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El Poder de la Manteca


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While shopping at my local Mexican grocer yesterday for ingredients for a pipian rojo, I asked if she carried fresh lard. "Of course, just over there." You mean the cajeta/chicken stock-looking stuff in the plastic containers? "Si, claro."

I've never purchased fresh lard. La Kennedy says to avoid the "dead white" stuff from the supermarket. I'll eventually go down to the West Village or Ninth avenue to buy some from one of the Italian butchers, but for now I'm using the home-rendered product. From what I could gather, with my broken Spanish, it's made from chicharron cooking, thus the deep golden color.

I must say, it's lovely in my Pipian. It certainly adds a depth that vegetable oil probably would not.

So, having never shopped for manteca in Mexico, I'd like to know if this is usually the source, and color, of the savory cooking lard there?

-Lisa

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I'm beginning to feel about a million years old because when I was growing up in England (and it wasn't the dark ages, just before the ubiquitous bottle of cooking oil) lard was the cooking fat when dripping ran out. Dripping was the fat rendered by cooking roasts or bacon, carefully preserved in separate bowls and only used for the meat in question. I could go on about lard but this is a Mexico thread.

So to get back to Mexico. Here you can buy three lard-like things. (1) what seems to me a fairly nasty white lard substitute--Mexico's not-so-good (n my view) equivalent of Crisco which itself is a lard substitute. (2) regular white lard which is fairly hard to come by though it lurks in the big grocery stores such as Wal-Mart. (3) Brown lard which is, I think, lard heated to cook carnitas and chicharron and which is available from butchers who prepare these wonderful things. I use it for refried beans.

But the bottle of oil is as ubiquitous here as elsewhere. Those who can afford it use it all the time. Those who can't don't make many refried beans.

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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Lately I have been using goose fat instead - it works quite well for most dishes, unless you want vegetarian, but then you would not be using lard anyway...

I also interchange tho, between lard and oil, depending on how light/heavy I want any specific dish - but for real flavour, you can't beat it...

caroline, seems like we have gone backwards, I left Mexico and am now in London

Where do you live?

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Greetings Sandra. Hope you enjoy England as much as I enjoy Mexico. I live in Guanajuato (capital) and spend a good bit of time in Mexico City,

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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El Pipila, one of my favourite stories from school - And a great statue!

But, really? De veras? Unless things have changed in the last week, Mexico City (DF) is the capital, not Guanajuato...

When I was little we used to take "foreigners" to see the mummies, used to freak them out!

:laugh:

How long have you lived over there?

El Pipila

edited to state: We love England, going for our citizenship as we speak...

Edited by sandra (log)

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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De veras. (Mexico City) DF is THE Capital. But because Guanajuato is the name of the state capital and the state, se habla de Guanajuato capital y Guanajuato estado. And because San Miguel de Allende is in Guanajuato and everyone assumes every gringo is from there..well, it's useful to make it clear it's not SMA. It's a great city and the mummies still draw huge crowds.

To make it clear this is a food posting, I should admit that everyone agrees that Guanajuato is not, absolutely not, a culinary capital.

We've been here six years, Mexico almost ten. And where are you from?

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I see where you were going with this... and I have to say, it's just for that reason that I am not a big fan of SMA...

Funny you should ask where I am from - I just wrote a mini bio lately in the member bios section -

I grew up in Mexico City - still go back often and really miss it, but not enough to move back, yet...

And to make it food related.... I wish right now I had unos chilaquiles, unos taquitos, unas chalupas, y una jicama! Why oh why can't I get a jicama in London!!??!!

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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I'm beginning to feel about a million years old because when I was growing up in England (and it wasn't the dark ages, just before the ubiquitous bottle of cooking oil) lard was the cooking fat when dripping ran out. Dripping was the fat rendered by cooking roasts or bacon, carefully preserved in separate bowls and only used for the meat in question.  I could go on about lard but this is a Mexico thread.

