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preserving meat in a crock of lard/fat

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
(the salt thing made me think of this)

I once read something a while ago where meat used to be placed in a crock and then the crock was filled with some kind of fat (lard?) and that kept the meat for months and months. 

Anybody know anything more about this technique?


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Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
From Wikipedia:

Confit of goose (confit d'oie) and duck (confit de canard) are usually prepared from the legs of the bird. The meat is salted and seasoned with herbs, and slowly cooked submerged in its own rendered fat, in which it is then preserved by allowing it to cool and storing it in the fat. Turkey and pork may be treated similarly. Meat confits are a specialty of the southwest of France (Toulouse, Dordogne, etc.) and are used in dishes such as cassoulet. Although confits are now considered luxurious, these preparations originated as a means of preserving meats without refrigeration.


It seems to be very much like canning under a seal of wax.  Except schmaltz replaces the wax.  Not sure if the high-omega-3 diet (millet, flax seed, etc.) would make poultry more suitable for this (the fat would be more of a "drying oil" and would form a thick, protective skin) or less so (drying oils become rancid more quickly...the same chemistry that creates that protective skin).  I would guess the latter, though.

One intriguing possibility is that, by cooking in rendered fat, it might be possible to reach temperatures that kill botulinum without using a pressure canner.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I know alot of people just leave their pork fat at room temperature. I can see how it might be used to preserve food.

but  I have read that fat has a way of insulating botulism spores and that is part of the reason that home canners are supposed to limit the amount of fat in their canning endeavors. I hold some reservation about believing that though.  I also know that fat tends to inhibit the growth of of alot of bacteria since it is just not that great of a growth medium.


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Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2694
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  72
I mentioned storing meat in fat to someone and he thought the nitrates/nitrites in the bacon fat is basically why this worked. Polyparadigm's goose/duck confit research seems to indicate it is the fat (and perhaps partially the salt in the case of the confit and the bacon grease?), not the chemicals.

Polyparadigm's idea about the rendered fat helping increase the heat to kill botulism is interesting and made me think of when my folks visited Europe just a few years ago. While staying with friends in Germany, my mom was shocked (appalled) to see an almost daily occurrence of food being left on the stove, room temperature, for a day or so in many households. With just a little, under the counter fridge in most homes, there usually wasn't room to refrigerate a big pot of soup or the like. I'm thinking that for leftovers, they perhaps just heated it thoroughly to kill off anything growing in there. Though I've also heard that while thorough reheating might kill some critters, some toxins they give off are not affected by the heat....

So I just raised more doubts and questions...sorry I didn't have more substantive info.  ops:

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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
From my feeble memory:  the meat stored in this way was already cooked.  And the fat that was put in was liquid and then it hardened.

So - possibly botulism free when it was put in?

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:From my feeble memory:  the meat stored in this way was already cooked.  And the fat that was put in was liquid and then it hardened.

So - possibly botulism free when it was put in?


Yes, possibly.  The container would also need to be botulism free, naturally.

The two ways to prevent botulism from growing in canned goods are to kill it with heat above 240F (above 212F, so boiling won't work even at sea level), or make sure the food is too acidic for it to grow.

The thought was that fat might reach 240F even if water can't, and that the whole tub of confit could be sterilized together.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
While staying with friends in Germany, my mom was shocked (appalled) to see an almost daily occurrence of food being left on the stove, room temperature, for a day or so in many households. With just a little, under the counter fridge in most homes, there usually wasn't room to refrigerate a big pot of soup or the like. I'm thinking that for leftovers, they perhaps just heated it thoroughly to kill off anything growing in there. Though I've also heard that while thorough reheating might kill some critters, some toxins they give off are not affected by the heat....



pea porridge hot
pea porridge cold
pea porridge in the pot nine days old.

from my understanding before the advent of refrigeration this was not uncommon at all.  each day whatever could be had was added to the pot and the whole shebang recooked for supper. boiling kills most things. and botulism likes an oxygen free enviroment and doesn't really grow all that well in open air situations. (not that I am suggesting it is worth the risk)

for some reason this brings up an interesting memory. my mother was telling me about the days in school when they had classes about what to do in the event of a nuclear disaster. one of the questions was...... a roast and a bowl of green beans leftover from a week ago (or something like that) is still sitting on the counter and you have nothing else to eat. which is the safest? most people in the class (and me too) said 'green beans'. thinking meat = pathogens. wrong. the green beans have been mixed around and exposed to all sorts of things. the inside of the roast however has been essentially isolated by the oustide of the roast from death of the animal through cooking. it hasn't had a chance to be contaminated  with anything. cut off the outside of the roast and eat the inside.

this changed my thinking substantially for some reason about food safety and made a big impression on me.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Leah Sattler wrote:
pea porridge hot
pea porridge cold
pea porridge in the pot nine days old.


