Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cast Iron, Rendering Lard, and Fruit Leather

What do those three things have in common? They're some of the things I did last weekend when I decided to embrace my domestic side.

I seasoned some new cast iron pans and re-seasoned our old cast iron pans. When we were in Tennessee we stopped by the Lodge Cast Iron Factory Store in Sevierville and picked up a few more pieces. It's a true factory store, so we had to inspect each one before deciding which ones we wanted to buy. But getting quality cast iron (not cheap, thin, foreign-made cast iron) at a discount rate was definitely worth it. Last weekend I finally had the time and didn't have to go anywhere, so I decided it was time to get it taken care of. I followed the directions here. Six coats is time consuming, but since I only did one coat last time and it didn't last very long, I decided to see if six would last longer. We're also being more careful with how we clean them. Apparently soap is the quickest way to ruin the seasoning. Who knew?

Another thing I did was render some lard. We bought part of a pig months ago with some of Mr M's co-workers and we ended up with the leaf lard, which is the fat that surrounds the kidneys. It's been sitting in the freezer ever since, waiting for me to render it. I followed the directions here, but did it on the stovetop instead of in the crockpot. As I was rendering the lard, I did a little more research and found this link that would have improved my results if I'd found it sooner in the process. My lard didn't end up bright white (the best for pastry making), but it's definitely still useable and great for cooking. Next time I'll pour off the lard before the pieces of fat turn brown- apparently that's how you keep the lard white.  It was quite fascinating to watch the fat melt into rubbery pieces and then into liquid. And it's not hard at all and is very doable- you just have to be prepared to babysit the pot so nothing burns. I actually did a smaller batch of fat that we cut off some of the cuts of meat we received (they were just too large to eat), and while I left it on the burner too long, the lard was still useable for cooking eggs, veggies, etc. I wasn't sure how the fat from the meat would work out, but it did fine.
The fat from the meat yielded darker lard because I left it on the burner too long. The jars with the whiter lard are from the leaf lard and I didn't leave them on the burner quite as long.

I also organized the freezers (that's what reminded me I needed to render the lard), and decided to make some fruit leather out of some of the fruit that's been sitting in the freezer a little longer than I'd like. First I let a bag of blueberries and a bag of strawberries defrost in the fridge. After pouring off the juice I put the strawberries in the Blendtec and blended them till smooth. I then poured the puree onto dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper. After rinsing out the blender, I did the same with the blueberries, though I should have pureed them a bit longer since the blueberry fruit leather turned out a little tough, I think because the skins didn't get completely pulverized. Both strawberry and blueberry fruit leathers tasted yummy and didn't last long. I plan on making some more to use up the rest of the fruit in the freezer.

Have you been struck with any fits of domesticity lately?

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