It's about time I finally wrote a blog post about my sweet sweet lard. It is no secret that I have a serious love for lard and how magical it is. A healthy animal fat that has been villainized due to the shift away from pastured pork to commercial factory farming has resulted in a general opinion that lard is an evil fat. Now, let me be clear. When I am speaking about all of the benefits of pork fat/lard, I am referring to pastured pork. Pigs raised outside, in the sun, rooting around in the soil and eating greens as nature intended. This does not apply to feedlot raised, barn stall raised, confined pork...because yes that is the villain.
Lard rendered from pastured pork is a healthy and stable animal fat. There is a perceived idea that lard is an artery clogging, heart attack causing, unhealthy fat. Yes, this is the case when you are talking about pigs raised in confined factory operations (CFO) or similar housing. But, we aren't about those pigs here! Pigs store the vitamin D they get from spending all day in the sun and foraging on greens in their fat. Once rendered into lard, only a couple tablespoons a day can provide you with your daily requirement of liquid sun. Lard is also high in fatty acids such as oleic acid, and when you raise pastured pigs finished on acorns, the high level of omega-3's they get from the acorns are stored in the fat as well! Lard also has a well balanced ratio of saturated: monounsaturated fats, and next to olive oil, it contains the highest quantity of monounsaturated fats of any cooking oil. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of it. Lard truly is a nutrient dense super fat in the kitchen.
Our desire to keep our own sow for breeding piglets stemmed from our frustration trying to get quality piglets in the spring. Spring is the ideal time to get piglets for most, so they sell out quick and our expectations are admittedly high. Keeping a sow of our own would allow us to have control over the breed mix and experiment with crosses, save the hectic spring scramble, and save on the cost of buying piglets. Maybe, we could even make a little money on the side selling extra piglets!
When we first started scouring Craiglist for a gilt or sow, I admittedly at the time didn't know a thing about what to look for. I had no pig mentor, and the internet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of information (which has made me realize I need to blog more about my pig experiences to help others out there, but that's a different story). So I figured I would just kind of trust common sense and go with it. I knew to check that she moved soundly, had nice feet squarely under her body, and that her vulva didn't appear scarred or damaged.
When we went to look at Big Marie, I was flabbergasted and literally taken aback by her size. I didn't necessarily think she was overweight, because she is quite literally huge in stature. The people said that she was a year old and had never been bred, but had been in with a boar so she could potentially be pregnant.
There was nothing that screamed "don't get her" to us, so we loaded her up on the trailer and brought her home hoping that we may have some piglets on the way if she was already pregnant. It turned out that she wasn't, and now here we are five months later gearing up to artificially inseminate her. As it turns out, not only is she in fact overweight (and not just big) but she is also considered "old" to be getting bred for the first time. Without even having attempted AI yet, which I know will be a whole new experience, I have already had a crash course in pig breeding and learned some valuable lessons.
Milk. Glorious fresh, raw, creamy goats milk. It is quite possibly one of the things I am most proud of to be producing right here on our small farm. Our girls are fed an organic, non-gmo, soy free feed, with more browsing than they can eat. Their milk truly is as good as it gets and I get it fresh twice a day, everyday! With Karen and Audrey both in milk, I currently have way too much to drink. I can't keep up just drinking it alone! FYI, this is a very good problem to have. I love any and all dairy products, so my goal is to produce as many as I can with the milk that I have on hand.
Ricotta is one of the easiest and quickest cheeses that you can make with the simplest ingredients. It doesn't have to age and is ready to use within a half hour or so, nor is it as temperamental as mozzarella. Bonus! Basically, it's a great cheese to get your feet wet and isn't everything better with a little ricotta? Some make ricotta with leftover whey from other cheeses, which makes a skim/low fat ricotta. I however am a full fat/whole milk kind of girl, so I make my ricotta with milk not whey. Here's how to make it:
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