This past weekend, I rendered a whole bunch of lard. Mother-in-law had sent me home with several bags of pig fat in December, and I had put them in the freezer, knowing I was going to be way too busy until after January got rolling to tackle such a time consuming task as melting and canning all that fat.
Also in December, I happened to be reading Ben Hewitt's blog--well, 'happened' isn't quite the right word since I am a regular reader of Ben's musings and goings-on--and one particular picture jumped out at me. It was in this post, and shows a bunch of fat that has been put through a meat grinder in preparation for rendering. That picture led to me commenting on the post with a question or two about grinding the fat. Ben kindly answered my question(s), and I hatched a plan for my frozen bags of fat.
All I needed was a large block of time, and our meat grinder. Unfortunately we share both the grinder and the sausage stuffer with a friend of DH's, and that friend had the grinder at his house. (An arrangement that hasn't been working so well in the last few years, and DH is trying to come up with an agreement to buy out the friend's share). So I had to wait until he was done with it, and DH had time to swing by there after work (since this friend lives close to where DH works, but about a 40 minute drive from this little place here) to retrieve the grinder.
Once I finally had the grinder, I just needed to figure out which day I had about eight hours to devote to cutting up and cooking down the fat to make it into lard. That day finally came, and I eagerly got the grinder ready and set to work.
Wow, what a difference it makes in rendering time when you grind the fat before heating it! It was so much faster to feed it through the grinder than cut it into chunks for the melting pot. And once it was in the pot, it practically melted immediately. I rendered all four bags of fat (thawed first) in roughly half the time it normally takes me to render two bags worth.
I'm sold. I'll be grinding all future fat before rendering, not doubt about it. 3 1/3 gallons (27 pints, to be precise) of lard made in roughly four hours. And clean up was a breeze; all I needed was some really hot water to briefly soak the grinder parts in to remove the fat, then a quick wash with hot soapy water. It was even easier than cleaning the grinder after using it for meat.