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.”
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.)
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.