Rural Brazil – Rendering Lard

The first time you kill a pig and keep all of the meat for yourself it can be a little overwhelming. There are a lot of parts of the pig that you either don’t know about or don’t know how to use. There is of course the usual cuts, like the loin and the ribs, but there’s a lot more to the animal then what you get at the supermarket. And then there is all of the fat. What do you do with all the fat from a pig? Obviously you can’t eat all of this, (although where I live it is very common to make pork rinds…recipe coming soon) and to just throw it out is a little bit of a waste.

Our first pig that we killed had a good amount of fat on him. I, excited to finally have my own meat and determined to use every last bit of it, decided to keep all of the fat and I figured that I would find a way to cook with it or just make tons of pork rinds! It was A LOT of fat and after a couple of weeks, some portions of pork rinds, and an overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t going to be able to use all of the fat, I began to research about lard soap making.

Soap making looked like a perfect solution to my fat problem and after a lot of research I got down to the business of rendering my own lard. Rendering lard is a super simple process and although there are some icky parts to it, it really isn’t that bad.

So, here goes, how to render your own lard!

How to render lard

Grinding all of the fat!

Step 1: If you have a meat grinder, chop all of the fat into medium to small-sized cubes, making sure to remove all skin and meat attached to the fat. If you do not have a meat grinder this step is going to be much more tedious. You need to cut the fat as finely as possible. Having the fat finely chopped ensures that you get more lard and that the fat does not brown or burn when heating it, becoming hard and unusable!

How to render lard

Freshly ground lard in the pan and beginnning to heat.

Step 2: This is for all people using a meat grinder. Take the chopped fat and pass it through the meat grinder. This is the yuckiest step in the process, but makes such a huge difference when rendering your own lard. By grinding all of the fat you ensure that the fat will not brown and harden while heating, resulting in a much higher lard yield! If you plan to render a lot of lard or do this on a regular basis I highly recommend investing in a meat grinder (you can find one HERE at amazon.com, kitchen aid also sells as an attachment HERE). I own both of these and prefer the manual heavy-duty grinder.

How to render lard

Beginning to boil and liquify.

Step 3: Transfer all of the fat to a large pan (I use the largest pan I have, but I also try to render as much lard as possible when I do this). Place on a medium to low heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the fat to a slow boil. As the fat heats it will begin to melt and liquid will begin to form. The length of this process will depend on how much lard you are rendering. In the pictures I have here, I was rendering about 5 kg and to complete the whole process it took about 2 hours. It is a good idea to do this with all of your windows open to keep a good air circulation. I always find that the smell of fat can permeate throughout the whole house which I don’t like!

How to render lard

Almost ready to pour off most of the fat!

Step 4: When about 3/4 of the fat has melted pour the liquid fat through a metal strainer into storage jars (I use regular jamming jars). At this point you will be left with a lot of gritty-like bits of fat, return this to the heat and render for some more time about 10 to 20 minutes.

I do “two rendering batches” so that I guarantee a clean first batch and a dirtier second batch. You will not be able to melt all of the fat, so I do a “second” batch as a way to try and get more from the fat, but this will be a browner lard!

You can use the leftover fat in your cooking if you like, fry them up so they get nice and brown and you can use them with potatoes or as seasoning in other dishes.

How to render lard

Batch one finished and ready to be put into jars. You can notice the brown chunks at the bottom, these bits I reheat to get my second batch.

Step 5: Let the fat cool, as it cools it will become white and solid. Store for 3 to 6 months at room temperature. You do not need to refrigerate, although I do know of some people who do!

If you have any questions please let me know. Happy Lard Rendering!

How to render lard

In the jars and cooling!

How to render lard

All cooled and ready to use!

 

Rural Brazil – Piglets

As promised, here is a very quick update about our sow. 

Nine PigletsYesterday afternoon she gave birth to nine little piglets. This is her first litter, and much bigger than we were expecting! We are super excited and can’t wait to see them grow.

They are already following their mom around when she gets up to eat, stumbling across the grass and making all kinds of funny sounds.

We plan to keep one on the farm for meat and we will sell the other eight!

Nine Piglets

Nine Piglets

 

 

 

 

Rural Brazil – Raising Pigs

DSC_0697It’s exciting writing a new post after such a long time about rural life in Brazil. There is so much to share that I was in doubt of where to start. But, finally I decided to write a post about raising pigs on my farm as I have so many fun and exciting pork recipes to share that I think this is the perfect place to start.

Raising pigs has been one of the most exciting things that my husband and I have involved ourselves in over the last year. We have always wanted to have other animals besides dogs on the farm, but never really knew with which animals to start. Sometime in 2014 we bought some little chicks with the hope of raising them so that we could have our own eggs. Unfortunately, after about 2 weeks of raising them we needed to leave for the day to São Paulo and when we came home all that was left of our chicks were feathers and feet scattered around the house. Yes, our dogs had eaten them. After this massacre we gave up on chickens as it will require quite some infrastructure to keep out our dogs (we have one who is a hunter and will eat anything that moves). Getting a cow has always been something we have thought about, but the work involved in milking is too much and with a busy vegetable production neither of us have the time to milk a cow every morning, nor, to be quite honest, do we want to!

Our brown female pig and our second male pig! This picture was taken a few days after they arrived on the farm and were still getting used to the electric fence.

