Friday, February 15, 2013

Making the Most--Rendering Lard

Before you start to holler, meat is murder...
Yes. It is. I readily admit I am an omnivore. But if something is going to give its life so that I can eat, I want to make sure I don't waste any of it.  You've seen my postings on making bone stock.  Well, the same can go for fat.

That being said, if you have ever had REAL pie crust made with good lard, or in bread instead of shortening, I won't need to cajole you.  Many store bought lards are partially hydrogenated, which is the BAD fat, or else they include other oils, such as canola.  Shortening and margarine are just one step away from being you really want that in your body?  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know my feeling on real food.  And lard (as well as tallow--beef's version of lard), my friends, is real food. Yes, its still a fat, but its actually a  healthy fat.

You want pork fat, with little to no meat as possible--seriously, it can affect the flavor. Dice it up as much as you can (I like 1 cm cubes as close as possible) the smaller and more uniform your pieces, the more evenly the oil will be expressed and the more oil you'll get. I've actually read of people putting it through a meat grinder first, but have never tried it.

In a very clean pan, (I use a saucier) you want to cook these at a medium heat, stirring regularly.

**NOTE** Bacon fat is NOT lard!  I know, you're likely scratching your head saying 'wait, bacon is pork!'

Yes friends, but it is also smoked pork. If you're lucky and it's artisan, you only have smoke to deal with, but if it's bought, there are all sorts of nitrates, etc in it to 'cure' it.   This would not work as baking lard.  Keep bacon fat separate if you keep it at all!

Once you start cooking it, you will see a nice clear looking oil appear. You will want to keep cooking until the fat pieces all look like nicely brown crispy critters. These are called pork cracklins.  You can salt them and eat them like chicharrones, (pork rinds--at right) or use them to flavor things like collard greens. If you are the nervous sort, or the sort that doesn't pay as close attention as you know you should, please keep a tight fitting cover nearby, just in case of a grease fire.  However, I have to say, I've never had a problem, nor known anyone who has, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

 In a sieve lined with 4-6 layers of cheesecloth, pour the hot grease into a mason jar.  Another helpful hint.  You really want to use wide mouthed jars for this. Yes, you can pour it into a regular jar, but once it solidifies, are you going to want to fuss with the shoulder of the jar to dig out the lard when measuring?

Me either.

Once cool, cover and put in the fridge. You don't have to keep it there, any cool, dry, dark place will do, I just find it more convenient there.  I'd say it'd last forever, but you'll use it up before then. You DO want to make sure there is no water in it, as it can cause it to turn rancid.

This method is sometimes called the 'dry' method.  As I previously mentioned, you don't want water in your final product.  As long as you watch it closely, it shouldn't be a problem.

The other method is called the, you guessed it, 'wet' method.  This requires using water.  With pork, you would process it the same, but start the pan with water in it.  I find a form of this method easier to use when I make tallow.  Saving the fat as it cools on top of the liquid, then reheating and filtering the same as in the hot method.

 The wet method does give you more control over the heat, and thus, more leeway in your attention, but you cannot have any water at all left when you strain. Theoretically, it all boils off before then.  I know some people swear by it, but if I know even a little water can cause problems, well, I'd rather just skip it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lotion Bars

So here's the story.  I'm a swapper.

Mind out of the gutter folks.

Popping up across the country, in various farmer's markets and private groups, it's the idea of trading home goods ...could be eggs for pickles, or brandied cherries for homemade soap. I read about the idea on the Hip  Girl's Guide To Homemaking, by Kate Payne.  I thought the idea was a keeper, and did some hunting around, and found a local one. A great place to look is The Food Swapper Network.

In either case, I'd made a swap this fall, (the canned pears? or maybe rosehip lemongrass jelly...but I digress) for a lotion bar.  It was a last minute swap, and I thought what the heck.

One of the best swaps I made all summer. It was tangerine patchouli, which while I know its popular, is not one of my favorite scents.  It worked amazingly well on those really hard callussed and constantly cracking places, like heels.  But sadly, i'ts nearly gone.

Since I couldn't get an answer from the group as to who made it, or the recipe, I did some hunting around and researching.

I already knew that the scent I wanted was cedar lemongrass. (It's one I use in massage oils, very nice.)  The recipe is as follows:

1/2. c (2 oz.) coconut oil (I could find this at Walmart)
1/2 c. (2 oz.) shea butter (this is the raw stuff, not shea butter lotion-had to order online)
2.5 oz (by wieght on this one) of shredded beeswax OR
2/3 c. beeswax pastelles
1 tsp. vitamin E oil (This is to increase shelf life.)
essential oils for fragran.

 I added the frangrance oils by smell, but it was a BAD idea.  When it is in liquid form, some smells just hide, and come back out when they are cool.  Like soapmaking, some smells don't translate as well in the lotion bars. Because I did it by smell, I ended up having to remelt them, and adding more cedar oil.  In addition, remember that some oils are more harsh for senstive skin. I also found that citrus oils (lemon, lime, orange, etc) should not be added if you plan on wearing in the sun.

You will need to put your ingredients (except the essential oils--heat can ruin some) in a pan.  This is where I disagree with other recipes.  Most say you want to melt these over a double boiler, or in a water bath.  However, the same recipes state that introduction of water can ruin your bars! so I don't want water near it.  Hence, I take the very low, very slow, and watch like a hawk approach.on low it took about 10 minutes to melt entirely.

While it was melting, (The picture is about halfway through the process) I took out my 6 cup cupcake pan and put in paper cupcake liners. 

When it is ready, the oil will be completely clear, and look as though you just poured canola oil in the pot. After it is all melted,  add the essential oils.

This recipe will make 6 cupcake sized lotion bars, but if you have silicone molds, go for it, they'd work just as well.
After filling, I made sure to use all I couldn't scrape out of the pot on myself.  It doesn't need to cure or anything, and I hate waste.

 Ten minutes into the cooling process.  My house stays rather cool, and they won't truly harden well for about 24 hours.  But after about a half hour, they are solid enough to move around.  Your body heat will cause them to soften, so they need to be stored in a relatively cool place. I also package these, for that exact reason.
Price Breakdown, main ingredients cost me about $25.  But with that, I have enough to make at LEAST 4 batches (I suspect 6.)which breaks down to somewhere between $1.04 and .69.  This price would vary wildly, depending on the essential oils I choose to use.That being said, the beeswax and shea are both very pleasing, and you might choose not to add any frangrance at all!

(Main recipe came from Everyday Paleo which you can see here. They have some other great ideas!)