-has less saturated fat than butter (40% vs 60%)
-is higher in monosaturated fats than butter, decreasing risk of heart disease
-has 3 times more beneficial polyunsaturated fats than butter
-helps skeleton absorb calcium
-protects liver from toxins
-bolsters the immune system
-is a good source of Vitamin D
-contains no unhealthy trans fats (as in oils and margerine)
a sampling of my lard, flavored lards and packaging
To prepared lard for rendering:
Remove skin from lard and cut into 1" square pieces or grind. (You can buy it from the butcher by the pound, either in chunks or ground.) I buy the chunks and cut it because the cracklings are larger and more defined.
Depending on the amount of fat you have, either put the fat in your crockpot on low or in a roaster pan in the oven at 250 degrees. The lard should not fill more than half of the crockpot or pan. No need to cover, but add a little water to the bottom of the pan so it doesn't scorch. The water will evaporate. Just cook 6-8+ hours until most of the fat has melted and bits of cooked meat (cracklings) come to the top. When the cracklings are brown and shriveled, remove the fat from oven or other heat, before they start to sink back to bottom. Strain the fat well so there are no bits or crumbs. Put into containers (see below).
Using the cracklings you have strained out of the fat:
I get out my largest fry pan and fill it with a single layer of the hot cracklings. Fry them over medium heat until all of them are brown and somewhat crispy--not too dark, but a light brown. Remove some to a small bowl, add some cinnamon and a little milk, H&H or cream and whoo-boy!--are you in for a treat!! Remember, you only do this once a year so don't worry about calories here. Besides, this is a delicacy in NY restaurants, so treat yourself. The rest of the cracklings can be frozen and used in breads, cookies and atop salads. See the internet for recipes.
To store the fat:
When the fat is still liquid, pour it into storage containers. The hot fat is yellow, but will turn white as it cools and solidifies. I package mine in three different amounts: 2/3-cup for pies, 1 cup for bread making and a larger tub for general cooking. I keep the larger tub in the fridge and freeze the rest for longer keeping. It keeps in the fridge well for about a year and for several years in the freezer.
For flavored lards:
This is a bonus! For a few months before butchering season (usually Sept and Oct), I save the fat after roasting or cooking meats. This fat comes from meats or poultry flavored with herbs, fruits, marinades, BBQ rubs, smoke flavoring, etc; so the fat has that flavor infused in it. Since this fat is too thin for pastry or bread, I mix it half and half with my newly-rendered lard. The best time to do this is when the lard is hot so that it melts the fat and you can mix them better. These flavored lards are remarkable for frying, making appetisers, potted meats or for homemade bread and pastry. (i.e. use herbed lard for pot pie crusts or pasties; use smokey BBQ lard for homemade BBQ buns; fry potatoes or veggies in any flavored lard)