So yesterday the shearer man came and sheared the sheep. It was a relief that he did, because now the weather has got hotter, and we could see them panting with the heat out in the field. They needed to be done, and now they have.
And a good harvest of fleece this year, but with the dark fleeces being the best. Normally I sort out the fleeces in the days after the shearer has been, but this year I did it as I was given them. I took off all the daggy bits, which were dirty and poo-ey, and sorted out the best fleeces to keep. In the past I have kept all the fleeces, and then end up with bags of fleeces littering up the house because I never manage to spin them all. So this year, of the nine fleeces, I have kept six, plus two lamb fleeces, which are deliciously soft and fluffy. If they spin alright I might get the shearer to shear all the lambs.
I have only kept one white fleece, the rest are shades of brown to black. I was hoping to have more white fleece so that I could learn to dye it into different shades, but those fleeces are thinner and of a lesser quality than the browns. Not to worry, we shall just have to wear a lot of brown! I have not as yet made anything with the wool I have spun as time has not permitted, but I am building quite a stash so that when I do start I shall have enough to make things with. I shall also get a table loom soon, so I can make fabric.......
I did get ever so hot sitting outside working with the fleece. So did the young veggies out in the veg garden. First watering for several days last night. It was nice feeling the cool of the evening descend on us. As the day went down we could feel our tensions ease. This has been a stressful year so far. Having the work done to the house has given us a lot to think about, so our heads are tired. But there are magical moments of how it will be when Builder Jim has finished this phase of work. We had one of those last night. Coming in off the fields, we had a sense of a day well done.
I am still working with the pig fat which came out of the freezers when they were shifted at the beginning of the week. I thought that there were only a couple of bags of fat, but there were eight. Not to worry, I am going to make an effort at getting the job of turning it into lard finished today.
How I make lard:
- I cut the fat into smallish chunks, although sometimes they are bigger chunks if I am getting tired of cutting the fat. It is not the actually fat which is hard to cut, it is cutting through the skin attached to the fat which takes time.
- a large pot, the largest one you have....this avoids splashes everywhere as the fat melts. Sometimes there are little mini explosions in the melting liquid, which are not worrisome, but can make little messes here and there. Also to have a strong, metal, long handled spoon handy so that you have something to stir the melting fat with. This stops too much of the 'never-going-to-melt' bits of pork from settling down at the bottom of the pan and then getting glued together in a mass. Useful, also, to have a large plate beside the cooker, so that the spoon has somewhere to sit in between stirrings. A non-plastic ladle would also be handy.
- In to pot an an inch or so of water. In goes some of the fat. Lid goes on pot. Pot goes on the smallest ring of the cooker, which is put on medium heat. Pot heats up slowly. Once putting up a good set of bubbles, the heat is put down to just about on. Lid is taken half off to let steam evaporate.
- Frequently stir the fat as it melts. Put more pieces of fat in. Make sure the fat is gently simmering, turn heat up a bit if it isn't. Must be sure not to use too much heat on the fat otherwise it will burn and not taste nice. Better to take a long time over a very low heat.
- If the pan is getting too full, to scoop off the melted lard is a good idea. Do not want an overflow as this would cause a disaster....maybe a fire as the melted lard merges with the flame of the gas ring, or at the very least, a very horrid mess on the stove. Be careful though. This is hot lard and as liquid as water is. Spoon carefully. To avoid mess on the cooker, to put a teatowel as close to the hot pot as possible. A plate is then put on it, with a Pyrex bowl put on that, which almost touches the pot. This keeps the distance between pot and pan minimal, so that all the drips of hot fat will be captured before they make a mess. It is best not to fill the bowl. Just a few spoonfuls ladled into it from time to time will do.
- All fat now into pan. Continue with low heat until it looks like most is melted. Continue stirring occasionally.....there will be a lot of unmelted bits now in the bottom of the pan.
- When it looks like all the fat is melted, switch off heat. Let cool down.
- Have a very fine meshed sieve to hand, plus some containers for the lard.
Keeping the lard:
- Lard can be kept in the fridge, larder, or freezer, depending on how much has been made. It will keep very well whichever way it is kept, providing it has gone through the sieve first.
- Be warned, the transferal of lard to container can can get messy, so perhaps to have a plate underneath the jar or jug to catch any errant drips.
- If using jars: Wide necked screw topped ones are best. Sit the sieve in the neck of the jar, and ladle the lard in. If keeping the lard in a larder or fridge, fill to near the top of the jar. Lid on. Wipe jar. If keeping the jar in a freezer: fill the jar, leaving a good space in case the lard expands during freezing. It probably doesn't, but just in case it does.....