Ahh...dripping on bread or toast, salted, another treat the food police deny us. Needlessly, according to Dr Atkins

Rich, savoury, and with the jelly bits and the crispy scratchings (or grattons).

EVOO is no substitute.

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I'm beginning to feel about a million years old because when I was growing up in England (and it wasn't the dark ages, just before the ubiquitous bottle of cooking oil) lard was the cooking fat when dripping ran out. Dripping was the fat rendered by cooking roasts or bacon, carefully preserved in separate bowls and only used for the meat in question.  I could go on about lard but this is a Mexico thread.

Ahh...dripping on bread or toast, salted, another treat the food police deny us. Needlessly, according to Dr Atkins

Rich, savoury, and with the jelly bits and the crispy scratchings (or grattons).

EVOO is no substitute.

Wonderful stuff. I miss it

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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In one of the threads recently, I described a method for rendering lard that gives you three products. There is the light colored with little flavor, great for baking. The second product is more of a yellow color and is great for savory cooking. The third is the bottom of the pot with little browny bits left after you have removed the "cracklins" (eat yourself or share with VERY good firends). That bottom of the pot stuff is called asiento and is used as a topping or a spread on tortillas. YUM!

Avoid the white stuff on the shelf. It has been hydrogentated and is nasty tasting, lousy texture and it is bad for you... unlike lovely, lovely fresh lard.

I will do a search and see if I can find that thread.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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  • 1 month later...

The brown lard does, indeed, come from the vat where the carnitas are 'poached' in rendered pig fat. And the schmear on toast you long for? There is a caramelly looking glop mined from the very bottom of the carnitas cooking vat, replete with little pork crispies embedded in it. Try THAT smeared on a freshly made, real corn tortilla. A working definition of ecstasy. It is called asiento. It is also the Rolls Royce of fats for making refried beans.

We can find that tanned, fresh lard and the asiento in any Mexican market or store that makes its own carnitas. I have several photos of the 'Carnitas Corner' in the Tehuacan, Puebla market. They were using huge galvanized wash tubs, seated over braziers. One gentleman was stirring the magic cauldron with a boat's oar! There they make carnitas, chicharrones, lard, and asiento - all in one operation. I'll try and get the negatives scanned, and run a picture on the thread.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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There was a pretty good article in Saveur (not online) a few months ago about "leaf lard", which discussed the unacceptability of the hydrogenated mass-produced lard. Rick Bayless says (from memory) that Mexicans render lard at a higher temp. than in the US, which makes it brown y sabroso -- he suggests 350 degrees in the oven. I have found US pork so lean that it's tough to get a lot of lard out of a shoulder. The best thing to do would be to buy fatty scraps from a butcher, if you could. Or make your own chicharron. Of course in Mexico you can buy the good stuff.

As far as people who can afford it buying vegetable oil, taste is culturally-economically constructed, isn't it? A lot of Mexicans prefer Bimbo tortillas, snow white and loaded with chemicals. Here in Alta California, tortillas made of nothing but masa and cal are labelled "gourmet." In the same way New Yorkers happily fork over $13 for a Balthazar "peasant loaf," whereas actual peasants have spent the last 1000 years fantazing about sterile white bread.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lard, redux: I often teach tamale making classes in local cooking schools and in people's homes (I guess I facilitate tamaladas), and the footprints of the anti-lard lobby are always apparent all over my students.

Yes, lard is a saturated fat. However. Not all things that lard contains are bad for you, nor is lard a completely saturated fat (I believe that means that some to several of the carbon docking spaces on the carbon ring are not filled with hydrogen atoms - the more of those docking spaces that are filled, the greater the degree of saturation of the fat, and, presumably, the firmer it is at room temp).

We all have been (over)warned on the subject of saturated fats. And now we are being deluged with the extremely bad press on trans-fats. (My general understanding is that these are mono and poly unsaturated fats, which have hydrogen bubbled through them. The hydrogen hooks up at the empty carbon docking bays on the ring, and a trans fat is created: solid, and very, very shelf stable.) We now read that these are worse for us than saturated fats. Hooray and pass the tamales by the dozen!

