Iberian pigs produce a lot of fat—good fat! We can thank the generations of Spanish pig farmers who never bought into the idea that leaner is better. They spent centuries breeding their pigs to get fat on acorns so they could make those delicious hams, and they weren’t going to change. The Iberico pig fat and the fat in those famous hams also happens to be very high in healthy mono-unsaturated oleic fatty acid. In fact, oleic fatty acid makes up over 50% of the fatty acids in the fat of these special pigs.
Iberico fat is really good stuff, and we include it in our Glendower Farms whole pig packages. It comes to you in several ways. Ground into savory sausages, in bacon and pork belly, as fatback slabs, and we even grind some of the fatback in a commercial grinder to make it easier to use. (Grinding fatback is hard to do in a home grinder without gumming up your grinder.)
So what do you do with all that fat? The best answer: MAKE LARD!
If you haven’t been using it, lard can revolutionize the way you cook. Your friends and relatives will think you’ve been taking courses at a fancy cooking school. Lard can be used in the place of shortening or butter in most recipes—with amazing results. Order and read Jennifer McLagan’s book, Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. The internet is also full of good ideas about using and cooking with lard.
Lard is easy to render from pork fat. There are several ways to do it, but our favorite is rending in a crock pot. Here’s How To Render Lard In A Crock Pot. A great byproduct of the render process is the “crackling,” which are left behind bits of meat and connective tissue. Pat it dry with paper towels and spread it out on a baking sheet in a low temperature oven to dry it. It’s a tasty topping that reminds you of real bacon bits.
Of course, you can experiment with rendering the fat while you’re cooking with it then pouring off the rendered fat when you finish cooking your vegetables or meat. Bacon or pork belly produce their own lard while being cooked. Store and reuse it.
Among the ideas for using lard: to confit vegetables or lean meats, in mashed potatoes, to make remarkable fried chicken or crispy hash browns, and lots of other tasty dishes. Lard works great for baking, too. In fact, most things you do with shortening, cooking oils, or butter can be done better with lard. And the results will surprise you! Here are 8 Things To Do With Your Rendered Pork Fat.
When making your own lard, you should be aware that the high levels of healthy long-chain unsaturated fatty acids in Iberico pigs lower the melting temperature of the fat. That’s why those thin Iberico cured ham slices release their famous cacophony of flavors as soon as they touch your tongue. The flavors are held in the fat, which quickly melts at body temperature. So your lard will almost certainly remain in a liquid state at room temperature, and maybe even in your refrigerator if it isn’t quite cold. You may have to store it in a freezer, at least initially until it solidifies.
There are some non-food uses for pork fat, too. One is making a very moisturizing soap with lots of glycerin in it. The first step in soap making though is to make lard. Here’s how to make lard soap.