“Every part of Creation is indebted for its life to the other parts of Creation that have died and decayed so that it might live.”
~ Jessica Prentice, Full Moon Feast
The past couple of days involved a recent kitchen experiment — rendering lard.
While rendering the lard (purifying the lard), I couldn’t help but think of my friend Marion Sansing from Starkville, MS. When I returned to Mississippi to live, I met Marion early on. This German-born gal became someone I could geek out with on all things foraged, homegrown, and hand-processed.
Eventually, we even crafted a year’s worth of monthly, local, whole foods meals for others to enjoy. We named them, Seasonal Soirees.
One thing that Marion did every late fall was process the deer her husband and son harvested from the wild. She would make sure to use every part of the animal, like the local First Peoples did.
She would also render the fat into beautiful, pure white blocks…wrap them in parchment paper and store them for future use. Whether making a deeply hydrating hand salve or cooking vegetables or preparing liver pate or making soap…Marion found a way to utilize the precious fat.
She made gifts of fat, as well. Some of my favorite gifts were from her were carefully wrapped blocks of rendered deer fat or tallow from a pastured cow.
Since moving back to California, it’s been hard to find real, pastured or wild fats. A friend, knowing I was in search of fat, purchased some duck fat from a local butcher in Ventura, CA. Other than that, I haven’t been able to find any. The local Whole Foods in Santa Barbara only carries duck fat in the Winter months around the holidays.
So, inspired by Marion, I decided to make my own.
Remembering what I had been taught by traditional food educators, I went out in search of pig fat, high in Vitamin D. It is said that pastured pig lard is higher in Vit D than pastured cow butter. One of the purposes of this precious fat is to prepare my little one’s vegetables in the fat, so high Vit D content is important to me.
As well, in all cultures, wholesome fats were regarded as special, if not sacred. Many food educators are trying to heal the knowledge wound we have in our culture around fat. When Big Sugar took a hold of our culture, it demonized wholesome fat. Basically, a quick buzz replaced the enduring, sustaining energy that fat gives us.
Soon enough, in the nutrient-dense, traditional cuisine of the Deep South, rendered lard was replaced by hydrogenated oils — that’s right — Crisco, a fake fat. And, there are many traditional foods that have met the same fate.
“Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats, as part of a meal, slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.”
~ Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
Back to my kitchen ramblings, then…
I plan to also use the fat for crusts, crackers, and topical salves and balms (here’s a pine pitch salve I made awhile ago with Marion’s beef tallow).
You can read more about the benefits of pastured pig lard here and here.
There are plenty of blog posts out there about how to render lard, but I thought I’d share my experience through photos… It was truly satisfying to cut the pure, white lard into blocks…wrap it in parchment paper and store for later.
Immediately, I thought of people I could gift it to…just like Marion gifted this nourishment to me…
SIDE NOTE: The best part of this story (well, to me) has to do with my little one. I’ve been trying to teach her to sign to me “more” by pinching finger tips together and bumping her hands together. This sign can be very helpful when trying to figure out what they want to eat more of.
Well, the first time I’ve been able to get her to sign “more” was for more cracklins!
Hi Lindsay! I think I was inspired from a Homestead class, but I got leaf lard from Ali and rendered it in a crockpot on the back porch (thank goodness, because it would’ve lingered in the house for days!). I poured mine in small Mason jars and froze what wouldn’t be used immediately. It was so precious to me that when we moved to FL, I put it in ice and moved it! I have one jar left. Used the cracklins/lardons in salads. Yum! Miss you!
It is precious stuff! I processed mine indoors and the smell wasn’t bad at all… Hmmmmmm…I wonder what the difference could be??? Great to hear from you!
The fat that I use for soap is never all that clean. I just never bothered. I sort of let the cracklins settle out, and skim the top, but that is about it. There are not many cracklins left by that time. It takes a while to collect enough for a batch of soap. That is when a freezer would be nice!
…good to know your process Tony… I haven’t gotten into soap making…but appreciate what others craft!
Well, good cleanly rendered lard helps with soap. Bad fat can make one seem to be dirtier after washing than before.
Ack! I can only imagine what bathing in bad fat could be like! Cleaning the fat was very meditative for me…
I still have lots of venison tallow, if you need any. Thanks for all the kind mentions. Time to make cracklin bread
Yes, I’ll take you up on that, Marion. I’ll be in touch through email….
And, it was easy to write the kind mentions ❤ I thought of you a lot while rendering lard!
OooooOOOooo — cracklin' bread, eh?
So, I see your tag name is 'kitchentrails' on WordPress — do you have a blog on here? What is the web link, if so?
This an awesome and inspiring story especially about your little one!! I love being back in Texas and doing more of these back to my roots things that I grew up with my grandparents doing. Now I must also make some lard!! Blessings to you and your little one!!
Hi Frenchy and Wonder Woman 😉 Great to hear from you… Yes, it was really cute when she finally used her more sign — and for cracklins’ — that’s my girl!
I hope the lard experience goes well… Sometimes you can buy the fat already ground up by the seller at the farmer’s market… However, a food processor does the trick as well.
Lol I didn’t know that name would pop up I thought it would be smoothie diva. This can from an old blog from a dear friend of mine that we started and then abandoned. I love your posts and information.
My husband was raised by his grandparents an grew up on a ranch in New Mexico they always rendered their own lard. We will look for some local fat here as there are many grass fed ranches close by. Thanks again for this valuable and fun information!! Love to follow you and hear the stories of your daughter!! Blessings!!