What's Between Lard and Gelatin?
September 24, 2018 8:20 PM   Subscribe

I braised a pork shoulder yesterday. What's this stuff that formed a layer between the lard and the gelatin I reserved?

The shoulder was prepared with a dry spice and herb mixture, seared with vegetable oil, then braised in a slow cooker with hard cider. When it was done I removed the meat, poured the liquid into a gravy separator, pulled the pork, and returned the pulled pork and braising liquid, sans fat, to the pot. The gravy separator being a rather blunt tool, I stopped a bit short of the fatty layer and put the rest of the liquid in a Mason jar in the fridge so I could deal with it later.

Even before I put it in the fridge, it looked like there were three layers forming and not the two I'd expect. And that has proven to be the case. On top is a smooth layer of lard, on the bottom was gelatin (that I returned to the leftover pork today), and between the two there was a solid-ish layer of … something, with bits of pepper and spices distributed throughout (I had run the liquid through a fine mesh strainer but not a cheesecloth, so that was inevitably going to end up somewhere).

It doesn't look or feel like the top layer of lard. It tastes like concentrated pork and spices, but I was wary of returning it to the pork with the gelatin in case it's just, I dunno, a different sort of fat*. There's too much of it for it to be the vegetable oil I used to sear the meat. I'd describe its texture as more creamy than fatty. What have I got here? I have this nagging feeling that I should already know what it is, but google's not helping me.

* Excessively fatty pulled pork ends up a bit of a gut bomb, and the last time I failed to skim well enough I ended up having to scrape hardened lard off the leftovers and that was messy, so here we are. I've got a container of smoked tallow in the fridge from the last brisket I smoked, so having some lard around also seems like a reasonable idea.
posted by fedward to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Probably just protein.
posted by stellathon at 10:09 PM on September 24, 2018

I've had this happen, and assume that it's lard, just of a different quality. Like, for example, some of it is abdominal lard and some of it is back lard, and those have different textures and flavors. Leaf lard (from around the kidneys) is the highest grade of lard, and is known for being almost flavorless. Lard from other parts of the pig can vary in flavor and texture, and I think that you're just seeing that. Especially if you got this from a different source than where you usually get it, I'd assume that this pork shoulder was just trimmed less (or differently) than what you're used to.
posted by mishafletch at 11:01 PM on September 24, 2018

Sort of greyish or greyish pink, meaty tasting and very soft/creamy? I think that’s cooked blood/meat juices — think about when juice runs out of a cooking hamburger, hits the hot pan and cooks into a semisolid?
posted by LizardBreath at 3:31 AM on September 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's probably just a layer of fat emulsified with gelatin-rich liquid.
posted by slkinsey at 5:32 AM on September 25, 2018

Ecume any meat... Skim. The. Scum. Otherwise, it does stratify and you see a grayish layer of the meat scum left over. Gray meat scum with what it could pull away from the rest - namely some of your spice.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2018

Right, totally just proteins that bonded to stray solids (in other words, fined the broth). The solidified layer is probably emulsified a bit with liquid and fat that got trapped with the cooked proteins, but it's definitely not just fat or gelatin. I knew I should have known the answer.
posted by fedward at 7:19 AM on September 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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