Cracklings

I remember my father making cracklin’s when I was young.  It was then that I learned the secret to good cracklin’s – slow cookin’.  Cracklin’s is a tasty by-product of rendering fat.  With a sprinkle of salt these golden morsels are a delightful treat.

This simple dish is an addictive snack that we have in every Traditional Animal Processing Workshop.  The Workshop in Tucson, starting February 1st 2014, is nearly full, register soon.

Cracklin’s – a tasty treat that is worth the wait.

Preparation Time: 30 Minutes

Cooking Time: 2-3 hours depending on the amount of fat

Cooking Utensils:
Dutch oven, #14
Ladle

Ingredients:
Fat – all that is available from the animal
Salt

Rendering the Fat

Slow cookin’ is the secret to good cracklin’s…
but it is worth the wait.

Rendering fat takes time but almost no effort.  To render fat, cube the fat into roughly ½  inch pieces and place them into a Dutch oven. Cook over low to medium heat.  It is important to not let the fat smoke.  (Fat brought to the smoking point will taste burnt and will not be as healthy.)  Stir occasionally until there are light brown pieces of fat floating in the clear rendered fat.  Slower is better. This will take two to three hours.

Remove the cracklings (toasty residue of light brown pieces) from the rendered fat, salt lightly and serve.  Cracklings are best eaten hot.  Any left over cracklings are a flavorful addition to stews.

Note: The best rendered fat is cooked extremely slow.  To help understand how slow, this process can be done in a slow cooker over several days if time is available.

Cleaning the Fat

Cleaning the rendered fat removes most of the small particles of residue that could not be scooped from the rendered fat.  Cleaning the fat makes it more usable for things like fat lamps, pemmican, soap, etc.  It also keeps it from going rancid too quickly.

Scraping residue from a brick of rendered fat after the fat was boiled with water and cooled. Photo Courtesy of Brian Harris

Place a few inches of water into a Dutch oven.  Pour the rendered fat into the Dutch oven.  Bring the fat and water to a low boil.  Allow the fat and water to boil for a few minutes and then remove it from the heat. Let the mixture cool until a brick of white fat is formed (usually overnight) remove the brick of fat from the vessel and scrape the residue chunks off the bottom of the fat brick.  Repeat the process with fresh water.  Generally two cleanings is sufficient, however if time permits, a third cleaning will yield superior quality fat.

Note:  Unless the fat was burnt, the water and the residue from the cleaning may be added to the stock for additional flavor.

Caution:  It is very dangerous to pour water into hot oil.  This will result in a fire ball.  It is important to let the rendered fat cool down to lower than the boiling point of water before adding any water.  Pouring the fat into the water is a safer procedure.

More recipes from the Traditional Animal Processing Workshop.

Learn more about the Traditional Animal Processing Workshops.

Locate an Upcoming Workshop to attend.

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