I haven’t found a good local source of lard — AKA good old-fashioned rendered pig fat.
(If you live in the Texas Hill Country and know where to get lard, please let me know!)
Before the age of hydrogenated Crisco, Lard was King. Only the industrial revolution, with it’s filthy animal husbandry, gave lard a bad name. Science promised us better, healthier fats and gave us… hydrogenated vegetable oils (the HORROR!).
And now, for whatever reason, all the lard available in grocery stores is hydrogenated. I have no idea why.
These days, lard is making a comeback. Don’t believe me? Check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
From the article:
“It’s not the demon that it’s portrayed as,” says Shirley Corriher, a biochemist and author of several books on the science of cooking.
Lard could also play a role in restoring an important balance between the types of polyunsaturated fats in our diets, says Susan Allport, author of “The Queen of Fats” (2006). In the last century, use of corn, peanut, safflower and sunflower oils, which have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, surged in the American diet. Consumption of omega-3s, found in leaves and some animal fats, has flattened or fallen.
The ratio between these two fats, which carry out completely different tasks within cells, appears to be critical – and way out of whack. Typical lard is low in omega-6s, which alone argues for its use over most seed oils, Allport says. Better still, free-range pigs that feast on greens and tubers instead of grains produce meat and fat with higher levels of omega-3s…
What’s that you say? Free-range meats are higher in Omega-3s and offer a healthier balance of fats?
The article continues:
The organic and sustainable food movements contend the industrial food system’s reliance on drugs, chemicals and unnatural feed are sickening humankind and the environment in manifold ways. The increasing use of lard fits right in – it’s hardly ecologically consistent to buy a free-range animal and then toss out 15 or more pounds of a perfectly usable part.
“That’s one of our core beliefs,” says Scott Vermeire, farmers’ market manager for Prather Ranch Meat Co., the organic animal operation in the Mount Shasta foothills that began retailing lard from Berkshires earlier this year. “We try to have the most reverence for the animal by using it from head to tail.”
Fortunately, the specific properties of pork fat make it a versatile tool, a veritable lipid chameleon. Because of its high smoke point, lard is exemplary in frying and sauteing, producing the clean and crisp results that Perbacco’s Terje seeks. Because lard has little water and melts into comparatively large crystals, it acts as ideal spacers between layers of dough, creating flaky and tender pastries.
I appreciate the age old ethic of consuming every usable part of an animal, and the writer in me especially liked the phrase “a veritable lipid chameleon.”
So, a group of friends and I are thinking of getting together to render lard ourselves. The SFChronicle article included a handy recipe for doing just that.
I’ll keep you posted on the results.