Sunday, November 21, 2010

21 November 1956 “Q & A Sunday: Cooking With Lard”

Today’s Q & A is concerning our old friend lard. I had a recent question in a c0mment from one of you concerning this. I have also received various letters on the subject, so let’s look at that much misunderstood cooking fat: Lard.
Now, to start with, the question I received most recently was concerning a ‘meaty taste’ to a pastry while using lard. There are two possible reasons for that result. The first, and most likely the case, is the quality of the lard. Lard is made from Pig. Any part of the pig that contains fat (lard is rendered fat) can be used in lard production. However, there are ‘better’ parts of the pig for the lard which is better suited for pastry.
The second reason could simply be that maybe one should halve the fat of a pastry recipe between butter and lard, to see if they notice a difference. Perhaps the taste is so new it became more apparent to you. I, however, think it might be the quality of lard, as I have never had my lard pastry taste of ‘meat’.
Here are three levels of Lard: “The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the "flare" visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin. Leaf lard has little pork flavor, making it ideal for use in baked goods, where it is valued for its ability to produce flaky, moist pie crusts. The next highest grade of lard is obtained from fatback, the hard subcutaneous fat between the back skin and muscle of the pig. The lowest grade (for purposes of rendering into lard) is obtained from the soft caul fat surrounding digestive organs, such as small intestines, though caul fat is often used directly as a wrapping for roasting lean meats or in the manufacture of pâtés.”
lard Now, I would love to try various types of lard, but so far have only had experience with the simple store bought version by Armour. I am still uncertain if this is Hydrogenated. If so, it might add saturated fat. The good news for lard is that it  has Less saturated fat (the bad kind) and more unsaturated fat (the good kind) and LESS cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight.
Lards use in the 19th century was often due to cost. Butter was much more expensive than lard (I imagine the process by which you make butter including the smaller about derived from it as opposed to the large quantity of lard obtained from rendering a pig is vast.)
lard2 As I am uncertain about the lard I use, I found this product which will end up next on my monthly pantry list HERE.
The more research I have done, I have begun to think that I may, when not ordering the lard mentioned above, try my had at rendering my own. It seems simple enough and I am sure I can get it easily enough from a butcher I know of in Plymouth.
This tutorial on CHICKENS IN THE YARD blog is a very good step by step to lard making. Have any of you ever tried making your own?
So, I would say, if you are new to lard use 1/2 butter 1/2 lard. You will find, however, that lard is wonderful for pastry. If any are concerned of the product itself, ask yourself that while you are eating processed chips/Doritos, fast food, any pre-packaged box food in which all kinds of bad ingredients exist. Then ask yourself, ‘Can homemade things with lard, made so you know what is going into it and eaten in moderation be really bad for you?” Also consider the ‘bad press’ lard and even butter and eggs got by our ‘good friends’ the FDA when you consider who is pushing the cheaper made mass produced products of shortening and margarine and spreads.
Now, finally, I thought with Thanksgiving on its way I would show you the carving tutorial in one of my magazines. I hope it will be helpful.carvingturkey
Happy Homemaking.


  1. All the ladies around here use lard for their fruit pies, and to me, it does have a meat taste that tastes weird with fruit. Maybe it would be ok with pot pies, but I haven't tried it.

  2. My mother used to render lard by cooking down pork fat into cracklings and using the lard for baking. Personally, I could never abide the smell of it cooking as it is very strong and turns my stomach. That said, the finished product, when used in baking of pastries, was wonderful. Tenderflake is the most common brand of lard in my area and I have used it with success.

  3. Donna, interesting you mention this. I receive produce, meats, and dairy from a small mom and pop company that delivers local organic food. When I placed my order recently I noticed they had organic, local lard on the menu. Perhaps you could find farm who makes and sells it, unless you see making it yourself as a fun challenge. I've also bought non-hydrogenated shortening at Whole Foods if you want to try it.

    I read a book within the past year that explained how, as we are all beginning to realize, that butter and lard aren't so bad as compared to the typical processed food laden American diet. Butter and lard, because they're real food and not chemicals, have nutrients that hydrogenated oils do not. Yes, butter and lard have nutrients! How liberating is that? They get the fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals we need from the animals they're made from. The animals get it by what they eat. Some of these nutrients haven't been identified yet so they're impossible to recreate in a lab. If we all just ate real food, as humans have for centuries, we'd all be better off.