- Leave jar on work surface until it goes solid. Why? Because one can then see the lard turning from liquid gold to a firmer white. And one can smile to one's self about doing a good job, which is good for the soul.
- Just a word: Lard never gets hard, it always stay soft, not liquid though, just not hard. Unless it is put into a freezer where it will go rock hard of course!
- And another word: Once gone to white, look at the bottom of the jar by holding it up high, not tipping the jar, over just in case the lard is still runny and the lid has not been closed properly (learnt through experience)..... the bottom of the lard should be as white as the top, but if there is a brown sediment then know that the lard was not sieved properly. Not to worry, the lard will still keep in the larder, but once opened it is best to keep that jar in the fridge, because the brown signifies the presence of tiny pieces pork rind (crackling) which might not like being exposed to the air for too long. (another bit of learnt experience) BUT if there is a small amount of brown sediment, and the jar is kept closed, then that jar will keep in the larder for quite some time. Probably best, though, to use that jar up first, or keep it in the fridge.
- if freezing the lard: a large jug with a neck which can support the sieve is best, plus some food safe plastic containers, with or without lids depending on whether the lard is to be kept in the container or, once frozen, then removed from the container and put into a freezer bag.
- Putting the lard straight from the pot into the container via the sieve is not a good idea. Best to put the lard through the sieve into the jug first. Holding the sieve over a container whilst ladling the lard into it can add to the amount of drips of lard that are left here and there as the distance between pot and container will be probably greater than between pot and jug. Trust me, I know through experience that this is so.
- With the lard being put into freezer containers it is not quite such a joy to watch the liquid gold turn to white so best to get those containers straight into the freezer. Once frozen, the now rock hard lard can be got out of the containers and put into freezer bags.
Now back to the pot:
If the lard making project is still on the go and you need to get more fat melted:
- Scoop out all the liquid lard, as above, until the remains of the pork skin, (crackling) is met. This will be sitting in a thick layer at the bottom of the pan. Providing the lard is very cool, plunge one hand down into the pan, and let the fingers feel for the hardened bits of crackling. Lift them out and put them into a handily placed bowl nearby. Go back into the pot. Let the fingers feel around for more crackling. If the crackling is glued to the bottom of the pan, use a strong metal spoon to loosen it off. It will come.
- With a lot of crackling now out of the pot, but with non melted fat left still left in, re heat the pot as before, but without adding any water to it. Continue as before until the fat is all done.
If finished with the pot:
- Take out as much of the liquid lard as possible.
- Put the mix of crackling, bits of uncooked fat, and melted lard, which is all the contents of the pot, into a large sieve over a large bowl. Let drain.
- Once drained, put the liquid lard from the bowl through the fine meshed sieve into whatever storage containers are being used.
- The crackling and pieces of uncooked fat can now be delivered to whoever is going to eat it. For us it is my husband who now takes over this job. He will pick over the crackling for the best bits to eat himself, then it is given bit by bit to our dogs as nibbles. Sometimes it is given to the chickens but not often.
And a word: DO NOT leave the pot once the best of the lard is taken out, thinking that it would be best to sort the rest out later. That pot will look like a mighty task to get sorted out, but trust me when I say that to leave that pot until later will be silly. The reason? Because the liquid lard will start going more solid, and as it does so it will glue the crackling to itself and the pan. It will set hard. Most definitely it will do so, especially if the liquid lard has mostly been removed.
- Get as much of the contents as possible into that sieve over a bowl to drain (as above)
- Now.....Do not despair over the state of the pot. It will look grim. Not to worry. It will clean up, and quite quickly if there has not been a time delay between the removal of the lard and the cleaning of the pot.
- The pot will need soaking..... put a few inches of hot water plus a really good dobbings of laundry liquid / powder into the pot. And now you can leave it until whenever you feel like tackling the job of getting that pot clean. In my case it is normally days! Bless me, but I would probably leave that pan soaking until I needed to use that pot again! By then any reside of pork crackling would have lifted away from the pan making it easier to clean.
And so .....what a task, but how rewarding as well. The lard can be used for pastry, and for frying and roasting. I still buy in olive oil for salad dressings, but we no longer use oil for cooking. At one time it was thought that lard was a dreadful thing to have in one's diet, but now that opinion has been reversed..... and that I shall write about later.
Anyway, have a go at making lard. It is easy to do!
Blessings of love and light to you,