Lard is something very popular and 'natural' in Polish kitchens, and not only Polish ones for that matter. It's widely used in cooking and is something you have rather as something you would probably throw away otherwise. It's whats left after you cut out and trimmed off your pork meat.
Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard is widely used as a cooking fat or shortening or as a spread similar to butter (especially with a sprinkle of salt and raw white onion sliced on top :) ).
"Lard can be obtained from any part of the pig as long as there is a high concentration of fatty tissue. The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the "flare" visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin. Leaf lard has little pork flavor, making it ideal for use in baked goods, where it is valued for its ability to produce flaky, moist pie crusts. The next highest grade of lard is obtained from fatback, the hard subcutaneous fat between the back skin and muscle of the pig. The lowest grade (for purposes of rendering into lard) is obtained from the soft caul fat surrounding digestive organs, such as small intestines, though caul fat is often used directly as a wrapping for roasting lean meats or in the manufacture of pâtés.
Lard may be rendered by either of two processes: wet or dry. In wet rendering, pig fat is boiled in water or steamed at a high temperature and the lard, which is insoluble in water, is skimmed off of the surface of the mixture, or it is separated in an industrial centrifuge. In dry rendering, the fat is exposed to high heat in a pan or oven without the presence of water (a process similar to frying bacon). The two processes yield somewhat differing products. Wet-rendered lard has a more neutral flavor, a lighter color, and a high smoke point. Dry-rendered lard is somewhat more browned in color and flavor and has relatively lower smoke point." - by Wikipedia.org
I always use the second method - dry rendering. To be honest it's only now I've learned about dry rendering. I know that some will add apple or onion to dry rendered lard but then of course it will limit the way you can use your lard. I prefer to keep it simple. Lard will keep for months and months - which is never an issue at my house ;) as we use it little by little all the time.
Oh, just one last word of wisdom - use a good pig, organic if possible. Do not attempt to do this from a mass produce pig - it will be vile...
How to make it...
- pig's fat
- big pan
Cut your fat into small squares. Place your cut fat into big pan and heat gently. Do not cover your pan as the water won't be able to escape. It will take some time to 'melt it' so be patient. When you see that all the fat is melted and you're left with only some small pieces of deep-fried meat, skin and membrane tissue known as cracklings - that's the sign that your lard is ready. Wait a little so it cools down but still has liquid form and transfer to a jar.