Fat.

It’s gotten a bad rap in the last several decades.

At one point in  our human history, being fat was beautiful (still is in some cultures). Eating fat was prized. Fat was equated with wealth.

And, that’s probably closer to the truth than the “low fat is healthy” myth being perpetuated on humanity right now.

Mangalitsa pigs produce a lot of fat, and they have been bred to produce premium quality lard.  That’s the genetics. How that expresses depends on how you raise them.  Good quality, good keeping fat is produced when the animals are:

  • raised outdoors where they get sunshine and some forage
  • fed small grains and forages-NOT corn and soy. If the grains make oil, they’ll make oily fat that goes rancid quickly.
  • finished on a dry ration, which helps to dry the fat.  Naturally, hogs would be harvested in the fall when the flies died and the forage dried up. That’s when the fat is best for harvesting.
  • finished on acorns, walnuts, or other high tannin feeds. The tannins help preserve the fat from rancidity.

In pigs, all fat is lard. It doesn’t get differentiated based on if it’s raw or rendered out.  We store our pigs’ lard in two forms: rendered (heat treated to separate the fat, water, and protein) and cured.

Here’s the video instruction for making lard. The essence is to heat and hold the fat at 225 degrees (give or take a few) in a surround-heat environment (crock pot, oven, double boiler, etc.), starting with pieces that have as much surface area as possible to get a good render (either chips or ground through the large die of a grinder). The water will bubble up, looking like the fat is boiling when you gently stir it.  It’s done when few, or no, bubble rise, the fat is clear, and the protein pieces have sunk to the bottom. Pour off the fat through a cheesecloth in a stainless steel strainer and put into containers.

The other really cool way we store the fat is as “lardo.” Lardo is simply large pieces of the fat from the back stored in salt.  It’s really that simple. And it’s the simplest cured product to make.  Here’s how:

  1. Place thick back fat (preferably with the skin on) into a non-reactive container or bag.
  2. Completely encase it in salt. 
  3. Allow to sit for at least one month, but longer if the piece is bigger. Store in a dark place (light causes oxidation).
  4. To use, remove from the salt. Dust off any excess salt.  You can hang it in your kitchen to use. As you use, remove any yellowed fat from the outer edges. Slice and eat plain, dice and use as cooking fat, etc.   It can be refridgerated, or not, in between uses.

It’s that simple. You can put spices on the fat before putting it in the salt. Favorites are paprika, black pepper, rosemary, juniper, garlic. Your imagination is the limiting factor. Here’s a video on how we do it. 

For more information, consider joining us for an on farm class. We also host a weekly LIVE Q&A show on youtube every Wednesday at 8 pm EST. Come join us with your question and get answers in real time: The Anyone Can Farm Experience YouTube channel

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