Now here's a post I never thought I would write! For starters, I was a vegetarian off and on for several years. I've been eating meat for the last few years now and recently had a flash of intuition that vegetarianism is behind me once and for all. But that is a topic best left for another day.
What really makes this a surprising post for me is that I hated bacon most of my life. My brother did, too, and we were nearly cast out of our house every time my grandpa made bacon and we refused to eat it.
But, they say your taste buds regenerate every 7 years, right? And I gotta admit, I actually enjoy bacon now!
But I only like it how I make it at home - a little on the under cooked side. Not too crispy. And certainly not burnt.
I also don't like how it tastes when it's left to fry in all that grease that accumulates. Too much fat to meat ratio ruins the flavor in my opinion. So once or twice while it's cooking, we'll grab the skillet off the stovetop and drain the grease off into a can that we keep in the freezer.
You can't pour bacon grease down the sink anyway, and we also like knowing that we are draining off excess fat that we don't need to be consuming.
Until recently, we would just throw out the can when it was full and replace it with a fresh one. But throwing that can in the garbage (instead of reusing or recycling it) was nagging me. As was throwing away fat that I thought might be reusable. So I began researching.
UGH! This is one of those simple practices that is such a no-brainer it makes me angry I'm just now catching on to it. Basically, whoever you are, wherever you are, you could be doing this now.
What is lard and how is it different from bacon fat (aka bacon grease)
I was vaguely familiar with the substance knows as lard and that it can be used to grease a pan for cooking, but I also learned that lard is what you get when you cook down the fat from an unprocessed cut of pork. This does not include bacon, which gets smoked and therefore does not have the flavor-neutral component expected of lard. But the only real difference is that a smoky flavor is imparted in the fat that we are draining off, so you wouldn't want to use bacon fat for baking sweets, or for healthcare products like lip balm.
Or would you?
Frugal and healthy!
Here comes the good part. Not only is bacon fat a totally FREE cooking fat for sautéing and frying (yay frugality), it's also pretty healthy! If I am understanding correctly, it's another one of those nutrition facts that got all turned around somewhere. You can go read this awesome article that gives the benefits of cooking with lard (or, in our case, bacon fat) in detail, and with scientific facts.
Long story short, lard/bacon fat is heat stable, heart healthy, high in Vitamin D, and a healthy source of cholesterol.
1. During or after cooking bacon, drain the grease from the pan off into a container like an aluminum can. It's ok if bacon pieces get in there. We'll strain them out later.
2. Keep it in the freezer, adding bacon fat to it until it's full.
3. Turn a small crockpot or saucepan on low, and scoop the bacon fat out into it.
4. Stir occasionally as it melts. This took about 30 minutes for me.
5. Once melted and thoroughly warmed up, place some cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer or colander over a bowl or measuring cup.
6. Pour the heated bacon fat over the cheesecloth.
7. Now place the colander with cheesecloth over the crockpot dish and repeat the process (alternating between the measuring cup and crockpot).
8. Repeat until the bacon fat looks clear of bacon crumbles. I found that pouring out the last few drops in the garbage each time got rid of some of the bits of bacon and darker grease that would otherwise get through the cheesecloth.
9. Pour into a mason jar (or other glass container with a lid) and keep in the refrigerator (not freezer) for up to a couple of months.
Overnight, it will return to it's solid state. I plan on spooning some out whenever I am making chicken on the stovetop, cooking potatoes, and who knows what else. In a perfect world we'll run out about the same time that the can in the freezer is full and ready to be turned into more usable cooking fat.
The next step
Each new homesteading task I acquire seems to come with 10 more things to consider for the future. But, that's what I love about it. It's challenging and meaningful.
For me, the next step is sourcing bacon locally from pastured pigs. This will increase the health benefits and make it even more sustainable. I'm planning on heading to the Quad Cities Food Hub / Freight House Farmers Market this week to find some.
So, I'm very curious: is this something everyone else is already doing? Or has 'lard' sounded like a bad word to you, too? If you give a shot, let me know! I'd love to hear how it works for you.
All gardening, homesteading, and cooking posts can be found over here.
Hello, there! My name is Nikki Jones and this is a place for me to write about my travels, my urban homesteading adventures, and whatever else my little heart desires at a given moment. Like many personal-blog bloggers, there are times I write daily and long streteches I'm not inspired to write at all. And that's ok! At any rate, I'm glad you're here.