Yesterday I had a workshop on rendering lard and pressing vegetable oils. I've been using a lot of lard over the past year, ever since I discovered how easy and inexpensive it is to make (pork fat is a by-product, you can often get it for free). Lard is a very healthy fat if you make it yourself from an organically-fed, pastured pig. Lots of Omega 3s and high in Vitamin D, doesn't have the trans-fats, has mono-unsaturated fats, the good kind. It's a totally different beast than the thing you find on the grocery store shelf - to make it shelf-stable it has been hydrogenized, the same sort of process that makes margarine and crisco so terribly bad for the heart. So yeah, if you are not a vegetarian, lard is excellent, and fairly versatile. The only thing I don't use it for is salad dressing.
Pressing vegetable oil with a home-scale oil press on the other hand is WORK. Hard work. It takes me a lot of effort to get a quarter cup. Unless you want to buy the $3,000 electric machine. As if. The one I use is made by Piteba, a company in Holland. It is a high-quality, hand crank, "screw press" and it is used all over the world in subsistence societies. It costs around $150. It's a sweet little gizmo, but like I said, you need to rally some bicepts to keep it cranking. Especially for flax seed, the hardest one I've tried yet.
Yesterday we made sunflower oil from seed I bought...and camelina oil from seed that I grew. Camelina is an amazing oil and I believe you will start hearing about it in the near future. It is in the mustard family, like canola, and has been grown for oil for a few thousand years in the Mediterranean. It is high in Omega 3 oils, but unlike flax, you can cook with it on high heat. Camelina is now being used as a soy substitute in chicken feed since it is very high in protein and a super-healthy oil for the "chooks".
Camelina was very easy to grow, harvest, and thresh. I yielded 3 gallons of seed from a 150 foot long bed 3' wide. I would have gotten twice as much but it started to drop half its seed while I was away over a hot weekend. It was easier to thresh and winnow than flax, and overall, really seemed to thrive in our climate: plant it in the spring, and it matures during our drought season very easily. I have seed available for Camelina if anyone else would like to try it. Or if you are local and want to try your hand at pressing oil, give me a call. I might just be willingng to set the machine up if you feel li
Krista is a life-long resident of Whatcom County, Washington State. She has been gardening and farming in the area for over 15 years.