The Magic of Leaf Lard

Leaf lard isn’t just any old lard, it’s smooth creamy magic that’s unlike any other type of lard available.  In general, lard refers to rendered pig fat and is a fully natural, whole food.  Over the years, it has gotten a bad rep from the shortening industry, but it actually has a tremendous number of health benefits. Lard also has a high melting point making it the best choice for extra flaky pie crusts and pastries. It can be made in your own kitchen without any special equipment. Ask local farmers or butchers in your area for this gem. The process couldn’t be simpler:  Melt it, strain it and it’s ready to use!

Rendering Leaf Lard

  • Servings: One pound renders down to two cups
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Made from the visceral fat, namely a sheet of vaguely leaf-shaped fat stored around the loin and kidneys of a pig, leaf lard has a smooth and creamy texture.  It’s soft and spreadable at room temperature, meaning that it has very different cooking properties than a generic block of backfat lard.

The most important distinction in leaf lard?  It doesn’t taste like pork.  That means it’s perfect for making donuts, pie or just about any old school country recipe in the traditional way.

If you want to skip that rendering step and just buy it ready to use, pre-made leaf lard generally costs $25-$30/lb. If you’re going to render your own leaf lard, you have to either raise a pig or buy a sheet of it from your local butcher.  They’ll know exactly what you’re talking about and can special order it if they don’t carry it. 

Note: If there are any meat nubbins, remove these so that you don’t carry any pork flavor forward.

A pound of leaf lard will render down to about two cups of finished leaf lard.

Start by finely chopping the leaf lard. The more surface area you open, the better your yield.
Place it in a Dutch oven or thick bottomed pan and add about 1/2 cup of water for every pound of leaf lard.
Cook gently at 200-225 F; it will gradually give up its fat
When you’ve gotten as much as you can from the lard bits, remove from the oven.

While it’s liquid, leaf lard has a golden yellow color, but once it cools completely the leaf lard will be a pure snow white.  At this point, if you’ve done it right and patiently kept the temperature low, the leaf lard should have no porky taste.  The texture will be creamy and spreadable, like very soft butter.

Drain the liquid lard using a strainer and some cheesecloth
Take the jar of clear liquid and place it in the fridge overnight

Cap up the hot lard jars quickly and they’ll seal, preventing condensation from the air as they cool.  The main spoiler of lard is moisture contamination, so now that you’ve driven off the liquid through rendering get it capped hot to keep it out. 

Your lard is now ready to use!

Many thanks to Ashley at Practical Self Reliance in Vermont for her rendering tips!

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