Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I am back on the farm and ten days into my apprenticeship. It is good to be back!  The farm is absolutely beautiful this time of year. Come visit! 

But on to the real reason for this post…lard!   I don’t know about you, but for most of my life “lard” was a four letter word.  As far as I knew it was something to be avoided at all costs.  It was considered a dangerous saturated animal fat which we humans simply should not consume.  Well, over the last few years I’ve come to learn that not all saturated and/or animal fats are bad for us. In fact, they are GOOD for us and our bodies need them. I am not going to go into the details regarding health benefits in this post, but you can read a good bit about it here: The Skinny on Fats. Rather, the purpose of this post is to show you how to make lard. It is so easy!  I learned from Sheri Salatin when I came to the farm for my check-out last January.  She basically just told me what to do and I went home and did it. This is by no means the only way to do this. I have only experimented and am sharing what worked for me.

First,  and most importantly, you need to find a good source of pork fat because not all pork fat is created equally. You definitely want to use pasture-raised pork. If you can’t find it, forget it. Commercially raised pork is not worth it. Polyface sells pasture-raised pork fat for $1 a pound (cheap!!!).  If you live nearby, come and get some!  If not, you can do a Google search for farms in your area that raise pastured pork.

1.       Cut fat into cubes. The smaller the cube, the easier/faster it melts. I've even heard of grinding the fat before rendering.
2.       Put cubes into crock-pot.

3.     Turn crock-pot on. I turn mine on high to get it started, but then turn it down to low. Stir occasionally.   The lard is done when the fat is rendered (melted) and separates from the cracklings (the delicious bits that remain after the rendering).  It has taken many hours each time I’ve made it.  If you want white, odorless (no pork odor/taste) lard, then make sure to stop the process fairly soon after the fat melts. If you keep cooking it, the resulting product will take on a brownish color and will have a pork taste.  The latter variety is still very good, but if you want to bake with it, you’ll probably want the “less-done” variety.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good pic of this step. I'll add a picture next time I make lard. 
4.       Strain the lard.  I use a colander lined with cheese-cloth. You don’t have to use the cheese-cloth, but if you don’t, crackling bits will mix in with the lard.  Before I strain, I allow the lard to cool as it is very hot and hard to manage.  If you can manage to pour the liquid from the crock into the strainer that is fine, if not, you can scoop it into the strainer with a ladle.
5.       Pour into jars. I found about five pounds of pork fat makes two quarts of lard.  At Polyface prices, that comes out to about $2.50 a quart. Not a bad deal! 
6.       Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.  I’m not sure if you can store lard at room temp, so I keep it in the fridge.

Regarding the cracklings...cracklings are delicious bits of pure goodness. When they come out of the crock-pot, they will not be crispy. Although I have not done this, I have heard you can stick them in a frying pan to crisp them up. I hope to try this next time. 

If you have never tried rendering lard, I hope this inspires you to give it a shot.  You can use it for just about any of your cooking needs where fat is required.  In addition to cooking with lard, I also hope to learn how to make soap with it this winter. 
Does anybody out there already make lard?  If so, I’d love for you to share any tips you may have beyond what I have here. How about grass-fed beef tallow?  Has anybody experimented with that?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday and Pennywise Platter Thursday 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Am I Doing The Right Thing?

After I accepted the offer to be an intern at Polyface last February, I asked this question a lot.  I knew I had heard from God regarding accepting the internship, but it seemed that very often I found myself questioning my decision. Fear that was (of course) not from God would creep in and cause me to doubt and question. But God reminded me over and over and well, over again, that I had made the right decision and was on the right path.

Romans 12:2 says:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I love this verse because it basically tells us how we can test and approve God’s will for us. And I don’t know about you, but I want to know what God’s will is for me! The act of not conforming to the world and being transformed by the renewing of my mind helped me so much during the time when I was preparing to go to Polyface.  And the thing is, it was a constant, deliberate act, and still is.  It is not something I had to do once and then move on, I had to remind myself over and over again not to conform to the world; not to be influenced by what the world thinks, but to be influenced by God’s Word and what HE thinks. In practice, this means spending a lot of time with the Lord.  It means seeking Him out, reading His word and spending time in prayer.  It also means seeking wise counsel from others who love Jesus. 
One Friday night last February, I decided when I got home from work I would work on my house and start preparing for my move.  When I got home, I came across something that filled me with incredible fear about my decision.  I was instantly paralyzed and could not focus on preparing my home for the move.  Instead, I went over to my dear neighbor’s house to watch a movie (or maybe it was a soccer game).  When I got home after the movie (or the game), I just sat on the couch and prayed.  “Lord, did I make the right decision?”  I asked.  “Am I doing the right thing?”  I mean, quitting one’s safe and comfortable job to go work on a farm for minimal pay is SCARY.  So anyway, after a little while in prayer, I did the next holiest thing and got on Facebook. ;-)  While I was perusing the very important details of everyone’s lives, I came across a link to a blog post from a church friend. Her post was about letting go of control. She was writing about a message they gave at church last October.  As I read, my heart started racing! I remembered that message.  It was called “Letting Go of Control” and it was about giving control of your life (all aspects) to God.  My friend had posted a link to the message online so I started watching it. As I did, tears started to fall down my face.  In the message, Pastor Shawn encouraged us to think about the aspects of our lives that we are reluctant to release to God.  These could be relationships, finances, careers, you name it.  Under everyone’s chair was a piece of paper and a pen and we were encouraged to write down one thing that we wanted to give control of to God. When we went up for communion, we were to deposit the paper into the bin at the front of the church as a symbolic relinquishment of control.  As I sat watching the video I remembered what I wrote on that paper that day: “My Career.”  And just like that, the fear was gone.  God reminded me that I have given control of my career to Him and that He was in charge.
So, the renewing and transforming of our minds can come in many ways when we seek the Lord.  All you have to do is seek Him.  And when you do, and are willing to move according to His will, He’ll make a way for you.  Get ready. It’s pretty awesome.  
P.S. Thank you to those of you who have donated.  I am so very, very grateful!


Well, the internship is over!  I can’t believe it has been four months since I started at Polyface.  Where did the time go? 

One of my favorite aspects of working on the farm is the community.  I really enjoyed getting to know all of the people involved. Most of the interns went back to their homes to get back to “normal” life.  It was so sad to see them go!  I will miss them dearly. On the bright side, four of us will be staying…Ben, Jonathan and I will be apprentices and Shrader will be staying to work on a very special project (more about that later)!  Here are the interns at the beginning of the summer:

Left to right: Leah, Derek, Jonathan, Shrader, Ben, Michael, Peter, Heather, Savannah

And here are the interns (and a few others) at the end of the summer:

Front row left to right: Derek, Leah, Peter, Savannah, Brie, Heather
Back row left to right: Leanna, Noah, Ben, Michael, Shrader, Jonathan, Eric
On September 25th, we went to the Joshua Wilton House for our end of season celebration dinner. It was a fine time with some fine food and wine.  The soup course was especially delicious and “happy.”

I am currently enjoying some time off in Atlanta. I have to be back to work at Polyface on Oct. 15th. In the meantime, I am having fun working around the house, cooking and relaxing.