DIY Rendering Lard: Leaf and Back Fat



It’s no secret my love for Eric and Audra at Groundworks Farm, a local organic farm where I purchase my whole pasture raised pig and use their produce as much as I can.  Actually last year I based by whole Cafe Paris menu on what they grew, changing the menu weekly to provide fresh seasonal food.

When I purchased my oinker, I requested that I get the trimmed fat, both the back fat and the leaf fat.  It came in a huge vacuumed sealed bag and has camped out in my freezer for nearly a year.  Last month when Eric and Audra were getting ready to butcher their pigs Audra suggested a class at Bella Cucina (the cooking school that I now run) on how to render lard.  You know I jumped on that! Maybe I’d finally get that fat off my back…sorry a little porky humor I couldn’t resist.

The class was so great that I just felt like it should be shared beyond our kitchen and into yours. So let’s chew the fat (okay I did it again, it’s a disease I tell ya).

Rendering lard is not something that I’ve really done unless you count the big container of bacon fat that I continually collect…

Lard has had a bad rap for many years but it’s making a come back (as food trends are want to do along with science-y stuff about them).  Does anyone remember the fat free days?  How about fat substitutes that gave you diarrhea…may not have been healthier but you sure weren’t going to get fat eating it.

Lard has been replaced with hydrogenated vegetable stuff…read FAKE food, not natural and wholesome.  Fortunately monounsaturated fats like olive oils have also taken the place of traditional lard, a nice natural sub…but OO does not make nearly as nice a pie crust or super delicious and crunchy fried chicken. Everything has it’s time and place.

Speaking of monounsaturated fat, Audra shared with us that lard’s fat content is made up of 40 to 45% of monounsaturated fat, and the rest is a combination of saturated and polyunsaturated fat!  This lard stuff was sounding better all the time.

Another nifty fact, pastured hogs manufacture vitamin D in their skin which makes their fat extraordinarily rich in this fat-soluble vitamin.  If the lard has been rendered by a pasture raised hog, it has almost as much vitamin D as cod liver oil (and it tastes way better).  You people in Washington and Oregon should really be paying attention to this!

I mentioned back fat and leaf lard, what’s the difference you may be wondering?

Back fat is just as obvious as it sounds, it comes from the back, this fat/lard has more porky flavor than leaf lard. Back fat lard is the go to for cooking and frying for your everyday kitchen cooking.

Leaf lard is rendered from the fat that collects around different organs. This fat is white, creamy and nearly tasteless making it the perfect fat for things like pastries.

Rendering the fat into lard is done identically, however the prep of leaf lard takes a little more attention.

I have some pictures to help understand:

This is leaf lard as it came from the processor.


The leaf fat has some veins and other icky stuff in it that need to be cut out and disposed of.

Lard©RhondaAdkinsPhotography2015 Lard©RhondaAdkinsPhotography2015

For both back fat and leaf fat, cut into 1″ cubes.


Time to render the lard

 What  you  need:

  • Quality  back  or  leaf  fat,  preferably  from  pastured  hogs  (think  vitamins)
  • Crockpot  (or  heavy  bottom  pot-­‐  preferably  stainless  steel)
  • Wooden  or  stainless  steel  spoon
  • Sharp  knife  and  cutting  board
  • Cheesecloth
  • Strainer
  • Canning  funnel
  • Ladle
  • Sanitized  jars  with  lids  (dishwasher  works  great  for  sanitizing,  and  “hot-­‐packing”  helps  the  jars  to  ‘seal’  before  freezing)

Before  you  start:       Plan  your  day  to  attend  to  the  lard  making.  It’s  not  a  full  day  of  work;  it’s  a  little  work  here   and  there  throughout the  day.  Remember  to  have  your  fat  thawed  at  least  slightly  for   ease  of  slicing.  If  it’s  still  a  little  frozen,  it  will  be  easier  to  cut  than  if fully  thawed.

The cubes go into the crockpot.


Set your crockpot to low, if you are hanging out at home while it’s cooking, just stir occasionally to keep the fat from sticking.  If you are going to be in and out put a couple of tablespoons of water in the pot.

Stir  often  at  first  while  the  fat  is  softening;  it  will  be  apparent  when  it  starts  to  melt  and   render  down.  The  objective  is  to  separate  the   pure  fat  from   tissues  and  remove  the   moisture.

After  a  period  of  time,  you  will  begin  to  see  “cracklings”  develop,  known  by  other  names   including  pork  rinds.  This  is  the  tissue  that remains  after  that  fat  has  been  rendered.  They   can  be  eaten  after  the  process,  so  leave  them  in  the  pot  to  crisp.

After  the  rendered  fat  has  been  clear  for  a  while,  we  can  start  skimming  our  first  jars.  The   first  jars  are  the  highest  quality:  label  these for  baking.


Line  a  strainer  with  cheesecloth  and  ladle  from  the  upper  part  of  the  pot  into  jars  through  a   canning  funnel.  Leave  about  ½  inch  of headspace  per  jar.  Close  with  canning  lid  and  allow   them  to  cool.  Once  cooled,  store  frozen.  In  the  refrigerator,  it  will  last  up  to  a  month. The   more  moisture  removed  in  the  rendering  process,  the  longer  it  will  keep.

After  loading  the  last  jar,  the  crispy,  crunchy  cracklings  are  left.  Use  them  however  you   wish!  We  usually  process  large  batches  of  fat though  a  grinder  for  rendering.  The  cracklings   look  a  lot  like  ground  meat  at  the  end,  and  make  a  phenomenal  addition  to  other  ground   meat  dishes  (especially  mixed  with  a  lean  meat  like  game).

Use  for  cooking,  baking,  soap  making,  and  more.


Sorry I didn’t do more photos of the process, it just got too dark by the time I finished. I want to give a big Thank You to Audra for letting me publish her lard rendering method.

If you are in the local area and you are interested in purchasing a hog, lard or doing a CSA you can connect with Eric and Audra at Groundworks Farm or through Facebook at: Groundworks Farm Facebook.


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2 Responses to DIY Rendering Lard: Leaf and Back Fat

  1. Debra April 4, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    So, this is such a beautiful thing. I remember back in the day when my mom was so cutting-edge and rendered lard from one of our home-farm-raised hogs. People thought she was crazy because she could so easily have purchased Crisco. Now, she would be so hipster by doing it. Kudos to you, Rhonda. (Make some Bizcochitos anytime soon?)

    • Giggles April 5, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

      Debra, you are so intuitive! I actually served Biscochitos at the class (we also made empanadas), both a lovely example of how amazing lard is. My son keeps saying I’m a hipster but I tell him at my age that’s not possible…maybe just a late blooming hippie 😉