clay pigeons into our lard day, when the men decided it was time to press the cracklins. 

We used Card Hawk and Crafty Lady's beautiful lard press to squeeze the lard out of the cracklins. A nerve-wracking job as no one wants scalding lard to burn them.

We laid the cracklins out on cookie pans to cool (we should have salted them while they were hot, hindsight). 

I don't remember how many bags of cracklins we ended up with! A lot!

We use them in soups, green beans, and ham and beans. I know they are good in cornbread, but my kids would have a fit (because of the crunch). 

Speaking of,  our kids played like angels most of the day... lots of outside-inside-outside-inside, but it was perfect as we were in and out all day as well

By the end of the day, we adults wanted to do the above! It was a great day and our energy was perfect... until we sat down. Then it was time to doze off.

I think we'll try to convince Card Hawk to build a smoker so we can butcher our own hogs next year... it'd be like "Hog Week". Kill, hang, butcher, smoke, render... Anyone else have this on their "to-do" list?


  1. I am interested to know everything that you use lard for. I save all of my bacon grease and use it to season my cast iron skillet and in cooking. Those cracklins look yummy!

    1. I will work on posting some of my lard recipes.

  2. Wow, I'm impressed. I'm still trying to get up the nerve to learn how to Use lard and here you are Making it. Good for you!

  3. Hello, I found your blog this morning while researching lard presses. I enjoyed reading about your recent lard rendering. It looked like a great day with good friends. We have three hogs that we are going to soon butcher. This will be our first time doing this on our own. We have been shopping around for a lard press/sausage stuffer. I was wondering what size yours was, and if you found that size adequate for the job. We have looked into 8 quart presses, and we are wondering if maybe we really don't need one quite so big.
    (I know you are very busy on your farm, so I understand if you don't get to answer my question.)

    1. Our friends have the 4 quart one and it worked perfect for our needs (we did a small amount of cracklins at a time to be sure the lard drained properly and the cracklins were pressed hard enough). It was a manageable size to haul around too. Good luck in your search!

    2. We were wondering about the 'hauling around' heavy a big one might be. Thanks for your input!! I appreciate it.

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