Tuesday, February 9, 2016

100% Natural Lard

I have always made the best pie crust around, learned from my mother and my grandmother--who both
swore by Crisco--not butter, not lard.  Then comes the news that Crisco (and all vegetable shortenings that are solid) contains trans-fats that are really deadly for your heart.  What to do?

I knew that old-time cooks swore by lard, so I decided to buy some from the store and try it. I didn't like the taste and I was appalled when I learned that the brand the stores offered also had trans fats in it ( partial hydrogenation used to stabilize the product).  Since we don't eat a tremendous amount of pie, I sighed and went ahead using Crisco.  Then I came upon a fantastic book entitled Real Food by Nina Planck. Opening chapter 6, "Real Fats" are these words:
     The Bad For You Cookbook, published in 1992, in the midst of the frenzy for "light" cooking, extolled lard, eggs, butter, and cream--for pleasure if not health. Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller presented their favorite recipes for shirred eggs, lard pie crust, and trout with bacon with unguarded enthusiasm--and this disclaimer:  "As for heart attacks. . . we are not going to make any hard-and-fast recommendations here because we are not doctors and--far more important--we are not lawyers."

I decided to buy this book, 100% Natural LARD,  and tried many of the recipes--wonderful!

Naturally rendered lard (as in buy it at artisanal websites or render your own), is a superior and delicious and healthy fat.  I bought some at our small-town meat locker and butcher shop, at a very reasonable price, brought it home and rendered it and have been using it ever since.  It's easy to do, cheap (when you buy it locally) and delicious!!!

Here is how to render lard as it is written in the cookbook 100% Natural Lard by the publishers of "Grit" Magazine.

How To Render Lard 
by Karen Keb
 Creating edible lard from pig fat at home involves harvesting the leaf fat (deposited in the kidney area) and back fat from the hog, grinding or dicing it, and processing. 
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 deg. F. 
  2. Fill a large roasting pan with the chopped fat. 
  3. Roast slowly for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the fat has melted and you have protein particles and connective tissue floating on top. 
  4. Skim off the solid particles and set them aside for the chickens.
  5. pour the liquid fat through a mesh colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth.
Store in a glass canning jar in the refrigerator or freezer.  It will keep for months.  
Use the lard in place of oil when frying, in pastry such as pie crusts, sauteing vegetables, or roasting potatoes.  You'll be delighted with the texture and flavor (or lack of pork flavor) that real lard--not the hydrogenated kind sold on supermarket shelves--provides. 
I was a bit skeptical at first, since I had never had lard on any regular basis, and certainly had not used it for all my frying and baking.  But I started--and now my mouth waters when I smell and taste the foods cooked in and with lard.  
This pastry recipe is fantastic; however, all the pie-crust recipes I tried with lard are a little crisper and a little less tender than with Crisco.  I have tweaked them and the answer seems to be to add more lard than the recipe calls for--but not a lot more.  I will give the recipe as it is in the book, Lard, and then show my change in parentheses.  
 Pie Crust 
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. salt 
1 1/4 (1 1/2) cups lard, cold and coarsely chopped 1/2 tsp vanilla ex
1 egg 
5 1/2 Tbsp. water 
1 tsp. vinegar 
In large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the lad until the mixture is very fine.  In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, water and vinegar.  Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the liquid; mix just until the dough comes together in a ball.  Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and flatten into disks; wrap individually in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. 
With Spring right around the corner (okay, I'm an optimist), why not try this fantastic dessert? 
Rhubarb Surprise 
1/3 cup lard, softened, plus more for greasing the pan 
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup sugar 
1/2 cup orange juice 
1/4 cup water 
3 cups diced rhubarb
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder 
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour 
1/ tsp. salt 
2/3 cup milk 
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
Whipped cream or ice cream, for serving 
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Grease an 8-inch baking pan with lard; set aside

In a saucepan combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the orange juice, and water.  Heat to boiling, add the rhubarb, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender.  Stir only once or twice to prevent the rhubarb from becoming mushy.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, cream together the lard and the remaining 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy.  Beat in the egg, baking powder, flour and salt.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat until well mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover with the rhubarb mixture.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

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