I think I might make the transition to cooking with lard or some sort of other animal fat instead of oils--party due to low smoke point and partly just to gross out my paleo-skeptical roommates by using lard.
-Are there any things to be aware of when shopping for lard/animal fat to cook with?
-What brands do you guys use?
-Any tips for rendering/storing animal fat that shows up from cooking?
Lard from the farm is the only lard you should really use. Im not sure that many chain stores sell lard/tallow/suet. Maybe a co-op that buys local from pastured based farms. Or you can buy some from one of my farmers :)
Rendering is easy. Cut up the lard when its partially frozen, into small cubes. Toss em in the crockpot on low, when all the cubes have dissapeared. Viola! Strain and eat the little cracklins'
Nourishing Gourmet has a instruction set for stovetop and oven rendering.
Hi ecb. My contribution would be to recommend getting lamb or beef tallow if you can. I find that I prefer these to lard because I think I have become very sensitive to polyunsaturated fat. And pork has a lot more of it: checking one of my sources real quick, we can estimate lard at around 11% PUFA and beef tallow at around 4%. That may not seem like a huge deal, but it does seem to make a difference to me. It may not for you, who knows.
Of course it's harder to find tallow. But if you are in contact with some farmers through a local market you can usually place a big order from them. You might have to render fat yourself to make tallow, but they can do that for you also. If you get large quantities, then you can store the extra in the freezer or even just in the fridge; rendered animal fat keeps for quite a while.
I render my own beef tallow. My butcher saves the fat for me and gives it to me for free. This method can be used for beef, lamb or pork fat.
Method 1 (time consuming but no horrible boiling fat smell): 1. Cut the fat in to pieces (about 1 x 2" is best) 2. Fry slowly in a large frypan over a low heat. Keep pouring the fat off into a saucepan. You need to sit by it during this process. 3. Once it is all reduced and no more fat is coming out, add twice the quantity of cold water to the fat in the saucepan, bring to coil and simmer for 1 hour.
4. Stick the saucepan straight into the fridge, or do as I do and pour into a stainless steel bowl, then refrigerate for 24 hours. 5. After 24 hours take the bowl/saucepan to the sink, use a sharp knife or skewer to make a couple of holes and invert the bowl to let the water run out.
CAUTION: The fat may also pop out and water will splatter EVERYWHERE. Be careful and if you want you can use your hand to hold the fat in the bowl while that water comes out. 6. Pop the disc of fat onto a plate, scrape any jelly like substance off the bottom (if you've done step 2 properly you hardly ever get any) and store in a container in the fridge.
Method 2 - easier but much smellier. If you can do this on an outside stove/fire your house and loved ones will thank you for it. 1. Same 2. Add the pieces of fat to a large saucepan. 3. Bring to boil and simmer for about 4 hours, skimming the gunk that rises to the top off about every 15 minutes.
After 4 hours, follow steps 4-6 from Method 1.
You now have a nice quantity of lovely clean tallow to cook with, and you know it has no impurities or additives.
I agree with everyone else who mentioned getting it from a farmer or farmer's market. It will be of much better quality and no weird preservatives. You can also get pork or beef fat scraps and render them yourself. Again, best place to get fat scraps is straight from the source, but if you have a butcher in town or a grocery store with a butcher's counter sometimes you can get fat for free. When I lived in Seattle I got free pork fat from the butcher's counter at Whole Foods - the guy said otherwise they'd just throw it out, so he was more than happy to send me home with it instead.
You can also just start a drippings jar - just take a glass jar and collect all the fat that cooks out of your meat to use for cooking later. A lot of people do this specifically with bacon grease, but you can do it with any fat that cooks out of your meat. You can also collect the fat that floats to the top of any stock that you make and use that for cooking as well.
I recently bought some lard at a local farmer's market (pastured pigs, already beautifully rendered). I also skim chicken fat and beef fat (not sure if it's technically tallow) off my home made bone broths, though I haven't tried cooking with them yet. I also use a lot of bacon grease.
If you don't get your animal fats straight from the farm, then I recommend something like US Wellness Meats. If you find these fats at the grocery store, double and triple check the ingredients list. Locally, we can get Esskay lard, but it has TBHQ in it. I haven't seen anything else except straight off the farm, or at the farmer's market.