Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rendering Bear Lard

Very few bear hunters make use of the fat harvested from their hunt so if there is a bear season where you live, there is probably free fat to be had.  I've yet to hunt bear but thanks to some friends who do, I seem to be able to come up with some every year.

Bear lard is just as good as any other lard for frying.  Bear lard makes for the best pie crusts.  Bear lard, often blended with beeswax, is also used by some for waterproofing leather boots.  I've read it can be used in your hair.

If I had to guess why bear lard is preferred for some of these uses, I would draw attention to its low melting point.  At room temperature, bear lard will be a thick liquid.  Kept in the refrigerator it will remain soft.  It only hardens up in the freezer.  That low melting point makes the lard a lot easier to mix through the whole batch of dough when making crust and ease of rubbing into boots or your locks.

Rendering bear fat is a lot like rendering any other kind of fat with the exception of the previously mentioned high melting temperature.  When rendering sheep lard, for example, it is a pretty simple task to get the lard to set up in the cool garage.  With bear fat, however, much cooler temperatures are required.  The lard only becomes firm enough to handle just as the water itself is beginning to freeze.

Once the lard is solid enough to handle, cut it up into smaller pieces and place them in wide mouth jars which are sitting in a large crock pot in warm water.  This allows the lard to melt just enough to make sure each jar is filled.

Bear lard does seem to go bad in the fridge quicker than other lards.  Consequently, I always store it in the freezer.  I'm told lard can be canned but with bear lard anyway, I feel better with it in the freezer.

Half the fat from one bear.  Pardon the mess on the stove.

As the fat thaws in the stock pot, cut it up into small pieces, keeping the water at a slow boil for two hours after all the fat has thawed.  Those solids (cracklings) can be used for making cornbread, used in dog food, or thrown to the chickens on a cold winter's day.
Fish out the fat solids, rinse them in hot tap water and return the rinse water to the vat.  This lard sat in a 25 degree garage for 24 hours and is still soft to the touch.  At 48 hours it was very solid to the touch and ready to process.
Cut the lard into chunks that will fit into your jar.
Scrape any gunk off the bottom.

Put chunks into jars and then set them in warm water to melt.  The quarts for the eating.  One jelly jar for boots.

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