Thursday, August 18, 2011
Anyone who is friends with me on facebook knows about the lard. Here's what made a lifetime vegetarian render five pounds of hog fat in her dutch oven:
The other day I was at Yarnicks, the farm market that I love, picking up a few things for dinner. They raise their own hogs and cattle, so on a whim, I picked up a pork shoulder. I didn't know what I was going to do with said piece of meat, but it came home with the candy onions, and red bell peppers, and cantaloupe, and corn. I put it in the freezer and didn't think about it for a few days until I ran across a thread on the Chowhound forums about carnitas. Chris likes carnitas. Whenever we go to Chipotle he orders a carnitas burrito, so I figured that I would earn some major points if I could make them myself. The recipes all seemed to call for lard, pork shoulder, orange slices and not too much else, so I figured it would be easy. After all, I had the pork, and Giant Eagle sells oranges.
Lard was an issue. They sell lard at Walmart. I know this. It is made by Armour in that green and white box that is always either by the Crisco or Velveeta. Never being a person interested in buying lard, I didn't know much about it,but quickly learned that it's very processed, and partially hydrogenated so that it doesn't need to be refrigerated. Also, it's rendered from factory farmed hogs who were pumped full of God knows what. Its also pretty common knowledge that the majority of toxins and impurities an animal ingests are stored in their fat.
Do you want to eat that? I don't.
I had to find another option. I'm one of those people who believe food is love, and love and hydrogenated white bricks of hog fat should never go together as far as I'm concerned. My first thought was that maybe the butcher shop sold lard. Not to far up Rt 422, we have a great butcher shop called Cunninghams that sells bacon and sausage that Chris loves. Being the kind of butcher shop that actually breaks down whole animals, you can get all kinds of nasty things like heads, and kidneys, and hearts and, most importantly in my case, fat.
So, Chris and I went to Cunninghams. I soon found out that they didn't render their own lard, but being a resilient girl, I quickly accepted that fact and asked the girl behind the counter if I could please have five pounds of hog fat.
"Hog fat?" She raised her eyebrow.
"Yes. Five pounds please." I stuttered a little bit.
She disappeared into the back cooler and a man emerged carrying a giant slab of fat. I was tingly with excitement. He weighed it, bagged it, and we were on our way.
When I was moving, my Grandmother gave me a box of kitchen equipment that was my Grandpa's and that she didn't use, amoung them, an old very sharp french Sabatier meat cleaver that I joked I would never use. It took me about an hour to trim the meat off and then turn a five pound slab into half inch cubes, and I was darn grateful that I had that big knife. I threw it all in the dutch oven with a cup of water and put in on the oven on low heat. We went out to get milkshakes.
Some people will describe the scent of lard as its rendering as intense. Like pork roast. Or maybe like 1000 pork roasts in one kitchen.
I guess that's one way to put it.
It made me sick. As in I got a terrible headache and fell asleep on the couch. That's why there are no pictures of the cooking/straining part of this experiment. Chris did all that while I was curled up asleep.
He's a good sport.
The next morning, I opened up the fridge and there was a mason jar full of snow white lard. I am pretty impressed every time I open the fridge door.
The carnitas part is less interesting. Melt lard, cube pork shoulder, zest orange, slice orange, and put in dutch oven. I cooked it low and slow for about 2 1/2 hours and then shredded it. Chris seemed to like it as tacos with cheese in corn tortillas. We're going to start focusing on more vegetarian food though, so that lard might be sitting in the fridge a while.
It was an interesting learning experience if nothing else. I like the idea of being self reliant and knowing how to do things that most people take for granted - like canning and making bread, and this is another thing I can add to the list of things I know how to do.
Now lets all hope I never have to do it again.
Its is almost kind of pretty...