  4. 50s gal,
    Thank you for your answer to my earlier question about the lard flavor. I was going to leave another comment about my "lard" experience. The first container of lard I used was the armour brand you have listed above. It really stumped me because the flavor was so strong. I couldn't see how anyone could use it for pie. I bought another container of the same brand of lard but at a different store. I just made another pie today(I am experimenting in preparation for thanksgiving...good thing I have lots of willing guinea pigs here). The results were MUCH better. There was no pork taste and the crust turned out lovely. So I think I had a bad container.
    I spoke awhile ago to a butcher in my area about buying lard from him. They have it already rendered. He said that with fresh lard it can not be stored too long as it will develop an off flavor....I think it is probably similar to the flavor that I experienced. He highly recommeded storing it in the freezer. I noticed the armour brand of lard is partially hydrogenized and has preservatives added. So I think having fresh lard would be a better choice.
    Several years ago, I chatted with a different butcher about pork(I really don't just stand around talking to butchers all the time..) He said that because of the decline in interest in lard they are breeding pigs to be much leaner. Thus, there is less lard on pigs these days.
    Have you ever heard of Doctor Weston Price? He published a book in 1939 based on his studies of primitive cultures and their diets' effect on their health. A more recent book was written based on his findings called "Nourishing Traditions". Anyway, one of his findings was that animal fats are of great importance to humans and vitamin/mineral absorption. Lard included. It is the direct opposite of what we are told today, but I think he was on to something. It is worth investigating and reading.
    I am sorry, I didn't mean to make my comment so long. Thank you once again for answering my question.
    Amy F.

  5. I have always used the Tenderflakes brand lard for my pastery crust and I have never noticed a meat or weird flavour and it truely does make a wonderful crust! A lot of it gets made around our house because my husband just loves pies. I had never thought of getting the lard right from the butcher, that is a great idea, get away from some of those preservatives!

  6. I have my great-grandmother's recipe for pie crust which includes lard. I'm sure it was the homemade rendered kind of lard as they lived on a farm, although my grandma always made her pies from the same recipe. I'm not sure what kind of lard my grandma used, though. Thanks for doing this post as I've always wondered about lard and I don't have any experience with it. I've learned lots from the comments, too.

  7. how interesting! just given you a blog award! Enjoy!

  8. Mary R-That is so odd, because I have both made and eaten other's things made with lard (even the hydrogenated lard I mentioned) and have never tasted a 'meat or pork' flavor. Maybe, as someone else said, it was a 'bad box'.
    I am always finding more and more out every day. And here I was happy as a clam using my lard only to find out I could go down one more step in the roots of my cooking and either render my own or find a local butcher who might have some as well.
    When one thinks about it we are, for all intents and purposes, animals. We, had we not civilized society, need to eat. We would get most of our nutrition from meat. As we have been made to gather nutrients from the nutrients of other animals (thus eating herbivores such as cows pigs chickens etc we get the GOOD they eat) Of course we now know thanks to "progress" what those animals now eat is overproduced inedible corn, hormones, antibiotics and I know not what else! But, it does stand to reason that to use the fat of an animal, that which we would have digested in our 'wild state' makes more sense then to have over processed plant materials pumped through machines with this and that added. And then, I sometimes laugh, at the 'up turned noses' as mentions of things like lard and butter. As if over produced soy made into cheese and 'fake meat' is somehow better for you?! Why not just grab handfuls of chemicals and have a glass of window cleaner while your at it. And this continual false effrontery at the 'idea of seeing animal parts'. Why do we shy away from the most Natural things and feel drawn to that which is the highest artifice ever! And why, prey, do vegetarians (and I am not picking on you but honestly asking you) want their non-meat items to be made into fake meat items? Why have fake bacon and fake turkey and fake chicken nuggets? Why not just eat veg in its natural form? This is an honest question not an insult or anything, so don't think I am being facetious. I am just curious.
    Anyway, my point is that I have learned more about lard and do and will try to find a more 'natural' source of it. Every time I Sherlock Holmes myself into my food I keep finding myself back in the farmyard. And see how easily a cow some chickens a pig and various game animals and some small crops could make ENDLESS healthy and delicious foods. It seems the convenience and shiny packages we find today are just too tempting, but for my part I am trying harder and harder to get closer to the farmyard and further away from the brightly colored food halls of the grocery store and big box stores. It is hard, though, isn't it?
    And maybe people get scared by things like lard and butter because they think to eat it like we eat our modern 'convenience foods' by the fistful. Handfuls of chips and gallons of soda and packets and packets of processed nuggets and I don't know what. But, honestly, a well made home-made meat pie in a lard crust with steak and kidney can fill you rather quickly. You will then have more energy to go through the day and won't have to stuff yourself. I always find as soon as I eat store bought, I cannot stop. But, when I make homemade, a few fills me up? I wonder what sort of chemical there is in such things that makes you go on and on?
    So, yes, Lard deserves more research and more experimenting by all of us and of course moderation in what we eat, I think.

