Lard and cracklins cook at the same time and it sometimes said “you can have good lard or good cracklins”, perhaps not both. Apparently we throughly embraced the “good cracklins” side of things, so I’m not even going to talk about our lard right now. It’s pretty embarrassing lard.
To start out we brought our glorious kettle down to the house. In case you missed it back when we were scalding, our kettle is homemade. Old time kettles are more of a thing you inherit than a thing you have. Kettles are really expensive. Old propane tanks are less expensive. The amazing husband made our kettle out of the round end of a giant propane tank. He used part of the straight section to make a stove that the round kettle portion can sit perfectly within. Then he and our wonderful neighbors welded a door in the stove portion, added a smokestack, and welded handles on the kettle. This set up is mobile, extremely efficient, and the kettle can be lifted off the fire.
And while we’re making things, cracklins need to be stirred constantly, and we didn’t have a paddle. So he made that too. And you need a cracklin press, and we don’t have that, but we do have a three bay stainless steel sink and a board.
Cracklins start by lighting a fire and putting all the little chunks of fat and skin in the kettle, then you just stir and stir until it looks right. The fire shouldn’t be too hot or it will scorch before the lard melts out. In a perfect world you will pour off beautiful white lard with golden fried cracklins. It might not go like that, tan (or brown) lard happens. The cracklins should definitely simmer and pop though. This may take a few hours.
When the cracklins were moving towards done we dropped the catfish in. When the catfish turn a deep fried brown take them them out and cut them in little disks. I served them with a pile of salt to dip them in.
When the husband declared the cracklins done we took the kettle off the heat and dipped them out into the sink. I put a five gallon bucket under the drain to catch the lard (it didn’t melt). We tried to press the cracklins with a board, but that was not a great success. A cracklin press is the same things as fruit press, but we don’t have one. Without pressing our cracklins had a softer, fattier texture, which most of us agreed was actually preferable to the traditional rock like experience.
Cracklins don’t store especially well but I froze a small amount to use as flavoring for greens, beans, or cornbread.
After cracklins it’s kettle corn time! Kettle corn is such fun. We added back in a few cups of the lard, dumped a bag of popcorn in and stirred like crazy. Then I dumped in a completely made up amount of salt and sugar. Next time I would add more sugar, you can’t have too much sugar.