Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lard rendering over an open fire

At my age I should probably be reducing the amount of fat in my diet, but today I’ve been a pig. 

Well, I’ve been eating a pig.  Bits of pig hide, that is, deep-fried golden brown and sprinkled with salt. 

Cracklins, we call them. The stuff that doesn’t melt when you cook pig fat to render the lard out of it. 

It’s been a while since I’ve watched or helped render lard, but this afternoon my brother Stuart, my dad and my cousin Johnnie cubed a large tub full of fat from a couple of freshly butchered hogs. 

They built a fire under a large cast iron kettle, and once it got hot, we added a few handfuls of pig fat at a time into the bottom of it.  I stirred as it melted.  We added and stirred for hours until we melted down or rendered all the fat.

The cracklins are the solid bits that float on top and don’t melt.  Once they became crispy enough to rattle around a bit when the pot is stirred, we added a couple of teaspoons of baking soda.  This is supposed to help preserve the lard and keep it white. 

The next step was to dip the boiling hog fat out of the cast iron pot and pour it through a lard press. The fat is funneled into a lard can or stainless steel pot with a cloth stretched over it to strain all the bits of hair and whatever other solids remain in the lard. 

Once all the liquid is poured through, the lard press is tightened down to squeeze the last remaining bit of fat from the cracklins.

We dump the cracklins out on clean cardboard, sprinkle a few with salt and eat some as soon as they’re cool enough to put in our mouths—or before, actually, because I burnt my tongue. 

Think homemade pork rinds…

I can’t wait to fry some potatoes in the fresh lard.  Fried chicken sounds good too—it’s been years since I’ve had chicken fried in pork fat, but I remember how good Mom’s was when she used to fix it that way. 




  1. My grandparents farmed on the side of East River Mountain in Bluefield VA when I was small. They aged and sold the farm and moved to town when I was 12. I still remember going to the farm over Thanksgiving for hog killing, and the processing of the lard and meat just as you have described. The best bacon in the world is from meat you help prepare from fresh. Enjoy! And eat some cracklin' cornbread for me!

    1. Hog killing time was an exciting time on the farm--it meant there would be plenty to eat all winter.

      And yes, homegrown bacon is the best...and sugar-cured hams are yummy! :)