  9. miss amethyst_ I am hopeless with this sort of thing. People have taken the time in the past to give me such awards and I am an utter wretch about them. Don't bother to even be kind enough to consider me, as I am hopelessly lax about following through. Perhaps I should have been saving them up all along and a made a page for them, but alas I have not.
    It makes me a poor community member in cyberspace, I know. And here I go on and on, much to all your annoyance I am sure, about community only to toss such fine and thoughtful attempts on the wayside.
    So, don't take any notice of me if I don't follow through with your award. It was very kind and I appreciate the sentiment. But, please don't take it the wrong way if I don't get around to 'passing it on' as it were, as I have said, I am a wretch and a wicked horrible blogger when it comes to awards.
    It is the same with giveaways. I once, early on, was lucky enough to win a give away of a 1950's book. I was rather happy about it, but did I ever bother to give anything away myself? No! Shameless and horrid, but alas, you must take me as I am.
    So, again, thank you so kindly, please don't let my bad manners keep you from our community or more blog, but I most likely will not follow through with the usual blog award protocol.
    Thank you again.

  10. I've been reading much on the concept of "real food" as Amy F. mentioned above. New research is showing that full fat (whole) milk, butter, and cheese is nutritionally better for us than the low fat versions, and because of the synergistic qualities of how all the minerals, nutrients, and fats work together, the "danger" from the saturated fat is relatively low. One must still follow proper portion sizes but that's true of everything. When the low-fat craze hit 30 years ago, that's when all the hydrogenated products started showing up and wreaking havoc. Real food, taken in its most natural form, is best.

  11. Now, I am not one to typically correct another persons typos. But I just had a little giggle at the typo in your first paragraph "that much misunderstood cooking FART: lard". Hee hee.

    Seriously though, love your blog!

  12. Oh Melissa how you just made me smile! I don't know where the typo is, but I am NOT going to fix it. Just think of all the giggles when others reach the FART portion of that comment. I always think faster than I type. And as I have said before PLEASE correct me one and all, only know I am hopeless at taking advice and almost never improve, so with that please point out all my foibles.

  13. oh, I better change it, I had thought it was in my comment, really fart lard, my word!

  14. I noticed the FART lard also. It gave my husband and I a good laugh last night. We needed a good laugh. Thank you!
    Amy F.

  15. I make my own lard for family consumption. Feel free to contact me for particulars.

  16. Most vegetarians eat I know eat very little in the way of fake meats. The stuff like Boca burgers and such are aimed at people looking to eat a hamburger without a ton of fat and cholesterol and such. Diet programs like Weight Watchers push those because they're lower in calories and fat plus of course the calories are easy to count because each item is basically identical and the calorie count is printed right on the box.

    Most vegetarians care about what they put in their bodies so they don't eat a bunch of processed junk. I think the most processed thing I buy on a regular basis is tofu which is made essentially the same way as cheese so it's still an unprocessed food by most people's standards. My regular shopping list consists of foods like beans, grains, and produce. All healthy stuff and all stuff the humans should be eating unlike the majority of stuff sold in the supermarket today. It drives me crazy when people say it's too expensive to eat a healthy diet. My weekly grocery bill is rarely over $40 and is often much lower if I have a week when I don't need the more expensive stuff like flour or olive oil. It was under $25 this past week and it will last me 10 days because I forgot to account for thanksgiving in my menu prep (thanksgiving groceries were separate and they came to $40 for about 8 servings) and my hubby took us out for dinner one evening.

  17. That's what I would think, as well. But I only know two vegetarians and boy do they eat JUNK. That is why when I look at my Onmivarian diet I think it healthier, as I have fresh fruit with my meat at breakfast. We eat fresh veg as well as cooked and starch (rice or potato) with our meat at dinner. While I see their freezers full of process food stuffs shaped like meat, full of chemicals and often 'no meat' seems to be a license to simply eat more things like fried bean burritos, chips, and such. It seems much healthier to eat as you are doing. I, however, like meat and find it tasty and think that the body does need it. But we Don't need all the chemicals and hormones that is why I am determined to get to the point of raising more of my own and trying to find a good source for beef locally.
    My grocery bill, as well, is 40 a week for two people, that includes meat as well. As soon as you stop buying pre made it is amazing how cheaply one can eat and how much better it all tastes!

  18. You are right. Leaf lard is the best thing to use for pie crust.

    I use 50% leaf lard and 50% butter in my pie crust:

    You can render your own leaf lard. I did. It is easy but time consuming.

    Processed lard does not give your pie justice when it comes to taste.


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