Clarifying and Rendering Fat

The first time I bought some lard to make the pastry for chicken and leek pie, a horrified thrill ran through me. Lard! I was actually buying lard and I was going to cook and eat it too! Though really,  I shouldn’t have a problem with it – sometimes I eat Bacon Frazzles and heaven knows what they contain.

So here, by request, is how to clarify fat and as a bonus, how to render it! Both methods are from Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookery Book, (1947). I have never done this – if you have, or if you go on to do so, let us know! NB. I have no idea how long fat processed according to either method can be stored and used safely. Caveat culinator (or something)!

To clarify dripping (or other fat)
Melt the fat and strain into a large bowl. Then pour over double the quantity of boiling water. Stir well and leave till cold and set.  Remove the cake of fat from the top of the water, scrape off any sediment from the bottom of the cake, then melt the fat and pour into a clean basin.

To render fat
Use any trimmings of raw or cooked fat. Either cut into very small pieces or put through a mincer.  Then put it in a baking tin and bake in a slow oven until all the fat is extracted and only crisp brown pieces remain or place in a saucepan or enamel dish, add a spoonful or two of water, and place over a gentle heat til all the fat is extracted.

10 responses to “Clarifying and Rendering Fat

  1. In theory, clarified fat should be very pure and last as long as any equivalent you can buy. Indians clarify butter, making ghee, to prolong its shelf-life in a hot climate. It’s the protein residues that tend to go off first, from the milky or meaty origins of the fat. Refrigeration will sustain freshness, as usual.

  2. Oooh, this is really really useful and I have bookmarked it immediately! Thank you!

  3. Mmmm bacon frazzles…..

  4. Pingback: In praise of fat… — North/South Food

  5. This is something I do regularly. I’m on benefits and so have to watch every penny. Every fortnight, when my money comes, I go to the local butcher for about 2-3lbs chicken joints, half doz sausages and about half lb mince. Along with 1lb pollack/ling/coley from the fishmonger, that has to last me 2 weeks (obviously I freeze some of it -either before or after cooking it!). I also ask for – and get for free – a big bag of meaty beef bones. The chicken I poach with leeks and carrots and then add brown rice, seasonings etc, to make a large quantity of stew / soup. This lasts me for days. Meanwhile I make stock with the beef bones. The cats get the shreds of meat off them as their fortnightly treat. The cooled stock has a thick layer of fat remaining, which I clarify by heating in a bit of water and then scraping and storing as above. I use the stock to make French Onion soup. No matter what some recipes (especially American ones with their fondness for Campbells) might say, this cannot be made with anything but home-made stock. The important thing is to keep the bones at a slow simmer and not to cook them for hours and hours on end as the bone starts to dissolve its minerals. I fry stale bread (begged for a cheap price when the bakers are about to close – you have to swallow your pride when poor or else swallow very little food!) with the dripping, which is excellent.

    My “desperation dish” – resorted to when unforeseen emergencies have left me with about 50p to last several days (and as I cannot afford to buy in bulk or keep a large store of tins etc, I don’t have that magical “store cupboard” to raid) – is the stock and shreds of meat from the bones (free), cooked with damaged veg and a couple of spuds begged for a few pence from the market, thickened with breadcrumbs (also begged, see above). I’m lucky to live in a small market town where traders have the discretion to help out regular customers like this, and its not something I have to do often so its not like I’m taking advantage of them. One big trouble if you’re poor nowadays is that in rural/provincial areas, “corner shops” are invariably part of a chain like Spar and so have no credit discretion, which independently-run, traditional small shops used to offer locals. If its a day or 2 before your money comes and you are desperate, they can’t help you out with a pint of milk and a loaf. And the owners of the chains wonder why so many people shoplift!

  6. Topov, thank you for your frank, insightful and helpful comment – it is much appreciated.

  7. I remember reading an old (maybe 1950s?) list of kitchen mishaps people sent in to a magazine. One was about a new bride who’d learned that chicken fat made excellent cookies — however, nobody told her that she had to render the fat first.

  8. That’s both gruesome and mind-boggling. Too little learning can be a ‘dangerous thing’.

  9. Thanks for this. I used this info on my new blog. Of course I gave you credit, this is a great site. I am glad you put this info up, because it is one of the lost skills.

  10. You’re welcome, Mari!