Oh My Lard!

Dear Lard:

I have been unfair and have misjudged you. It was wrong of me to believe all those nasty rumors and stereotypes without getting to know you personally. I apologize for the numerous fat jokes I have made about you. Thank you for making my pie crusts so flaky and delicious and my egg so tasty.

Pumkin Pie with Whole Wheat Lard Pie Crust

Tasty egg frying in fresh lard - my first taste.

Last week I rendered lard. Never in a million years would I have believed that this journey would bring me here.

The pork fat pictured above comes from around the kidneys and is used to make leaf lard, which is “high end” lard prized by pastry chefs. It has a pretty neutral taste compared with regular lard (which is usually made from fat back). The pig farmer gave me both types and said that she usually mixes the two, but since this is my first time and I wanted to compare them, I rendered them separately.

Ewww. I hate my stove.

 

She also directed me to their website for directions, which I used. I started out following what looked like a handy “tip” from another blog. Rather than taking the time to cube the fat, I cut it into large chunks and gave it a whirl in the food processor. BIG MISTAKE. I spent more time trying to get it out of the food processor than it would have taken to cube it. I also wasted a good bit, because I got frustrated and threw it in the sink with some dirty dishes. Some of the icky dish water splashed inside. I don’t really know how to explain how gooey this stuff was. Glue would have been easier to extract. Even peanut butter isn’t that gooey. Cement maybe? Here’s my tip – DON’T EVER DO THAT.

So after that little debacle I went back to my trusty, all-in-one, good for everything tool, a sharp knife, and cut it into one inch cubes. Things went smoothly from there. I’d guess it took me about a half hour to chop up 9 pounds of fat. Then I just let it render on the stove. According to the directions, it would take just a couple of hours. When I checked, the stock pot still appeared to have large pieces of fat in it, though I wasn’t really sure how to tell when it was done. I guess I thought it would all melt and I’d see those crispy cracklings. But I didn’t. My “cracklings” weren’t crackly. They were soggy. I might have had the heat too low. I don’t know what went wrong with them, but the lard turned out beautifully, so who cares?

What’s so great about this lard? It was rendered from high quality fat that came from a local, pastured, heritage breed (Tamworth) hog. The lard you might find in the grocery store would more than likely be hydrogenated, meaning it contains unhealthy trans fat, in order to give it a longer shelf life. My lard is unadulterated and has to be kept in the refrigerator (or freezer for a longer shelf life). That’s why rendering it yourself is worth the effort. It’s not like it was hard (if you skip the food processor). Cut it into cubes, drop them in a stock pot and let it melt for a couple of hours. Then pour through a strainer lined with cheese cloth into jars.

Why lard? I’ll give you the short version. It’s not as bad as you think. It’s way better for you than vegetable shortening, which is full of harmful trans fats. It’s higher in monounsaturated (good) fat than you might think (45%) and has less saturated (bad) fat than butter. Lard is about is 40% saturated while butter is 60%. (However I still believe high quality butter is a good and tasty fat when used properly.) Though saturated fat is generally supposed to raise cholesterol, the saturated fat in lard has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol. You can also use about 1/5 to 1/4 less lard in place of butter (and shortening, I think). What I mean is, my pie crust recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, but I substituted with 3/8 cup of leaf lard. The crust turned out so much better than it did when I used butter. It was more pliable and held together well – much easier to work with. It browned beautifully and more evenly and didn’t burn at all. Lard has a higher smoking point than butter. Finally, lard has been used traditionally for thousands of years and still is used regularly in other cultures. Most of those cultures are generally healthier than Americans. Since we started eating fewer traditional whole foods, including lard, and began eating more “low fat” and highly processed foods, our health has plummeted. Diet isn’t everything, but it’s a lot.

I should probably add some sort of caveat about how you should talk to your doctor about it. But to be honest, they’ll probably echo the general myth that it’s bad for you. Remember that most advice given by doctors and experts is based on the assumption that you are consuming the typical western or American diet – which is not healthy. If you aren’t eating a healthy diet to begin with, adding high quality lard probably isn’t going to do you any good. Also remember that fat is high in calories and consuming too many calories leads to weight gain and poor health. Respect the fat!

Tamworth Hogs

 

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

One Response to Oh My Lard!

  1. Pingback: 10 Things I Use Daily in the Kitchen « HealthyMamma's Blog

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