Clearly I am a very strange girl. If my devotion to fermented foods and odd meat bits and dirt hadn’t tipped you off already, food is absolutely essential and central to my happiness. When I was younger and stupider, food was a comfort and a defense mechanism. During a particularly stressful period of high school I baked almost every night. Cinnamon rolls, cornbread, cookies and muffins took the place of actually confronting my problems. Every night I lugged out the fifty pound bag of flour in the pantry, opened another box of Costco butter, and let the rhythms of kneading a large ball of dough calm me.
Food still acts as my go-to fix, but now that I cook healthy, nourishing, sustainable meals, my weight is far more stable and I don’t have sugar crashes at three in the morning. It’s a good thing bundles of kale replaced cups of sugar. I was a mess when my love affair was with the former.
Anyway, back to the Big Apple. We had a bit of a cold and rainy spell (followed by gorgeous weather and a farmers market to die for, but that story will be told another day) a few days after I arrived. Intimidated, overwhelmed, and still trying to find my footing, a stormy day full of cooking was just what my soul needed to adjust. So I pulled a large package of pastured pork fat from the freezer, unpacked my crock pot, and for a mere $9, made enough cooking oil for the entire summer. Goodness, my economic prowess makes me swoon!
Lard is a beautiful, beautiful, thing. If you’ve got archaic and very American-based fears hovering around the concept, you should try very hard to move past them, because Lard is stable, inexpensive, delicious, and will fry up the best eggs you have ever tasted.
This process has already been covered extensively and well by others, so a lard-rendering recipe seems unnecessarily repetitive (if that IS what you’re looking for, check out The Healthy Green Kitchen’s post, or Robb Wolf’s instructions). However, I can offer up a little more insight, love, and care to the mighty by-product of lard: THE CRACKLING.
Most recipes briefly mention these little nuggets of happiness, but some ignore them altogether, suggest discarding them, or don’t say much about how to optimize them. It is time to change that, my friends.
So you’ve rendered your lard in a crock pot for hours upon hours. You’ve strained the light lemonade colored goodness and poured it into jars. At the bottom of your crock pot are some rather squishy and limp looking pieces of pig skin that couldn’t render. Leave them in there (with the crock-pot on) for another thirty minutes.
Come back, strain off any additional fat (and put in a special egg-frying jar, since this stuff will be particularly pork-a-licious), and remove the bits to a bowl.
Heat up a cast iron pan on medium heat. When hot, dump in the soon-to-be cracklings and let them fry. This is going to feel almost absurdly decadent, and very wrong. It’s not. Fat is good for you, remember? And this is pastured, happy pork! During the frying process shake in seasonings of your choice. I added salt, pepper, onion powder, and a dash of hot pepper flakes. Whatever seasonings make your taste buds happy should go in!
Once the bits have fried up into slightly puffy, crispy, golden pieces of joy, you’re finished (about five minutes). Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel and let cool. When warm but not burning-hot, cram into your mouth.
Or you know, allow to cool completely and store in the fridge for up to a week and a half. Throw into stir-fried vegetables! Use as a non-gluten crouton! Eat as a high-fat energy snack! Cracklings are amazing. All the fatty, fried goodness you could crave, NONE OF THE GUILT OR HEALTH CONSEQUENCES.