Knowing how to render lard and tallow is a basic homestead skill. That’s because pure lard without preservatives can be hard to come by now a days and tallow is almost impossible to find.
If you don’t already know, lard comes from pigs and tallow comes from cows.
I use lard in some baked goods and tallow for soap. Lard makes a very flaky pie crust and tallow makes a beautiful, creamy white hard soap.
The process involved to render tallow and lard is actually quite simple.
The process is basically cooking down pork fat (lard) and beef suet (tallow) until the all the fat has been melted away from the gristle or tissue and the fat becomes liquid.The liquid fat is then strained into a container and allowed to harden resulting in a finished product known as lard or tallow.
The best results for both lard and tallow begin with the proper selection of fat from the butcher shop. For lard I always ask for the leaf lard.
Leaf lard is the fat that surrounds the kidneys on a pig.
But any type of pork fat will do. For tallow I like the big chunks of suet from around the internal organs of a cow.
The rendering process goes much faster if the fat is cut into small pieces before it is heated. Some people save time by getting the butcher to put the fat through the grinder instead of cutting it by hand at home.
Once the fat has been cut into small pieces, it is placed in a pot with about a 1/4″ of water in it. The water is so the fat doesn’t burn.
The pot is then heated very slowly until the fat starts to melt. I try to render outdoors because the smell of the melting lard and suet can be very strong. Rendering indoors can leave a layer of grease on the stove, walls and cupboards. As the fat starts to melt it needs to be stirred occasionally.
The suet will begin to turn soft and mushy as it is cooked down. The smell is very strong like a cheap prime rib dinner. The lard acts and looks different from the suet while it is being rendered.
As you can see below, the lard seems to “fry” as the cracklings (bits of pork) start to settle to the bottom of the pot.
After the lard pieces render as much fat as they are going to, the cracklings pieces are scooped out with a slotted spoon. The cracklings can be salted and eaten or they can be feed to chickens, cats or dogs.
The clear lard is then strained and poured into containers. Lard will keep in the refrigerator for well over 6 months and it will keep canned almost indefinitely. Be aware that lard is a low acid food and theoretically may carry with it the risk of botulism due to the fat possibly insulating botulism spores.Can lard at your own risk!
To can the lard simply pour it into a clean hot canning jar, and apply a lid and band that has been simmered. Once the jars have thoroughly cooled, remove the band and check the seal.
Straining and finishing the tallow is not as straight forward as straining the lard.
That’s because the tallow/suet won’t just pour into a container. The tallow needs to be put into another container so that it can harden off. I use a large stainless steel bowl.
The softened beef fat will have a semi jelly like consistency and needs coaxing through a food mill, strainer or sieve. I sometimes will use a fine mesh strainer and a spatula to work the hot beef fat into a pan or bowl. But in recent years have elected to use my food mill with a very good result.
Once the tallow is strained, I put the pan or bowl into the refrigerator over night so that it will harden.
The next morning the harden tallow is removed from the pan. It is now ready to be used in soap, black power guns, candles or whatever else you need tallow for. I keep my tallow in the freezer but plenty of people just keep it on the shelf or in the refrigerator. Well rendered tallow will last a long, long time.