What to do with pork...
Though the Internet contains about 7.4 million recipes for all parts of the pig, here are a few more to add to the list. If you bought a whole pig, there may be some more challenging items rattling around in the bottom of your freezer; since you’re already here, you may as well get some inspiration to use up the last of the old pig and make room for the new pig!
Almost all bones work for stock, but some are better than others. A mix of bones is sometimes the best way to manage a lingering freezer collection. Whenever I roast a chicken, I save the bones. Grill a steak, save the bones. Slaughter a chicken, save the feet. Unfortunately, those bags of random bones in the freezer do start to take on a freezer flavor, so it's best to use them before too much time has passed.
My main point about bone stock is that it can be a constant kitchen presence and it is really easy and forgiving. I just use bones---lots of bones---and cook them for about a day. I figure that you can always add whatever flavors you like when using the stock for cooking. It’s the bones I want to capture in broth.
For raw bones, such as neck bones, I roast them in a medium heat oven until they are good and browned and have released a good amount of fat. Browning means flavor--- deep, roasted meat flavor. Good stuff.
1. Roast bones in oven until brown.
2. Place bones in heavy stock pot; cover with water.
3. Bring water to a boil, then turn down to a bare simmer and partially cover with a lid.
4. Simmer for several hours, then pour into a strainer over a heat-tolerant bowl or pot.
5. Discard the strained solids, and let the liquid cool. Remove the fat layer from the top. Store in the refrigerator for several days, or the freezer for many months.
A sturdy standard for bone stock
Lard comes from fat (but you probably already knew that). Not all fat makes excellent lard, but most will make good cooking grease--- I like to collect fresh belly drippings for this (in fact, there’s a David Chang roasted belly recipe that produces greasy gold).
Typically, lard is made from the fat inside the body cavity that surrounds the kidneys, called leaf lard. Some pigs are allowed to fatten up more than others and collect a substantial amount of back fat. Depending on the breed and feed, this fat can be delectable. This is the rind on a pork chop or loin roast. If there are excess trimmings, you could use these, too. Try not to use any fat that still has meat in it. Meat juices will flavor lard and potentially cause it to spoil.
Cut your lumps of fat up into small pieces, which is easiest done while still slightly frozen. Put the fat into a heavy-bottomed pot that fits it comfortably.
Sometimes I’m faced with an anemic bunch of rib bones and other not-so-burly interior structural components. Ribs make some mediocre stock. That’s when you pull out the emergency chicken foot or two. Whether it’s chicken or pig feet, these parts contain large amounts of collagen and will give body and mouth feel to your stock. Any bone with lots of cartilage left on it will provide good collagen, but feet will make your stock stand up and wriggle when cooled.
Use lots of bones when you make stock and just enough water to comfortably cover the bones. Bring the stockpot up to a boil and turn down to a bare simmer. I put a lid on to keep the cooking liquid from evaporating off, but I do leave the lid askew since even on my low simmer burner it will build up too much pressure and start to boil.
Cooking times vary with the hardiness of the bones you’re using. Chicken bones will give up what they have to offer after 3-5 hours at a slow simmer. If you cook bones for too long, they will begin to disintegrate and cloud your stock. It takes a long time, so don’t worry too much about it.
Pig bones can often be used for three rounds of stock. The first round is the strongest. The second still has some good heft to it. The third may be a bit thin and is only worth doing for good, hardy bones.
Once cooled, your stock should wriggle and shimmy like a jello belly dancer. There will likely be a heavy layer of fat on the top, which is easily peeled off the top with a spoon. Stock saves well for months in containers in the freezer.
Release the lard
1. Collect your fat, or leaf lard. Cut into small pieces.
2. Place in heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with water and set to a simmer, mixing occasionally, until the liquid turns clear.
3. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and stir every few minutes, unsticking any pieces attached to the bottom.
4. When the lard pieces are soft, squishy, and hollow, remove from heat and cool slightly.
5. Strain into glass jars and cool down, uncapped, in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator for several weeks, or the freezer for many months.
From here, there are three ways to go. The first way is to start it on a low flame and stir it a lot until the fat starts to render out. You'll want to keep stirring so that it mixes well and renders evenly.
The second way is to transfer it into a 225 degree oven and let it cook for several hours. For this, I'd use a low and wide heavy vessel so that it heats evenly without your having to mix it too often.
The third and best way that I use pretty much exclusively (and recommend if you haven't rendered lard before) is to start the rendering with water: fill the pot with water until it just covers the fat. Put it on the stovetop at a simmer and mix it occasionally (more to see what's happening than to tend it). The simmering water pulls out the fat. It starts out really cloudy, and then, as the water slowly evaporates out, the liquid you see will be more and more liquid fat. Eventually (depending on heat and volume, maybe an hour or two), it will turn clear. That's the point you'll want to start to pay attention.
Water will only get up to 212 degrees, but once all the water has evaporated out, it can overheat and toast/burn the lard. Turn it down to a bare simmer and stir it, pulling up the pieces of lard that have attached to the bottom. You'll know it's done when the lard pieces are soft and squishy, almost hollow. If you're not sure if it's done, it's better to end early and not burn your first batch than to be super efficient and render out every last bit of lard.
Let it cool until warm and strain it into glass jars. If there is any kind of dark liquid at the bottom of the pan, leave that behind. Meat residue will eventually spoil the lard. Let the jars cool all the way in the fridge, lids off. You can then store them in the freezer for months. I find that they are good in the refrigerator for about a month. You'll see mold when they've gone bad.