Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Rendering Step-by-Step

These photos will show exactly how I render fat. In this example it is pork fat, but the principle is the same for all fats. The fat is cut into 1-inch/2.5cm pieces. You can cut them smaller and speed up the process slightly. Water is added about 1/3 cup /75ml per 1lb /450g of fat . I have about 2.6 lb /1.2kg of fat here so I added just over 1 cup/250ml. Now it
goes in the oven at 250F/120C.

This is the pan after 30 minutes. You can see the fat has melted a bit and you can see the water in the pan. It pays to have a thermometer in your oven they are not always accurate at low temperature.

Now 2 hours later (2 1/2 hours since the start). The fat is melting but there are still big pieces. Stir the fat and press the larger pieces against the side of the pot so they break up

Another 2 1/2 hours have passed (5 hours total). Note the fat is not all melted.

Here it is 2 hours later. This is the time to strain before the fat starts to colour. This has taken 7 hours.

Here is the fat in a very fine strainer over a glass-measuring cup. As you can see there are only a few lightly coloured pieces. Once the fat is drained you can return these fat pieces to your pan and continue to render. You will obtain a little more fat but it will be stronger in flavour.

Here is a wonky view of the fat in the measuring cup. My fat yielded a little over 4 cups/1l. It was also clearer the flash has added a golden tone.

Here it is chilled and you can see it is creamy white, perfect for everything from pastry to deep-frying.

I turned the glass upside down to show you that you will probably get some deposit that shouldn't be left with your fat. It could be used in a pork dish; it is a light pork jelly.

That's it very straight forward. All you need is time, and to look at the fat from time to time and, most importantly make sure your oven is not too hot.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Marmalade and Robbie Burns

By late January I've had enough of winter and so I've been on the look out for Seville oranges to make marmalade. I found the first ones this Friday and then realised of course, it's Robbie Burns Day on Sunday, the two events always seem to coincide in Toronto. My tribute to the bard is to make marmalade. If you follow this link you'll learn a little about the history of marmalade and find my recipe. I have half a dozen jars cooling on my kitchen table. The addition of Scotch is my way of toasting the bard - no haggis or piper at my home tonight. I will make haggis one year, but tonight I am cooking sheep testicles! Not sure if they were a favourite dish of the bard, however it is definitely sheep offal. My husband already has the pizza delivery phone number memorized!

A note for lard lovers - I am planning to post step by step lard rendering with photos. Hope top have it up this week.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Lard

Anybody who says they never google themselves is probably lying, and if that person is an author they are definitely lying.
I google myself quite regularly and discover interesting sites, blogs and reviews that writers promised to send me and forgot. The last couple of days I have stumbled across two food blogs, the first Syrup and Cornbread written by Aimee a southerner living in New England. I knew she was going to be a fat lover. She had problems rendering lard so I left a comment and hope she will try rendering again. The second blog, Nosheteria, written by another person transplanted to New England, Adrienne who was making lard pastry but alas she didn't render the lard first. With the exception of butter and beef suet, all animal fat should be rendered before using. She also noted her lard had a very piggy smell. In my experience good quality lard has a clean neutral odour and is creamy white, sometimes with a blush of pink. Other writers often claim their pastry had an odd piggy taste or smell when using lard. I've never encountered this and I've used lard on three continents. An animal's fat, like its meat, is flavoured by what it eats. This is very evident with good butter. The fat must be fresh, all fat deteriorates with time, light and heat and although animal fat is a lot more stable than highly polyunsaturated fats it can still turn rancid. Buy your fat from a reliable natural or organic supplier.
I have posted a photo of some back fat that I have in my freezer. You can see that is creamy white. One piece has traces of meat, don't worry let that worry you, they'll be left behind when you render it. If you do want a stronger flavour, not piggy but more roast pork, often useful for Mexican recipes, just render your lard longer, until the pieces become dark golden in colour. Leaf lard, which is great for pastry making, should come in a piece with a papery membrane surrounding it and it should be firm. Next time I have some I'll post a photo. I hope Aimee keeps rendering lard and that Adrienne renders hers first, before trying the pie dough again.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Warm Thoughts in Cold Climate

I was tempted to post another snow photo but we haven't had much snow just Arctic cold -23C and that's hard to photograph. As I look out from my office window I can see blue skies and snow dusted rooves, but instead of a photo of watery winter sunshine I've posted one of hot summer sunshine starring the iconic Sydney Opera House, snapped by my husband. No, alas we haven't escaped to Australia, but I was there in spirit this week. On Wednesday I was doing my regular gig on ABC Overnights and chatted with summer host Kara and listeners about ice cream. It reminded me that there is somewhere where the weather is warm and the beach beckons. So while I'm making beef stew, beef and vegetable pie and braising brisket, I'll glance at the blue sky, pretend the snow is white sand and dream of the antipodes.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Satisfying Beef Stew

Well so much for New Year's resolutions, it's a week since my last blog. I haven't forgotten I've been working on those tricky behind the scenes layers that make the blog work better. I find it weirdly fascinating trying to decipher html code, like some foreign language with no verbs, but when you manage to make something work it is very satisfying. However, my webmaster who helps with my website is not out of a job yet. My next foray is into audio clips. Well, all this occupies so much time and drives me to the brink of insanity that I have no energy to put something down on the page. Yesterday I stayed off the computer and spent the day in the kitchen. I came home from a chilly trip to the market -13C (Do you wonder why I go on about the weather? I put in these references for my Australian friends and it is at this time of the year that I miss Australia the most) with a beautiful large piece of brisket and a more manageable piece of chuck. My piece of chuck was tied for roasting although, it would need to be pot-roasted or braised, as it is a tough piece of meat. I seem to remember that we called this a blade roast when I was young, an appropriate name as it comes from around the shoulder blade. I was planning to make beef stew.
I prefer to buy a piece of meat for stewing then I can cut it into whatever sized pieces I choose. I decided on 4cm pieces mainly because that worked best with the thickness of my piece. It had some layers of wonderful fat, which of course, I left untouched. I marinated the meat for a few hours, then I braised it slowly with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, garlic, thyme and parsley stems for 3 hours. About 30 minutes before it was ready I added three field mushrooms, now fashionably called portobellos. I served the stew with suet dumplings flavoured with double smoked bacon and shallot. As you can imagine it was delicious. I do apologise for not having a photo, it did look good, but it was just one of those evenings. My husband and his two colleagues were working late so I invited them all for beef stew. It vanished from the pot before I remembered to snap it. I thought I'd have leftovers but it was a great endorsement of how good it tasted and it was the perfect dish for a cold snowy night (take that Australia).
There was a price to pay though, I made my guests taste 3 versions of the dessert I'd spent the rest of the day working on. We narrowed it down to two out of the three, and none of them guessed the "secret" ingredient. And it will stay a secret a little while longer so my other tasters won't be biased. I may manage a photo of it and I promise to photograph the brisket.

Monday, 5 January 2009


I would like to start 2009 with a post about one of my favourite cakes, la galette des rois, traditionally baked in France to celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany is tomorrow January 6,and marks the visit of the three wise men to the Christ child. These three eastern kings have wonderful names, Gaspard, Balthazar and Melchior. I've only met one Gaspard, the son of my friends Maryse and Cyril Lalanne and Balthazar reminds me of a restaurant so I doubt these names will come back into fashion anytime soon. However, I propose we adopt the French designation for the three wise men - Les Rois Mages - the sorcerer kings - it sounds so much more magical.