Monday, September 30, 2013

Suppertime! Cracklins, Lard Renderin' an Cracklin Bread

Let me just start out that cracklins are not the same thing as pork rinds city folk an' Yankees buy at the Quick Mart. Pork rinds start as little ol' pieces of pork skin that are quickly fried in hot oil to allow them to expand as they fry. They do not contain pieces of meat or fat as cracklins do. NOT the same!

Cracklins are a wonderful byproduct of renderin' lard. Folks don't just up an' make cracklins. When you butcher a hog you cut off the fat an' render it out to make lard.  
renderin' lard
As the hog is butchered, each piece of meat is cut appropriately. Hams might be rolled in a mix o' salt an' sugar an' laid on a board to be covered with the mixture to make country hams. Bacon meat from the belly area, the hams, the jowls, the hocks might be hung in a smokehouse an' hickory wood started below to smoke for days to preserve.

Small pieces of meat are cut as the process continues an' set aside for sausage. Spices will be added an' the sausage may also be hung in the smokehouse.

As the lard renderin' process starts, a lard pot is heated up over a fire an' the pieces of hog fat are thrown into the pot. There are three kinds o' fat on a hog; Leaf lard is inside the loins of the hog an' is often processed first an' separate. It is used for bakin' an' tastes the best. Fatback is from between the skin an' muscle and caul fat is inside the belly an' around some of the organs. The fat is liquified as the pieces of fat in the pot heat up. This is stirred constantly with a long wood stir.  Sometimes folks used the same stir that they use for apple butter.
apple butter stir

As the fat was cut, pieces of skin an' meat was left on the fat. This also cooks as the lard is rendered an' becomes a treat called cracklins for them folks that take the time to constantly stir the lard. Y'all don't want the lard to scorch, do you?

The cracklins are dipped out as they begin to float. Most folks put them in a bowl or on some newspaper to cool an' drain.  Seasoned with salt an' grabbed up by the handfuls, they quick like
cracklins ready to eat
disappear. Cracklins are best when fresh out of the pot with a bit o' salt an' pepper thrown on them.

Cracklin Bread
Another treat to make with cracklins is cracklin bread!  Not just cornbread, but a rich an' wonderful treat durin' hog killin' time.
It is a simple recipe so I won't repeat the basic cornbread recipe.

cracklin bread in skillet
Heat up your cast iron skillet in the oven at 400 degrees as with regular cornbread
Mix up the cornbread recipe
Add 1 cup of fresh cracklins - chopped into small pieces.
Add a little extra buttermilk if batter is too thick
Pour into hot skillet an' bake 35 to 40 minutes

Serve with Soup Beans, onions an maybe some greens!

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