Cooking fat and rendering lard

One of the problems of trying to produce all your own food is cooking fat. We do a lot of saute and stir fry; it seems like every thing I cook starts with saute an onion in olive oil. While I have two little olive trees, which have produced a few olives, I was baffled when I picked the olives to figure out where this olive oil might be. The olives produced a bit of whitish juice that did not much resemble olive oil. When the trees are larger perhaps with many more olives it will make some sense.

There are directions online for making a seed press from a hydraulic jack doing some welding.
You grind up your sunflower seeds, hull and all, and press. It would take a lot of sunflowers, though; a few plants yield a rather piddly amount of seeds. In a few years perhaps nuts will be a source.

We can make butter from the goat’s milk, but it’s not abundant (goat’s milk is naturally homogenized so you don’t get much) and we’d eat it up as butter rather than waste it on cooking.

I’ve rendered chicken (and turkey) fat but it has a sticky mouthfeel and a chicken flavor. It’s not impossible, just distracting. Lamb fat isn’t nice looking at all and doesn’t smell nice. I don’t even like it for soap making, the smell lingers.

But lard may be a good solution. This weekend I pulled out 10 or 15 pounds of pork fat trimmings that the butcher returned with our half-pig (not all from our half; apparently most people just let the fat be thrown away). I ground it up to extract the fat, lard. I’m quite impressed with how friendly this fat is; it’s barely solid at refrigerator temperature, has little flavor, no stickiness. I got several gallons and froze much of it. I hear you can make the best piecrusts from lard. I heard that about chicken fat too, but I couldn’t picture an apple pie with chicken-flavored crust. The lard might actually work.

I tried continuing the rendering process to make cracklings. This resulted in lard with a caramelized fragrance, a nice flavor for savory food but not for piecrust. It also resulted in a lot of unpleasant fatty cracklings. Perhaps I’m not doing it right but it wasn’t worth it.

While it’s hard to imagine us raising regular pigs (mature pigs grow to over 1000lbs), there is a endangered heritage breed of pig that says pretty small (topping out about 250lbs) and are more adaptable to pasture. Traditional pigs put on a lot of fat, since the lard was a very desirable yield back before Crisco. Modern pigs are bred to be leaner (and per “Animals in Translation” lean pigs are also nervous and poor breeders). So an old breed, bred to be fat and peaceful and easy to keep, and smaller, bred for the old-fashioned multi-purpose farm…. it might be perfect again for the New Peasant.