But not too long ago when I made my Southern Buttermilk Cat Head Biscuits I asked my grandmother how I was supposed to get my biscuits to be as soft and tender as possible. "Oh honey, what you need is lard. That makes biscuits melt in your mouth good". Hhhhmmm. Did I really want to go that route?
After a little research I surprisingly found the answer to that question to be "yes". Unbeknownst to me, homemade lard made from fat that you render yourself is actually the most healthy fat when stacked up against butter and vegetable shortening. True lard contains less bad fat and more good fat than butter, and is still better for you than the vegetable shortening due to the process of hydrogenating the shortening to make it able to withstand sitting out un-refrigerated.
But hold your horses before you get all excited and rush out to buy the packaged lard sitting next to the crisco thinking it's your new, healthy go-to. You can certainly buy this, but it won't be anywhere near as healthy as the kind you render at home due to the hydrogenating process I mentioned. I've never seen any, but the kind of lard that is the healthier option is the kind that would be sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
To make your own lard all you'll need is some fat back. Sounds delicious, huh? But the good news is that this is super easy to make, and once you use it to make biscuits or pie crusts you'll never want to go back!
Rinse fat back of any salt used to cure it. Dice fat into small cubes (the smaller the pieces, the more fat you'll be able to render) and add to stock pot along with just enough water to cover bottom of pot by 1/4 inch. *I used an iron skillet, but I believe it would have been easier to use a deeper pot.*
Turn heat on medium high. Make sure to stir the fat about every 10 minutes to ensure that it's not sticking to the bottom. After about 20 minutes the fat will begin to melt and the water will evaporate. Continue cooking for an additional 30-40 minutes (50-60 minutes total). By this point "cracklings" will have formed (small brown bits that are left once all of the fat has been rendered).
Remove cracklings with fine mesh strainer and set aside. These bits serve as divine additives to other dishes as a source of flavor. It's kind of like adding bacon bits.
Place a cheesecloth over a glass jar (I used a coffee filter because I didn't have one one hand) and secure with a rubber band. Pour melted fat over the jar. The cheesecloth will catch any residue so that you are left with pure lard.
This may take a while for the melted fat to pass through the cheesecloth because it's much thicker than water. Just be patient though :)
The melted liquid will be a brown color, but will lighten after it cools in the fridge.
Ta da! The final product
Keep stored in a tightly seal container in the fridge.