LARD: A misunderstood ingredient
It’s no secret. Lard, rendered pig fat, has gotten a bad rap for a long, long time. When I was in grade school, we had a nanny who doubled as a cook. When she made pies, she used lard in the pie crust. It never occurred to me that lard made that much of a difference until I started baking and couldn’t figure out why my pie crusts weren’t flaky and tasty. Though my baking technique never matched her years of expertise, it also had to do with the ingredients.
Then lard was gone, dubbed as bad for you. We were told that butter was better for us and everyone switched to butter or margarine. There’s been a heated discussion about margarine and butter; margarine lost and butter is still a maybe.
The nod now goes to oils, like olive oil and coconut oil, for cooking and yes, lard too. Why? Because it turns out lard is full of good fats. Lard has about 48% monounsaturated fat, compared with olive oil at 77% and butter at 30%. The main fat in lard, oleic acid, is a fatty acid that is associated with a decreased risk of depression and breast cancer.
Another reason lard is good for you is that it contains high amounts of Vitamin D, a vital fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D helps keep you healthy by boosting your immune system, and regulates and produces hormones.
We can get some of our daily vitamin D from sunshine but not as much as we require because we’re not adept at absorbing it through our skin. Other sources of vitamin D come from mushrooms or a vitamin D supplement. Grass fed pigs on the other hand, easily absorb high amounts of vitamin D and store it in the fat under their skin near their back. For this reason, when you use lard it needs to be pastured lard or lard from grass-fed or foraged pigs.
Lard tastes good, it’s economical, and it’s sustainable, meaning using the lard from a pasture-raised pig lets us use more of the animal and waste less. And chances are, lard can be sourced locally from a farmer that’s maybe 50 miles away, not from Mexico.
Molly's No Fail Pie Crust II
This pie crust is flaky and moist, thanks to lard and vinegar. Makes 4 single pie crusts.
- 4 cups white flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 2/3 cup lard
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 egg
- In a large bowl, mix together baking powder, salt and flour. Add in lard.
- In another bowl, add egg, vinegar and water and stir. Transfer into lard mixture and stir until dough is moist and forms a ball. Separate into 4 balls and wrap tightly. Use dough in 3 days or freeze for later.
Life on the Stoop's Lard Bread Recipe
This recipe makes 3 loaves of lard bread with salami, pancetta and provolone cheese.
- 1 cup lard from Pancetta pan drippings and some added water
- 1 ½ Teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon each sugar and fresh black pepper
- 1 ½ Tsp dough enhancer
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose bread flour
- 4 ½ tsp gluten
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
- 8 slices of Italian Pancetta
- ½ cup sharp Provolone Cheese
- ½ cup cubed Salami
- Render the fat from the pancetta. Put lard and water mixture into bowl first and add other ingredients. Add yeast and mix well.
- Transfer to a mixer with a dough hook and finish mixing.
- Once dough is kneaded, add pancetta, cheese and salami and knead three ingredients into the dough.
- Cut dough into 3 pieces, form into loaves and flatten slightly. Cut 3 diagonal slits in each loaf with a knife and brush lightly with some lard. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.
- Place in oven pre-heated to 450 degrees and bake for 10
minutes then brush again with fat. Lower the temperature to 425 degrees and
bake for another 7 or 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 to
Making Our Sustainable Life's Olive Oil and Lard Soap Recipe
Makes 10 – 1 inch bars of round soap
- 600 grams of lard
- 300 grams of olive oil
- 117 grams of lye
- 297 grams of water
- 1 adjustable soap mold
- Line soap mold with wax paper. The round mold sits up on its own.
- Add lye to the water. DO NOT add water to lye otherwise you may be exposed to noxious fumes.
- Melt the lard and mix with the olive oil
- Heat the lye water to 125 degrees and lard/olive oil to 125 degrees in separate pots.
- Carefully combine the lye with the lard/olive oil into a large stainless steel pot so it doesn’t splash. Mix together with a heavy plastic spoon and then continue mixing with a stick blender on low for roughly 15 minutes or until it achieves “trace” and starts to thicken.
- Add any herbs, colorants or essential oils and blend for 1-2 minutes.
- Pour the soap quickly into the mold and leave in the mold for 24 to 48 hours.
- Peel off the wax paper, and cut into bars. Place on drying racks to cure for 4-6 weeks before the soap is cured, the lye is saponified and won’t be too harsh on your skin.
So where can you get the right kind of lard? Check with your local pork or meat shop for pigs that are pastured or foraged. You’ll need to buy back fat or internal fat and then render or cook that into lard at home.
Or, if you’d like to add some healthy fats to your cooking without the hassle of rendering your own, try some lard from Fatworks. It’s great for frying and sautéing, as well as for pie crusts and pastries.
Image Credits: Pixabay
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