It is easy to make at home and can be done either on the hob or in the oven (my preferred method)
- Pork fat. You want to ask your butcher for this and get the highest quality you can get. The amount of fat that will render does depend on quality of the fat, but the average will be around 1-1.5 cups/ 250-375ml for each 1 pound/ 450g of fat.
- water (not from the tap, but from a pure spring tended by woodland fairies…okay, just kidding)
- In the UK, you will typically always get back fat/ fat with the skin still on (chicharron). Some butchers will just give you their off cuts, others will charge you for the fat. This is where it pays to have a good relationship with your local butcher.
- Preheat oven to 120C (or 165C, see note below)
- Start with the fat very cold or even partially frozen so it is easier to handle. Using a sharp knife, score the skin side of the fat.
- Cut the fat into 2.5cm pieces (don’t use a grinder, even if the fat is frozen as you will only end up with a messy grinder that you want to throw out the window rather than clean). The smaller the pieces, the faster they will render
- Put the diced fat into a flameproof casserole or Dutch oven and add 1/3 cup/75ml water per 1 pound/450g of fat (this keeps the fat from burning before the rendering process kicks in)
- Place in the oven and stir after 30 minutes
- Then stir after 45 minutes
- Then stir after every hour, watching carefully as the fat begins to colour. At this point, press the larger pieces against the side of the pan as you stir to help them melt.
- The rendering process will take 4 to 8 hours depending on the quantity of fat and the size of the pieces. For neutral tasting lard, you will want to stop just as the pieces begin to colour. For stronger tasting lard, you will want to continue on with the process (or take some off then continue rendering)
- Let the fat cool slightly then strain fat through cheesecloth/muslin lined sieve into a clean container
- Let cool completely before covering and storing in the fridge for 2 months or freezer for 1 year
- Mexican recipes often call for the fat to be rendered at a higher temperature (165-180C) this will result in a more highly flavoured lard. So, it will be tasty for most Mexican recipes, but too strong for, say, pastry.