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Minonk Talk introduces Tales from the Heartland which is a series of letters written by Virginia McBride to her family. Mrs. McBride writes about her life experiences in a unique and refreshing manner. We are grateful that she has given us permission to publish her letters.

Rendered Lard

by Virginia McBride

In the days before calories mattered and no one had heard of cholesterol, lard mattered. It was an important part of the diet. We couldn't cook without it. The few cold days in March reminded me that it was time to butcher that Big Fat pig destined to provide a renewed supply of lard. Through the winter 4-5 smaller porkers would provide chops and roasts and ribs for the family. But now during a late cold spell the Big one fell. This was future bacon and hams- and Lard. Butchering was a sideline of Uncle Ed. He was an expert. As I write the word I shudder. How life changes one. B------ was a common word, we never had a second thought about it, it had to happen in order to have meat on the table. So it happened, the Big one fell, the carcass cooled 2-3 days- where? It was hung in the near empty hay mow on a sturdy chain or rope. The Uncle Ed came back and the Mr. would help tote a half into the house and on the big kitchen table. There laid about 150 lbs. of provender. Slabs of fat were peeled off the carcass, a large back ham, a front ham and huge slabs of potential bacon plus a run of thick chops and steaks and the table was empty. Trimmings were ground into sausage, it was good, seasoned with a dash of this and a smattering of that- it was a tasty addition to any meal. There are some details I won't describe. You don't want to know what we did with extras. Our society has gone beyond gory details. The stuff that came out of the gory details was delicious. So we have the carcass all cut up, packaged, some in the freezer, some destined to be canned. The big hunks of fat would be ground, the kitchen range fired up and large pans of  potential lard put in the oven, also big kettles on top of the stove. They'd sizzle and spit and render until cracklings formed. The lard had formed and cracklings were what was left- unrenderable. At a young age we knew they were delicious, crispy and brown- pure fat. The rendered lard would be clear and hot as can be. We had a connivance called a lard press, pour the hot liquid in it, screw a lid on it which would squeeze and squeeze as the handle was turned, The lard would shoot out the spout and into a crock which had to be warmed. You wouldn't want to 'shoot' hot lard into a cold crock and bust it would you? Fifty years later the sane old, earthy crock would be worth a mint!! It wasn't unusual to get 15- 20 gallons of lard from one BIG, FAT HOG. I am amazed to think of how I could possibly have used 15-20 gals. of lard in a year!! Let's name the ways, everything fried was fried in lard, lots of it. I still can't make pie crust without using lard. Doughnuts were made and fried in deep lard. Cookies, cakes and bread needed lard.

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 I see the end coming and I must share something before I forget. 68 years ago I was to make my first communion and to so so I had to board (stay) with a family 1/4 mile north. On Monday A.M. Dad delivered me with my lunch pail to school, got me home on Friday P.M.  One Monday my Grandma packed my lunch and put 2 kolaches in it. I can hear you say yum, yum, oh no- they were filled with a raisin - cottage cheese filling. Horrible, awful but I'm not done. On Tuesday the lady fixed my lunch, noontime, the kolaches were still there. Wednesday, Thursday, still there. My hostess's daughter had a solution, as we walked into the driveway the dog met us, happy to see us. Friday noon- no kolaches! I felt guilty but so relieved. Goody- I have left over material for next time. Be Good- God Bless All.

Virginia McBride
Elma, Iowa