We haven't rendered lard since the the mid-90's when our Dad became debilitated with a severe stroke. He cooked everything under the sun with lard but us guys, not so much except in the pop-corn pot. Soooooo this year to rekindle the memories and to provide a little input to the youngsters coming up that have never been around it, the much older brother and I decided to pull out the old rendering tools and have a go at it once again.
This tub contains about a hundred pounds (maybe less) of the normal fat under the hide. This year the hogs were skinned so a lot of the normal fat went with the skin.
This container holds aboout 30 pounds of 'leaf-lard'....the softer and less dense fat lining the insides of the body cavity attached lengthwise from shoulder to ham. It cooks up a lot quicker than the regular fat, so should be added to the kettle only once the regular fat is 60 to 70% cooked. If added at the same time or added too soon, the leaf lard will become scorched and give the lard a bit of a tainted or burnt flavor.
The leaf lard is usually just pulled from the inner cavity once the halves are hung, knifing is not normally required.
Just a hand full of fat is dumped in while the kettle is starting to warm so you can coat the inner surface before dumping 40 or 50 pounds of fat in. You don't want any sticking inside the kettle so once we start, the paddle won't stop until the batch is ready.
This old 36" kettle was my maternal grandmothers kettle salvaged from her belongings many, many decades ago and used every year since for rendering up until we quit. We still have our paternal grandfathers 30" kettle that the head meat was cooked in for years until it was replaced by a monstrous 60" kettle with a folding wooden top. Of course the five footer still resides with the much older brother and will remain there until called to duty again....
Under the kettle is a 500,000 btu home made burner supplying the heat instead of wood. The absence of wood smoke blinding and watering a fellows eyes is a God-send !!! A sheet of light gage metal is wrapped around the kettle as a shroud to ensure even flow of heat up and around the sides.
Probably 45 to 50 pounds of fat in the first batch....There's other prep work for the other to do as one continues the stirring. The old paddle was made of a piece of sawmill oak by the much older brother back in his high school days and shows the use well too.
The end is rounded to match the round shape of the kettle bottom and the handle scorched and partially burnt at the edge of the kettle from flames licking up the kettle sides in the old days when cooking with wood.
One of the things to be set up is a cooling vat filled with water for the lard containers to set in while straining the pieces of fat and the subsequent squeezing of the fat by the sausage press.
Monitoring the temperature with an infra-red thermometer, right here is is cooking at 217 degrees F. To keep it from scorching, the temperature should not exceed 275 degrees while cooking. That was always hard to do with wood and I remember having to continually stoke the fire with cook-stove sized pieces continually OR quickly kick out a portion of the flaming fire from under the kettle to allow its temperature to lower....responding to a loud bark of a swift kick in the pants from the old man....
With the propane burner, a slight twist of the valve adjusts the flame easily to modulate temps in the 250 degree range.
Hard to believe so much cooks down to so little....but here its been held steady at 250 -260 degrees for an hour or so and very near completion.
...of course the cracklin' pans and the requisite salt shaker has to be set in place....I remember rendering lard back at the home place in years long past some of the guys would sneak a quick snort from some home made wine kept in a sack in the woodshed...maybe even something a little stronger on occasion...but we won't go there today.
Close, but not quite ready....just a little too much white showing yet. There's still some lard to cook out. On a side note, the big dipper is a WW 2 mess hall dipper our grandfather bought in St Louis sometime after the war. A number of similar items still bless our presence.
When done cooking, this dipper is used to transfer the cooked fat/liquid lard to an old grain sack doing double duty as a strainer. Once the pure lard is strained, the fat is then transferred into the sausage press.
Preparing the grain sack, one corner is pinned up to the opposite side to create a point at the bottom. The point is then dropped into the first container and the liquid strains right out the point or oozes out the sides and runs down the outside to the point and directly into the large can.
Several sets of pliers and/or channel locks must be used to hold the sack as the dippers of 260 degree lard and fat is dumped in. A fellow still sustains an occasional burn or splatter to exposed skin.
This has to be split into two posts because there is a limit on text....hopefully Part 2 can continue without too much trouble.