Stop me if I'm too much of a language nerd.

"Pease" is the old way to start each line of the poem, and it's an uncountable noun, like "information."

The word "pea" was back-formed by treating the uncountable "pease" as a plural, "peas."  So the poem is from a time when there was no word for an individual pea.

A similar thing happened to "cherry," I've read.

It's fun how language changes!
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
boy you are a nerd!  traditionally saying it to babies its always peas or pease ( why the e). I won't...er jsut can't.....make myself say it like that because I think it becomes confusing to children learning language and its just plain annoying!  rather like using potato in its plural form in potato soup. I just can't stand to hear it, say it or write it! it sounds like "baby talk"! so you will have to cut me some slack if I make it less excruciating for me to repeat adn modernize it just a bit. 

sorry off subject a bit..

Somebody bought some young childrens chapter books for my daughter recently. I refuse to read them to her. aside from having to cut out all the negative bad attitude lines of the main character, almost more annoyingly I have to correct all the cutesy (hopefully purposeful) speech and language mistakes. I guess they think it makes the story sound cute if they say stuff the way a very young child would. personally I think kids learn speech and language through reading and daily use. no way am going to reinforce the typical mistakes they make by reading that! I am too busy correcting myself! I am no grammar/english police by any means (as I am sure you can tell by my my posts!  (I know for one I rarely capitalize and my fingers tend to type phonetically despite the changes in meaning) but I just can't bring myself to read a story like that! another fairy tale she has talks about "when the world was so new and all" and repeats it several times. ugghhhhh . I just don't say the "new and all" it  makes me want to rip the pages out of the book!!!

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So ....  cooked meat covered in, say, liquid lard .... 

Will lard keep at room temp? 

Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:So ....  cooked meat covered in, say, liquid lard .... 

Will lard keep at room temp?


I've never had problems in winter.  I throw it out after a month or so, but that's mostly because I make it faster than I use it.  For summer, I use the fridge.

I think it's important that the meat be hot until well after the fat is added.

This little how-to says it's traditional to salt-cure first, which brings storage life from one month up to six.  It also says to cook meat and fat together.

http://www.ochef.com/593.htm
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Excellent link!

What amazing info!

Now my brain is just bubbling with ideas ....  okay ....  when harvesting a pig, much of the innards and the fat is just thrown away.  At the same time, most pigs are harvested in the fall.  And, chickens and trout are not getting their hourly doses of bugs ....  It would seem that this could be a way to set aside a lot of high quality feed for the cold season, to get through the winter.  It could all be stored in a whole bunch of five gallon buckets and maybe a quart or two of fat and protein could be fished out each day for the critters that need it.  Perhaps some buckets could be low on salt and some other buckets are higher in salt. 


Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
paul wheaton wrote:five gallon buckets


Would buckets stand the heat OK?  I understand most of them are polyethylene (HDPE), which melts lower than good preservation would need.

Polypropylene can stand higher heat, e.g. it can be autoclaved.  Not sure how many times it would stand hot fat, but I know IKEA sells a cheap PP trash can.

It might be worth using clay pots or enamelware canning pots, if they're available at a reasonable price.  Un-coated steel might work OK too, you'd just need to oil the outside.

There are old ways of building a cheap water-tight box from wood, which might be OK for your purposes.  If you build one quickly, you might end up with an awful barrow of barrow offal. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Excellent points. 

Maybe the thing to do is to put some sawdust around the edges of the bucket first .... maybe sawdust mixed with lard ....

wait ... if it is for chickens, maybe the thing to do is to put chicken feed mixed with lard around the outside and then pour everything in.  If your feed/lard mix is an inch thick or so, then I would guess that anything hot would never heat the plastic.
                                


Joined: Apr 26, 2011
Posts: 1
Hi,

I can refer you to the book 'Always a Countryman' by Lord Tweedsmuir.
In the 1930s he was in Africa as a magistrate on various Safaris and  used to shoot ducks but due to the heat they went off the virtually same day .

His chum's solution was to shoot a Hippopotamus, render it down for its fat. Get a 40 gallon steel drum and fill it with the fat. Cook your meat and place it in the drum filled with fat. It preserves them until required.

I imagine the fat  keeps the microbes out?

So find yourself a friendly hippo...( :
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3958
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  84
taproot, your description of Lord Tweedsmuir's (!)  'recipe' reminds me of Bill Mollison's fermentation book where he describes an Arctic Circle meat preservation method: get lots of puffins. Stuff them into a seal. Bury the package in permafrost. Dig it up after X time. Enjoy.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6661
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
    
138
In regards to keeping lard:

A while back I wanted some real french fries, so I went to the stupermarket to buy enough lard to fill my fryer.  After looking all over the butcher section, I asked the butcher "You don't sell lard?"  He said "Sure we do.  It's in the bakery aisle."  And, sure enough, there it was by all of the flour and sugar.  I kept that lard @ room temp for almost a year before I tossed it.

