By Caitlin Bourassa
Growing Program Manager at Rock Bottom Ranch
At ACES’ Rock Bottom Ranch, live remarkably happy and healthy pigs. They spend their days wallowing in baths of cool mud or grazing in the pastures. They are given respect and attention by the steady flow of staff and visitors that frequent their domain, and used as educational tools to demonstrate to the public the importance of preserving heritage breed pigs.
The ranch is home to Large Black and Duroc hogs – two heritage breeds known for their large litters, fine temperaments, and delicious pork. Heritage breed hogs are also notorious for putting on large amounts of body fat after the age of six months, which can be undesirable to a consumer culture accustomed to lean, white meats. However, I imagine lard was a valuable ingredient back in the day when bottles of olive oil and other heralded oils were unavailable.
Like homesteaders of the past, we do not let this lard go to waste! It can be rendered into an odorless and neutral-tasting fat for cooking, baking, soap making, and more. Pastured lard is an excellent source of vitamin D and monounsaturated fat, the same “good fat” found in avocado and olive oil. It is a wholesome, nourishing fat that also celebrates the wealth and character of our local food shed. In addition, pork lard does not contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which means its shelf life is much longer than fats like cold water fish and flax seed oils. It is also very heat stable making it great for frying or sauteing.
Since harvesting our pigs in the fall, we have stocked our freezer with pounds of lard to save for rendering. Now in the midst of organizing for the coming season, we have been rendering and canning the lard, which will be available for sale at our upcoming Rock Bottom Ranch Farm Stand! We have also used the rendered lard (in addition to olive oil, coconut oil and lavender) to make a pristine, creamy-white soap also to be sold at the farm stand. The next step is preparing baked goods for visitors so they may try a cookie and realize the flaky goodness (with no pork flavor) is thanks to a locally produced ingredient: LARD!
If you have an interest in buying the products mentioned above or would like to learn more, please call/email or stop by the ranch! Ranch phone: (970) 927-6760 Or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some great instructions on how to render lard in your own kitchen: