As I was doing some research today on something I was writing, a headline caught my eye and I decided to take a look at a do-it-yourself website. I confess, I did get lost in its pages for a bit, but as I ran head on into another one of those gossipy, homespun silliness theories, I was quickly brought back into reality.
Today’s ninny of a notion goes as follows, as stated by the author, while discussing how to properly render lard. She says: "bits of meat can contaminate your lard." When I read that, I thought that I heard crickets chirping…inSIDE my house. Where in the world do people come up with these things?!!
The good news is that there’s plenty of this kind of misinformation out there—if there wasn’t, I wouldn’t have much to write about. Furthermore, the good news is that no, if you end up with some small pieces of meat in your lard, it’s not going to do you any harm except ruin what would otherwise be a perfectly beautiful jar of invaluable white, rendered lard. (Yes, I say invaluable because not only will it be critical to your nutrition someday, but at that same set of circumstances, if you have lots of it, you’ll be able to pretty much write your own ticket to prosperity because non-rancid fats that taste good and actually contain vital nutrients will be worth their weight in gold!)
So, back to the matter at hand…
Bits of meat in your lard that you've rendered and canned WON'T "contaminate" your lard. When you render lard, you’re cooking it at a nice and steady high heat (see my instructions here). That meat is done for. I’m sure you’ve all had an overcooked piece of meat that tasted like cardboard before, right? Well the good news is that cardboard isn’t going to do you any harm so long as it’s processed properly like your lard.
Think about that statement for just a second. Lard comes from meat—not vegetables or fruit. As such, even an OCD lard renderer couldn’t eliminate all of the bits of real meat product from their beautifully rendered and canned lard. Furthermore, LARD is the volatile ingredient in that pairing, not the meat. LARD is what can go rancid and stink up your whole home, not a speck or two of meat. In fact, the meat is actually PROTECTED from spoiling above and beyond the heat and the canning measures. That’s right. Many of the older methods of preserving food involve storing the item in an oil that has a long shelf-life. Rendered lard was often used to coat eggs and keep them longer in the root storage environment of cool and dark.
Meat and fat go together like peanut butter and chocolate. OK. OK. They are much more natural than that, but that’s my point. Meat and fat get along just fine. This is why when I can my sausage I don’t add anything else to the jars. The sausage meat combined with the fat put through the pressure canner process is plenty sufficient to protect all of the ingredients—assuming you started with beautifully sanitized jars, and store the completed product in a cool, dry, dark environment.
Here’s something else you might not know though about meat and fat. It goes so well together that the French developed a special cooking method known as “confit”—which translates into the ever creative term of “with fat”. *grin*
If you want to make meatballs and meatloaf out of your canned ground beef, well you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got plenty of rendered lard stored away because that’s what’s going to hold the shape of the meat that you’re wanting to cook. (A little envelope of clear gelatin will help as well!) Now wouldn’t that be a silly proposal if “meat combined with lard could contaminate the lard”? *smh* (for those of you who don’t have all of the “lingo” down in the world of texted abbreviations, “smh” stands for “shaking my head”.) Perhaps now that you know that, you can guess what “rme” means? Hint, it usually follows the “shaking my head”, but it nearly always follows reading a silly, nonsensical statement that’s perpetuated as fact. *grin*
You know what DOES contaminate lard nowadays though that you should stay far away from? Hydrogenated oils such as canola oil, cottonseed oil, etc. And yet our USDA spends millions of dollars a year to convince you that canola oil is the hero in the fats community, when in actuality, before it’s even shipped to its final destination it has already been processed to the point of it being rancid and downright nasty for the body. So keep that in mind when you’re wanting to use good old-fashioned lard for your next winning pie crust.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the hoyty toyty dish called Duck Confit? Duck is a relatively dry, low fat meat. As such, in order to cook it well without running the risk of drying it out, duck is often cooked by laying it in a hot skillet with lots of warm fat and continually spooning the fat over the duck meat in order to cook it without drying it out. This is the method that I use primarily when cooking Bison or Elk because it’s so low on fat but SO wonderfully excellent as a protein source. Nothing burns quite as bad as a grease splatter, but that’s what makes it so good to elevate the taste and texture of these otherwise dry meats.
Typically the confit method means that the item is cooked in its own fat, but that seems silly to me ‘cause I’ve totally enjoyed carrots confit—and we all know that carrots don’t have “their own fat.” And if bison and elk had their own fat, I wouldn’t NEED to use the confit method in the first place. Silly Webster dictionary.
The confit method is used in my house quite a bit. For breakfast, I cook my bacon using the confit method by placing the strips all along the bottom of a deep cookie sheet, allowing the grease to help cook the bacon along with the oven. When one batch is finished, I don’t drain the fat from the cookie sheet, I just keep putting more bacon on that cookie sheet. This method of cooking not only gives me an easy clean up, void of grease splatters all over my kitchen, but it also creates a beautiful crisp finish that I love without sacrificing some moisture, and unparalleled flavor that’s much better than just plain old bacon. (I apologize. There really is no such thing as “just plain old bacon”. Bacon is a GIFT! *grin*
How I can my bacon is based on the confit method as well. Instead of cooking up my bacon and draining out all of the fat and then canning it, I simply lay the bacon over parchment strips, roll it up, and put it in the jar and then proceed with the pressure canning process. No water. No salt. No seasoning. Nada. I can then have bacon in the shape I want it and fry it up or chop it up, depending on the dish I have in mind.
A quick word about hydrogenated oils (particularly canola oil): Did I mention that it’s also a common practice for restaurants to regularly perfume their deep frying vats because if they didn’t, the smell of the nasty hydrogenated oils would turn every customer away! Yep—I am a former restaurant manager and I know the skinny!
In conclusion, whomever it was that wrote "bits of meat in your rendered lard could contaminate the lard" is obviously getting their information from another one of those silly homespun blog site. But you? Well, now you know the facts as well as a few powerful strategies that you can implement now to help ensure comfort later.
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