One of the possible explanations for meats keeping in solidified lard is that oxygen has been excluded.
Lee Einer


Joined: May 08, 2011
Posts: 169
Rillettes -

Pork seasoned and simmered in its own fat until it is virtually falling apart, shredded and then packed with some of the rendered fat poured over the top to seal. A French classic.

Seren Manda


Joined: May 09, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Northern Cali, USA -zone 9-
There's a dish in Morocco that is basically chunks of salted and dried meat stored in a mound of rendered fat. It's called K'lia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCDUHHKWkME @ 2:45


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Nathalie Poulin


Joined: Feb 07, 2011
Posts: 60
If you've ever watched the Edwardian Farm series (it's a UK show) they have an episode where this happens. They fish for shrimp and then they cook the shrimp and cover it in butter. The butter hardens, there's no oxygen for bacteria to grow and it is essentially preserved. (I'm not sure for how long.)
As for lard, I imagine it would work, I would just be leery of it containing hydrogenated oils. Unless of course you're using your own lard...
Lee Einer


Joined: May 08, 2011
Posts: 169
jaggednib wrote:
As for lard, I imagine it would work, I would just be leery of it containing hydrogenated oils. Unless of course you're using your own lard...


Here in northern New Mexico, lard or manteca is plentiful. The grocery stores sell pork fat, trimmings basically, and folks cut them up and render them. This not only gives you lard, it gives you these wonderful crispy-crunchy bits of piggy goodness that southerners call cracklings and nortenos call chicharrones. The chicharrones find their way into all sorts of good things, like bean and chicharrone burritos.
                        


Joined: Jul 07, 2010
Posts: 508
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
http://www.ochef.com/593.htm

I had a question about this link in that it says to cool the meat/fat and THEN put it into the container. Anything I have ever learned about canning (which is a later variant I imagine) stresses that the container must be as sterile as possible so it isn't itself contaminating the food. As the jars cool bacteria will repopulate the surface, just as when food cools it will go through a period of extremely active bacterial proliferation. Room temp  food being put into a room temp container  I would think be asking for problems, especially if the food is not acidic nor heavilly salted or if any minute airspace was unnoticed. (much more likely if the fat was already largely congealed.) The main fear is that botulism can be present and you will not know it; you cannot see smell or taste it.

No doubt preserving this way is possible and can  and did work, BUT  in old recipes I have seen they fill the containers with HOT food. It used to be the only option, but perhaps it might be good to keep in mind that people's average life spans used to be about half of what they are now, and understanding of bacterial contamination is largely responsible for that.

Also: Crocks would be fine for this but..just in case you or someone else reading this thread.. were thinking about using buckets for this, not just for chicken feed... I would be very careful about using any  (but especially non food grade) buckets for any food intended for human consumption as a lot of plastics will offgas or  leach over time and many if not all include chemicals not designed to be used by the human body. Enamelled buckets with no chips or glass (or maybe stainless steel?) would be much much preferable. 

I'm not an "oh my god the eggs have been out of the fridge overnight, toss them!" sort of person and think that many of the policies put into place by the "food police" are extravagant and unnecessary. BUT the thing is that people can die from contaminated food that they didn't know was contaminated.
Len Ovens
pollinator

Joined: Aug 26, 2010
Posts: 1306
Location: Vancouver Island
    
  16
Pam wrote:
Enamelled buckets with no chips or glass (or maybe stainless steel?) would be much much preferable. 


I would not use stainless for long term storage. It may be ok with fat as a filler, Iron or steel would probably be better. Iron or steel rusts in air but generally not under water, stainless does fail under water (it pits and the pits become holes) over time. That means the material from those pits ends up in the food.
                                


Joined: Sep 06, 2009
Posts: 16
Location: Two Rivers, WI
I grew up in a French restaurant.  Confit is made by cooking  meat very slowly in fat for a couple hours, at a temperature high enough to keep the fat melted but not so hot that you are scorching the meat to a crisp.  Instead it becomes very tender.  It is stored HOT in a clean, lidded ceramic crock or glass jar, then topped with at least an inch of the rendered fat, and the lid. Keeps for a long time in the fridge, I don't know how long because it's tasty and tends to get eaten up fast enough.  I have never tried keeping it at room temp.--it has to at least be cold enough to keep the fat layer hardish, much like the wax layer that is sometimes used in canning.  Never had a root cellar, so I don't know how long it would last in there, but in fridge certainly keeps for months. 

