After rendering a large batch of lard, I decided to go ahead and make some cracklings. Here’s the process and time line. Keep in mind, I did a large batch, which takes longer. Plus, I used quite a low heat so I didn’t have to watch them as carefully. (Read – I have 4 young children and lots of distractions in the house!) The process can be done quicker with less volume and higher heat with more attention.
To start out, place all of the bits of meat back into the pan. Continue to heat them as when you are rendering lard. As you heat them, you will get more lard to separate out.
Once you have enough lard to be strained out (see rendering lard for straining tips), go ahead and strain your meat. This lard will be a little darker than the lard that is rendered when you are first rendering lard, and it will also have a bit of a meat flavor to it. This lard would be good to use in gravies, for frying, sauteing, or anything you would like to add a little flavor to.
Once you have separated out the lard, you have two options. One is to stop here and package your bits of meat to use in sauces, casseroles, or other recipes. The other is to return your bits of meat to the pan and continue to heat to make cracklings. You may or may not need to strain lard again, depending on how much you removed previously. If you do have some more separate out, however, go ahead and strain it again.
As you are continuing to cook down your cracklings, you will want to use a metal utensil that can really scrape the bottom of the pan. This will prevent any cracklings from sticking and burning.
You will also want to adjust your heat as needed. Your cracklings should be browning up but not burning.
Once your cracklings have darkened, and reached a crunchy-ish consistentcy, they are done cooking!
Mound up your cracklings on one side of the pan, and slightly tip your pan to allow any last fat to drain out.
Then, carefully scoop up your cracklings and spread onto a paper towel covered layer of newspapers and gently dab them with another paper towel.
That is it! You can now package up your cracklings to be used in various recipes. (I freeze about 1 cups worth in sandwich baggies, placed inside a freezer zip lock.) I like to add them to corn bread, scrambled eggs, soups, and sprinkle on top of salads. And if you want, you can also salt them to taste for homemade bacon bits. Mmmmm!