Our brown female pig and our second male pig! This picture was taken a few days after they arrived on the farm and were still getting used to the electric fence.

So, last year, our employee and his wife bought a pig from our neighbor down the road to fatten and kill for meat. We spent a lot of time talking to them about how they did it, who killed the pig…etc, etc. Additionally, we both did a lot of research into raising pigs, we talked about it and eventually decided to give it a go.

In the region where we live, Serra da Mantiqueira, pork is very common and a lot of people raise their own pigs for meat. Most people raise one pig in an enclosed area on their property. Some pigs have a little bit of access to dirt, but almost never to grass. Also, all pigs are fed corn and only corn. Right from the beginning we knew that we wanted to grass feed our pigs and rotate them around our farm. We planned to use electric fence and rotate the pigs to areas which needed cleaning. We also didn’t want to feed our pigs only corn, from our research we learned that a variety of different grains would give a pig the best possible diet.

Out to pasture!

Out to pasture!

So, in November 2014 we bought our first pig from our neighbor and brought him in our pick-up truck to our farm. To the great surprise of everyone around us we managed to quickly train him with the electric fence and got him to eat grass and vegetable scraps from all around the farm.

With our first pig we actually only fed him corn, we were still researching and learning a lot about other foods for pigs and didn’t quite manage to build up a varied grain and protein diet for him. We noticed that because we only fed him corn he was actually picky about the vegetables he ate and didn’t always eat everything.

It was great fun raising him. At one point we thought that we could turn off the electric fence because he was well-trained. To our surprise he escaped his fenced area and when we came home from going grocery shopping he was by our house hanging out with our dogs. He escaped on some other occasions and found our compost piles, but in general we managed to keep him contained in his fenced area!

Our second male pig enjoying a shower on a hot day!

Our second male pig enjoying a shower on a hot day!

After about 5 months of living the good life it was time for us to take the plunge and kill the pig so that we could finally have our own meat. This was not easy, but I think we managed to make this part easier because we had raised the pig from the beginning with the intention of killing him for meat. This meant that he did not get a name…we called him porco (pig).

My husband and I had never killed or butchered a pig so we asked our employees wife to do the deed for us. She is one of the few people in our neighborhood who knows how to kill and butcher a pig and one of the few people who has the courage to do it. Without her, we never would have been able to begin raising pigs!

Helping us clean-up our vegetables. We have a lot of scraps or vegetables that we don't end up selling. The pigs love them, carrots is one of their favorites.

Helping us clean-up our vegetables. We have a lot of scraps of vegetables that we don’t end up selling. The pigs love them, carrots is one of their favorites.

Killing the pig is the most difficult process in raising an animal for meat. Pigs are especially unpleasant as they scream a lot when you try to move them, pin them down and kill them. When killing our first pig I kept my distance as I wasn’t too keen on seeing everything. Our employees wife kills the pig with a knife and I was a bit worried that there would be tons of blood. Surprisingly, it was not too bad and once the pig had died, the rest of the process was easy and actually quite a lot of fun.

The meat that we got from our first pig was absolutely amazing, the best tasting pork I had ever eaten in my life. Since eating my own pork I don’t think I can ever go back to supermarket pork. Our meat is much more fatty, but it is a rich meat with tons of flavour.

Because we killed a whole pig and kept all of the meat for ourselves I have had to learn how to use every single part of the pig. Usually, there are only a few cuts of the pig that we eat/buy at the supermarket, but since I have everything and I don’t want anything to go to waste I have had to learn how to cook all of the odd parts of the pig. It has been so much fun using parts of the animal that I would have never purchased and have become really creative in my cooking with pork. Also, since I have a lot of fat I have began rendering my own lard and using a lot of it in pastries (these pastries turn out extra flakey and tasty). And, since I also don’t want to eat all of the fat I have begun to make my own lard based soap (recipes and soap making tutorials coming up in future posts).

In conclusion, our first pig was a huge success. We loved having a pig on the farm and especially having our own meat. It is so satisfying knowing exactly where your meat comes from!

About two weeks after killing our first pig we bought two new pigs from our neighbor, one male to fatten and slaughter for meat and a female so that we could begin raising our own pigs!

At the beginning of November we killed our second pig, he is now in my freezer waiting to be eaten. And, our female pig is heavily pregnant and about to give birth any day now. We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have a litter of 4 to 6 piglets, but since it is her first pregnancy and she is still quite small and young we can’t expect too many piglets.

The first fenced in area the pigs helped us get under control. They loved the freedom to be able to run around and forage for bugs under the trees!

The first fenced in area the pigs helped us get under control. They loved the freedom to be able to run around and forage for bugs under the trees!

After gaining experience through our first pig we became a little bit more adventurous with the second two. We immediately diversified their feed and expanded their grazing areas. The result of these two changes was two pigs that weren’t fussy about any food that we gave them. They ate absolutely anything we put in front of them. Additionally, the male that we slaughtered in November had much less fat than our first pig and we got much leaner meat.

Although my husband and I are still not keen on doing the actual killing of the pig we are slowly learning how to butcher and, who knows, maybe one day we will actually do the deed of killing. First though, we will need to learn how to castrate piglets…that will be coming up pretty soon actually!

I promise I will send a little update when the piglets are born, I am super excited and am keeping a close eye on our soon-to-be mom. Also, stay tuned for lots of wonderful pork recipes….