As for plastic 5-gallon pails and hot fat... I once butchered an entire ostrich, which produced over ten gallons of really good, clean rendered fat, which I store in such pails as there was nothing else large enough on hand.  They were food-grade, I think.  The pails did not melt or seem impaired in any way by having hot fat poured into them.  I kept it covered and in a shed,  it wouldn't fit in anyone's fridge.  Over the winter I ate some of the ostrich lard in various foodstuffs, as summer approached it got too warm (I lived in the desert then) and so I had to make the rest into a gargantuan quantity of soap, which am still using.  So far no complaints with the process, not like this is scientific though.  Anybody need ostrich soap? 
LaLena MaeRee


Joined: Jun 14, 2012
Posts: 148
We kinda experimented with this since we live in a travel trailer with a much smaller fridge, and we love to make big dinners that last for days. Cooked meat left to sit in the pan full of fat that left to harden seemed to not only keep just fine sitting on the counter, that meat was so tender and freakin' awesome in chili my boyfriend told me like 9 times in 2 minutes how good it was. It was a huge deer steak we had cooked like a roast, swimming in a pool of fatty liquid that we just left on the counter with foil loosely over it for almost 2 weeks before we put it in chili. I've also left crock pots of chili or soup sitting out near a window so it is a bit cooler than the rest of the room. We do the pea porridge thing and reheat it each night til it is all gone.

Only one time has this failed, I made a chili that I had put a lot of cherry tomatoes in because we had them all ripening. When I went to check on it after just one night of sitting on the counter to cool it had separated. The meat and chili part of the dish was at the bottom, the top 4 inches was the tomatoes and they were fermenting something fierce! Opening the lid hit me in the face with a whif of fresh beer. I tried to scoop off the top and keep the bottom, but it was all such a runny mess I threw the whole batch away out of fear.(because as far as I knew cooked food doesn't ferment like that) Aside from that time though it usually works well for us just leaving things out if they have been cooked, and I think dishes with more fat seem to last much much longer.


When you throw something away, there is no 'away'
Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 267
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
  10
One of Paul's podcasts includes a sepp holzer tale of a poached deer that was cooked up in a big pot and had to be stashed quickly to evade some authorities. When it was retrieved some weeks later, instead of the expected putrid mess, there was some very high quality food.


Vic Johanson

"I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2487
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  21
Grandpa talked about it. He much preferred it to salted pork. Kept in a large crock just like salted pork. The reason they didn't do it all that way was they didn't have enough lard to spare. He did say both were a pain--dealing with a 30 gallon crock full of scalding hot oil would be a little interesting.

Those stayed on the cool pantry (porch on the north side of the house) because they were just too difficult to get into the cellar.


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Jay Seibert


Joined: Oct 05, 2012
Posts: 1
I wish I could remember where-- maybe in Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers? I read that throughout history yarrow has been applied to the top of rillettes because of its antiseptic properties.

Try preserving veggies confit too! Shallots, garlic, herbs and lots of others!

Another charcuterie favorite is the pate, where the fat emulsifies the meat. From what I understand this technique was common in ancient Greece.

Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, as well as Salumi by the same fellows are a couple of very insightful books on the art of meat curing and preserving which I would highly recommend!



Somewhat related is this blog post (http://julesfood.blogspot.com/2011/05/asian-style-pig-ear-and-pork-terrine.html) which features a pig ear-pork terrine!
Daniel Morse


Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 222
Location: SW Michigan
    
    4
I often cook meat and leave it under the fat for a day or two at room temp. I wish to point out that if you are not in a HOT climate or dusty, you can not do this. I do it all the time. I reheat before cooking. The trick is to have that layer of fat. The meat is herbed and salted. I do chicken like this and roasts. I only get issues in the heat of summer. Acidic pasta will sit well till the next day too. Just remember the cheese and fat act like a shield. But a soft cheese that has not been cooked will go rancid quickly. Like if I throw some ricotta in the dish last min.

I keep the pork fat on the stove. It must be salty. Butter also. The sweet goes bad faster. To the delight of my dogs. I also will cook overnight meat or a covered dish and leave it covered in the oven with the oven off until the next evening. I come home, turn the oven on a hot temp and let it rewarm as I do stuff or take a quick nap. Perfect food. Cant do it with creamy stuff. But to cook and when I get home add the dairy if good too.

When I say dairy I mean milk or cream or a soft cheese.

No need to waste money or put a strain on the fridge.

I do not do this in the high heat of summer. Temps over 80 I change my ways.

I have done up to 2 days cold in the oven. I do not detect spoilage, but the stuff seams to degrade. Garlic and onions get stronger. But most herbs do well. I think many dishes are best set a day. Pork roast! Rooster Chicken and on,....

I have never met a stranger, I have met some strange ones.
 
 
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