I have found that fat rendered from animals such as cows or pigs is relatively inexpensive, even for pastured animals who have seen sunshine and eaten grass.
Not only that, but these fats are full of stable fatty acids for cooking and frying and when pastured contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Cheap and good for you? Yes, please.
How to Render Tallow or Lard
There are many ways to do this, all involving a slow and low-heat cooking process. You can do it on a stove top, in the oven, or in a slow-cooker. This is how I do it:
- Cut tallow (suet) or lard into small pieces, about 1/2 inch each. This increases the surface area so that it will melt more readily.
- Place in a large pot (for the stove top), a large pan (for the oven) or your slow-cooker insert. Some people also add a tiny bit of water, though I never have.
- Place your pot over very low heat, your pan in a low oven (250 degrees or so) or turn your slow-cooker to high until it begins to melt in earnest and then turn it down to low.
- Cook down until a clear liquid fat has been rendered from the small pieces of fat. I don’t know that there is an exact science to this, your goal is to get as much liquid fat out of those solid pieces as possible, without burning the fat. So this takes me 6-8 hours in a slow-cooker or a few hours in the oven or stovetop.
- While fat is still warm strain it into quart jars, being sure to strain off all solid pieces through a coffee filter or densely woven cheesecloth. Straining off the solid pieces will help keep the fat from spoiling for a much longer period of time.
- Store in the refrigerator, cellar, or freezer. It should keep pretty well even without refrigeration because you have trained out much of what would cause it to spoil.
How Others Do It
- The Healthy Home Economist :: A Video on Rendering Lard
- Cheeseslave :: How to Render Tallow & Lard
- Sifford Sojournal :: How Susan Renders Lard (& uses it for fat lamps!)