I sometimes feel self-conscious about the content on my blog. I worry about my capabilities in English, grammar, spelling but most of all that people will not like the food I am writing about. Especially some of the very basic, traditional German recipes like “Wurstsalat” (sausage salad, that’s right!) and... Schmalz. But then I quickly remember how good and unmistakably German these recipes are. They are part of the story and therefore I have to write about them.

In Germany, Schmalz is generally made from rendered pork or goose fat. It’s a very useful product in the kitchen for frying and baking. But it is also eaten just by itself, on a piece of rustic bread, sprinkled with a little salt as part of your Brotzeit. My grandma used to render Griebenschmalz (Schmalz with cracklings) to give as Christmas gifts to family and friends each year. She would present it in a little earthenware pot, covered with a red and white checkered wax cloth and tied with a beautiful ribbon.

The word Schmalz comes form the Middle High German “Smalz” which is derived from “schmelzen” (melting). A lot of traditional German recipes use Schmalz instead of clarified butter or vegetable oil. 

Making Schmalz is very easy but the results may vary greatly depending on the raw fat that is used.

If you are able to buy goose fat or are planning to roast a whole goose,  you can render the raw fat into a Gänseschmalz that is very pure and low in saturated fat (only 35%), much lower than butter (which has about 60%). So low, that the Schmalz will actually begin to melt at room temperature. It has a high smoking point. It is great for frying potatoes, Kartoffelpuffer (latkes), eggs and meat and it lends a beautiful complex flavor to sautéed vegetables.   

Schmalz made from goose fat

Schmalz made from goose fat

Another option is leaf lard. Leaf lard is the purest, highest grade of lard. It has no odor and does not taste the least bit like pork. It comes from the fatty parts of the lining around the kidneys, abdomen and loin of the pig. It has a high smoking point and is an excellent product for frying and for wonderfully flaky and moist pie crusts. It can be a bit tricky to find (you can order it pre-rendered from Amazon). The Metropolitan Market stocks it around the holidays, as well as several other small local butchers.

Schmalz made from leaf lard

Schmalz made from leaf lard

Or you can use regular pork fat, from the back or the belly of the pig. It won’t be as pure but it will still produce a good lard that is very useful in the kitchen. 

  • 1 pound of goose fat, leaf lard or pork fat from the back or the belly
  • 1 mid sized onion (optional)
  • 1 mid sized tart apple such as Braeburn (optional)
  • majoram (optional)
  • sea salt (optional)
  • several pint size jars or other containers with a lid 

Cut the fat into small cubes. If you are planing to keep the rendered out Grieben (cracklings) you may want to cut the pieces a little more neatly. But remember that they shrink and shrivel down quite a bit. Use a heavy pot with a lid to render the fat on medium low heat. Cover it half way with the lid if it starts to splatter too much. 

If you want to use your Schmalz for cooking and baking, simply render it until the cracklings have become brown. Then pour the liquid fat though a fine mesh sieve into the glass jars, catching the cracklings. Seal with a lid and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for months. 

Rendered goose fat is very pale yellow in color. Rendered leaf lard or other pork fat is more amber. 

Rendered goose fat is very pale yellow in color. Rendered leaf lard or other pork fat is more amber. 

If you want to make Schmalz to eat as a spread on bread, you can include the cracklings and even add onion and apple. Cut the onion very fine. Quarter and core the apple and slice the quarters thinly. Add both onion and apple when the cracklings are just beginning to brown. Caution, the boiling fat will bubble up and foam rapidly when you add the onion and apple, but only for a brief moment. Add the herbs and season with salt to taste (careful when tasting, it’s very hot!). I prefer not to season my Schmalz with salt and I do not add herbs at this point. I rather sprinkle it with a bit of salt when it’s time to eat. 

Continue to render the fat until the onion and the apples have become golden brown and the cracklings are nice and crunchy. Strain the liquid fat though a fine mesh sieve into the glass jars, catching the cracklings, onion and apple - leave some room in the jars. Let the rendered fat cool down just slightly so it will not continue to cook the solids, then add the cracklings, onion and apple. Seal and store in the refrigerator for up to two months (or three weeks if you have added apple and onion).


download and print recipe