Pork Lard

Pork Lard

The Scene: It was a hot summer evening in Durango. We were making tamales in our un-airconditioned house. The sound of window fans were all but drowned out by the sound of the KitchenAid, whisking, whisking, whisking.

Pork Lard, whisking away in the KitchenAid

Pork Lard, whisking away in the KitchenAid

Ummmmm, Linz....what does this have to do with Pork Lard? Well, nothing really, I just want you guys to be there with me!

OK back to the story: whisk, whisk, whisk....Aaaaaaaaaand, we ran out of lard.

"No worries, I'll order some from amazon" I said confidently. I order everything from amazon, I think I have a problem. That's probably a topic for another blog...

I love this stuff, seriously, I should marry it I love it so much.

I love this stuff, seriously, I should marry it I love it so much.

"I got this," my husband said as he pulled out his phone and hit search on amazon. I heard a small escape of air as he saw the lard I had been ordering. "Holy shit, this lard costs $20 a jar?"

A bead of sweat formed at my brow. Probably because of the heat, not because of what he said. OK, maybe a little of what he said....I just got caught, spending money on stuff we don't really need.

But I do need it! How else am I going to make the best flour tortillas you've ever eaten? How will I continue to experiment with lard ice cream (btw, Bourbon Bone Marrow is the best ice cream I've ever had, must less made! More on that in a later post...)

"Just get that stuff they sell at City Market."  

Hah! As if I even could if I wanted to. Well, that's not true, I totally could if I wanted to. But I don't want to! I trust in Serious Eats, and if they say the back lard has the best flavor, that's the lard I'm using. 

So I'm standing there, whipping the last of the remaining lard, thinking that I had to agree with my husband: $20 is a lot of frickin money for a 14 oz jar of lard. But what is the alternative, if I've already decided I need the good stuff doesn't that make me willing to pay for convenience?

But how is it a convenience....and then my mind starts racing. I look behind me and sitting on the cutting board is pork cut for stew, ready to make a delicious bowl of green chili. And I see, next to the pork, a pile of pork fat that we didn't want to put into the stew. So.......[lightbulb moment] why am I throwing this fat away? Isn't this EXACTLY what I want, just for it to be in liquid form?!?

So I throw the fat in the food processor and pulse until it's well ground. I throw it in a small saucepan with about 1/4 cup water (well, not throw...because that would be messy!). The water will keep the fat from burning to the bottom of the pot in the early stages and it will eventually evaporate. I put the burner on low, low heat (like, the lowest) and let it do it's thing. After all, I do have dinner to cook.

About an hour later (tamales in the steamer by this point, what perfect timing!), the fat had all but melted and started crackling. After another hour, all the cracklings had settled the bottom of the pan, and VOILA! I now had pork lard. And, bonus: cracklings! Oh yeah, these are gonna be a topper on my tamales tonight.

2 oz pork lard + 1 TB cracklings = ummm, not too bad considering I was ready to throw this away!

2 oz pork lard + 1 TB cracklings = ummm, not too bad considering I was ready to throw this away!

I realized I'm wasting too much. I throw away so much product, whether it be the ends of fruits and vegetables that could be infused into vinegars or other concoctions, or water used to steam pastrami which can later be used as pastrami "stock," or fat from the proteins I'm cooking. I could be creating a self contained kitchen ecosystem, where product has a long lifecycle and waste is minimized. 

But won't that create a lot of extra work? Won't I have to actively make the products created from waste, which will minimize my time, which is quite precious of course. I don't think so. I think it can be managed as side-projects that can be accomplished while accomplishing the main project. Because I'm going to be in the kitchen, cooking, anyway. Why not just add a tiny little project here and there?

So this is the moment: this changes everything. I'm not going to be afraid of creating the extra work! My freezers may become quite full of future projects, but boy this is going to be fun!

PS: this is what my fridge looks like now. Let the experimenting begin!

Chicken lard (schmaltz), pancetta fat, pork lard, pastrami fat, and ham fat. I can't wait to experiment with all of these!

Chicken lard (schmaltz), pancetta fat, pork lard, pastrami fat, and ham fat. I can't wait to experiment with all of these!

Tamales and Green Chili

Tamales and Green Chili