Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ham Hocks and Rendered Leaf Lard



I guess it shouldn't surprise me that I have taken a photograph of a chunk of smoked meat and a jar of lard. Meat isn't often a part of a still life these days, is it? But it's what I've been doing, and I am rather proud of it. I mentioned that I picked up a half hog the other day. This is my second year in a row of doing this. Even though it's been over a year, it comes back pretty quickly. Sunday was spent putting everything in brines and such. Yesterday, it was time for the hocks to come out and dry. And today, before this storm we are in the midst of, I was to smoke them. There was no way around it. Once this pig thing is in motion, even a Nor'easter can't stop it.

I got them in the smoker at around 1 p.m. and they came out around 4 p.m., internal temperature of 150 degrees. I used cherry and apple wood, kept them at 200 degrees. This year I added to the brine some juniper and allspice to accentuate my new favorite recipe for ham hocks: jerky ham hocks. I hate to say this, because the recipe is from Jamie Oliver, but when I made this the hocks come out brilliant and gorgeous. (Does he really talk like that, or do they exaggerate it because his marketers think people find it cute?) I wrapped them up after they cooled, and stuffed them in the freezer with a shoehorn. Not really, but that thing is packed. I'm scared because I still have to fit in the ham and bacon when it's done. Better get eating!

When I got my pig, I found that they had given me the leaf lard. I had forgotten to ask for it, but they gave it to me nonetheless. I guess when I asked for the pig jowl, they knew what kind of person they were dealing with. Last year they ground my jowl up! Heavens. This year I'm curing it American-style. Why can't I find a recipe for that, please tell me? The internets are filled with guanciale recipes and techniques, but no one has one up for simple smoked jowl meat. If it's there, please direct me in the comments below. I'm curing it along the lines of savory-style bacon, and I can't wait to try it.

So, the leaf lard. I'd never seen it before, so here's a picture for you, below. The bloody bone in a bag (sounds delightful, doesn't it?) is the aitch bone from my ham. It should be called the b-aitch bone. It sucks getting it out. I sort of mangled my ham. Oh, well, I'll get it one year. Smart move this year? Asked them (Meiller's Slaughterhouse in Pine Plains, by the by) to cut the ham in half. Last year's 23-pound ham was a bit much. Now we'll have a fresh ham roast for Christmas, and cured ham throughout the winter for breakfasts and soups. The leaf lard was rendered in a crock pot, and it worked like a charm. I'll never do stovetop again. It came out snowy white, as people tell you it should. I am making an apple pie as soon as I get all this curing and smoking out of my way!

Still life with bone and fat.

18 comments:

  1. I'm totally impressed. This is so far above and beyond anything I could ever accomplish. (I have to confess to being squeamish in that regard.) The leaf lard intrigues me though. I only hear of it from the East Coast writers I follow. Curious. And for reasons unknown to me, I like the "still life".

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    1. Thank you! My husband is the squeamish one. Says he: "I don't want to know what's in the fridge at all." The only time I've gotten a little weird is with the liver, which I'm about to make into pate. Wish me luck!

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  2. I have leaf lard in the chest freezer that's been on my list forever; I wanted to practice with regular lard first, as the leaf lard is pricey! But I haven't tried the Crock-Pot method: do you add any water, or just chop it and let it go?

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    1. K- Take that stuff out! It was very easy, but I was worried I'd mess it up too. Last time I rendered it was back fat on the stove in the LC. It came out sort of porky and golden. This time, I chopped it to a coarse chunk, and put it all in the crock with 1/2 cup of water. Left it on low for about 3 or so hours.

      I used these recipes for reference:

      http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-render-lard-in-crockpot-or-slow.html

      and

      http://www.spain-in-iowa.com/2011/02/how-render-lard-the-right-way-snow-white/

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  3. I wish I had half a pig! I bought prok belly for bacon and pancetta (starting it tonight). I have leaf lard in the freezer, waiting for some free time when I could render it outside on my propane stove.. slow cooker you say?!! I'll check out the recipes you used.
    Now.. what will you do with jowl?
    I'm always thrilled to know there are other nutso's out there who love to get up to their elbows in the fat of things, like me.

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    1. Nice, I recall you mentioning you were curing bacon. Again, I say: take it out of the freezer! Release the leaf lard! You can do it inside, in a slow cooker. No hassle, not remotely dangerous. The jowl will be cured like bacon--last year I did guanciale, which is delicious and easy, but I wanted to try it American-style.

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  4. Love the biatch bone. :) And yay lard! We always have a quart or two of house-rendered lard in the house. It's pretty much our go-to cooking fat.

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    1. Of course you do! Yay, lard, indeed. I'm finding I like it more and more. Do you use fatback or leaf? Or whatever you can get your hands on?

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  5. Never did lard (except when making soap) but I always keep the bacon fat and sometimes I follow the advice of Joy of Cooking and simmer it with some water. When cooled the fat rises to the top and the water with any "impurities" is on the bottom. I hear if you don't use the fat you are tossing out 75% of the bacon.

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    1. You gotta use the fat!! Fat is very much unloved. Good fat, I should say.

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  6. julia, terrific, and so very prolific. living half on the hog, i love it. what an industrious kitchen you run. amazing. lard indeed, what a treasure. thanks for that post,
    m

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    1. You are too good to me, Michael! Loved your recent Avedon post, btw...

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  7. You are a goddess!! So deeply jealous of your home-smoked hocks! Guanciale is traditionally unsmoked, but you will love your smoked jowl. You probably know it has a slightly higher moisture content than traditional bacon, so it's best cooked over low heat to allow some of the water to evaporate before you crisp it. Anyway, can't wait to hear about that paté. Oh and that golden lard? Mexican style. Use it for beans! xo

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    1. Oh, I think the very same of you, you know! I hope you are doing well--I'm assuming power is all back on, right?

      So, the thing about the jowl, and maybe you know, so please tell me: there are never recipes for an American-style smoked jowl. It's very widely used in southern cooking, but I have yet to find a recipe for curing and smoking the jowl for use in collard greens, for example. I think for southern uses it's treated like pork belly for bacon, but that's a guess. Guanciale is an entirely different thing. A really good different thing! I didn't know about it's moisture content though!

      As for the golden lard? Golden is an apt word. I always use, and relish it!

      x!

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  8. Julia, I am so impressed by you (and I'm loving the daily posts!)

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    1. Thank you, Marisa! That makes my day!

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  9. I agree about the brilliant and gorgeous Jamie Oliver. I've made some things from his recipes that turned out brilliant and gorgeous and hated to admit it too. Can I also say again, I'm so glad you're back to posting regularly as well? :)

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    1. Yay! You can say it all you want! ; )

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