A lot to celebrate
This year was a very special year, as we had a lot to celebrate. Mr. Higher Ground was turning 40, the kids were turning 6 and 3, the ages where so many new adventures begin, and we had been here on the farm for 8 months. It wasn't just a birthday party, by any means. We wanted to share what we'd been working toward for the past 8 months with our family and some of our new friends.
The theme of our birthday bash was, appropriately, "Down on the Farm," and was almost like a miniature Fall Festival. We rented a moon walk and slide and tried to incorporate a bit of the farm throughout the evening - from the food to the activities. We even had a feeding time for the goats, chickens and pigs where the children got to feed pumpkin "innards" to the animals. That seemed to really thrill everyone and made them feel a part of farm life, if just for a brief time. All in all, I think it was a really fun time for everyone and the children were all smiles.
Pulling off Paleo
When most people think of birthday parties, the first thing they think of is cake and ice cream, right? Well, we do things a bit differently around here, so there would be no brightly colored, sugary icing, and no store-bought ice cream with God knows what in it (beaver butt). Instead, we threw one heck of a Paleo friendly birthday bash, complete with layers of Butter-Rum-Pear and Vanilla cake, frosted with Maple Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting, and topped with butter toasted pecans. The ice cream? Goat Milk Maple & Banana with milk from our very own goat! The rest was simple - BURGERS! Nothing fancy here, just grass-fed hamburger meat from one of our new farmer friends with the option of lettuce wrapped or on a bun (*cringe*).
You may be wondering how our non-Paleo (and even non-remotely-healthy-eating) friends and family responded to our "different" menu. One of the kids actually said "I can't believe healthy food can taste so good." That was enough thanks for me! Mission accomplished!
Now everyone has gone home, the bouncy houses are returned, the tables are down, and the cake looks like an attempted murder. All must return to normal but it is a bit hard to believe everything is over. No more planning. No more stressing. Just the sweet memories made. I couldn't have pulled any of this off without the tremendous efforts put fourth by my dear husband, my mom, my aunt, and my in-laws. They really made this happen and made it all so special while I was a bundle of nerves. Thanks a million times over for your unwavering love, support, and help! Until next year...
Against the Grain
Before I begin to tell you about my first experience rendering lard, let me just say that, contrary to popular belief instigated by commercial farmers via the USDA, the medical & pharmaceutical industries, and mainstream media, lard is NOT an unhealthy food. Lard from foraging, humanely and organically raised pigs is rich in Omega 3's as opposed to the Omega 6's produced from your average corn, soy, and other GMO-crop-fed hog. So, enjoy! Food is fuel.
Choosing a Method
I surveyed all my farming friends to see which practices they preferred for rendering lard and came up with two factors that seemed to be the same among everyone - 1. cut the pork fat into really small pieces or grind it, preferably 2. render slow and low to avoid a "piggy" taste. So, with that in mind, I decided to chop my 10lbs of pork fat into about 1" cubes and throw it all in a roasting pan and render in the oven at 200 degrees.
The rendering process was supposed to be complete after an over-night stint in the oven at 200 degrees, according to everything I read and the friends I asked. However, I think either my chunks were too large or I put too much fat in at once. Next time I will definitely be grinding the pork fat! Lesson learned!
So, since I wasn't happy with how things looked after 12ish hours in the oven, I just decided to let it go longer. That helped! I didn't keep close tabs on the hours spent in the oven, but I'd say at least 18hrs. At that point, I decided I would pour off all the lard so far. I strained it in a metal strainer first and then poured through a reusable coffee filter as it was going into pint jars. I still thought those chunks had more to give, so I put them back in for another few hours. Yep, that helped more! I poured lard off again, and this time I gave the remaining chunks a good squishing and then put them back in again for what would be the third and last time. I didn't get much more out of them, but it made me happy to know I hadn't wasted anything.
After only God knows how many hours in the oven (more than 24hrs), I finally came out with about 10 pints of lard from the 10lbs of pork fat I started with. Not bad!
Now, some of you may be wondering if all that cooking time burned the lard or made it off tasting or more golden than the snowy white everyone looks for in good lard. Well, let's just say that the proof is in the pudding - errrrr...lard (see pic below). Yes, I'm fluffing my feathers and strutting like a rooster right now. :) Look for my follow-up post called CRACKLINS WITH GRANNY to see what I did with the left overs from rendering lard.
Just your average ex-scientist turned herb loving, natural living, homeschooling mom, wife, and homesteader who values common sense, real food, real people, primal instincts, and self-sufficiency.
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