Not so fast. Lard phobics have turned to Crisco - the dowager empress of trans-fats to enrich and lighten their tamale masa. Well, good. Now we can use lard, and not feel too guilty. Well, yes ... if you make it yourself. Go to the super and look at the packages and buckets of lard. They all say "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" pork fat. Hydrogenation equals trans-fat, so its like firing both barrels at the same time.

That is why you would do best to either find a Mexican grocery/shop that makes carnitas, and buy the brownish, liquidy lard, or else, Rick Bayless or Diana Kennedy in hand, make your own.

Zarela Martinez authored a piece a few years ago entitled "Praise the Lard", in which she discusses the chemical composition and dietary pros and cons of homemade lard. I had a copy, I lost it. If anyone has it or can find it, I'd love to get my hands on it again.

Theabroma

The

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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i ate a lot of asiento in oaxaca this summer--not always by choice--it was smeared in the tlayudas. thea--thanks for explaining where it comes from--i did not know!

but i did know that the lard used in mexican kitchens is runny and brownish looking, often kept in a plastic baggy inside another plastic tub. and it can be expensive.

i have no idea how anyone could produce a vegetarian tamale. i have tried making tamales once this summer and i substituted my own rendered duck fat for the lard. the flavor was pretty good. but the texture is tricky--the lard has to be beaten into the masa with a strong arm.

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i have no idea how anyone could produce a vegetarian tamale. i have tried making tamales once this summer and i substituted my own rendered duck fat for the lard. the flavor was pretty good. but the texture is tricky--the lard has to be beaten into the masa with a strong arm.

The real shocker for me was to learn that tamale dough, or masa for tamales, prior to the Spanish Conquest, was made without fat - hogs & cattle, the most prodigious producers of carcass or dairy fats, were brought from Europe. There were neither animals nor plants - nor plant processing technologies capable of yielding fat in the quantities necessary for making tamale masa as we have come to know it. However, after the conquest, fat sources began to appear - the leading contender being lard.

Moving toward the present time fat options have increased. Today the most common 'alternative' fat used in tamale making is shortening, or hydrogenated vegetable oils (most notably, Crisco bran). But it is not at all uncommon to find special occasion tamales - certainly sweet ones, made with butter.

In any case you will have great results if you whip the fat in a sturdy stand mixer w/the paddle attachment. Then toss in the masa in little chunks, then the salt, bp, and liquid. A spoonful of this masa should float in a bowl of cold water - that means that you have whipped enough air into it.

If you are using butter, you may need to add a bit of cornstarch or rice flour as a binder. Butter contains up to 20% water and non-fat solids. I have also made 'kosher' tamales using shmaltz for the fat (delicious, but a decidedly different taste), and coconut fat.

Since trans-fats are so wicked, it has taken much of the sting out of using saturated fats. Butter gives a wonderful taste to the masa; it yields a delicate finished product. If you want to avoid fat altogether, you can use some boiled, peeled, riced, and whipped potatoes - irish or sweet (sweet works better), in place of fat. It results in a heavier tamale, but with great flavor.

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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    The real shocker for me was to learn that tamale dough, or masa for tamales, prior to the Spanish Conquest, was made without fat - hogs & cattle, the most prodigious producers of carcass or dairy fats, were brought from Europe.  There were neither animals nor plants - nor plant processing technologies capable of yielding fat in the quantities necessary for making tamale masa as we have come to know it.  However, after the conquest, fat sources began to appear - the leading contender being lard.

I have wondered about this myself. I have not seen described what the "original" tamale consisted of. (But then, I haven't looked all that hard.) I do wonder about a source for fat, though. The native americans did use game animals for fat. I have been told, and have read, that the true origin of fried turkey is really pre-conquest. When the natives would kill a bear, for example, they would render the fat and fry the wild turkeys, geese, ducks and other fowl. The story goes that the technique was "rediscovered". That makes me wonder what kind of fat sources may have been available. Water fowl? Geese and ducks can have prodigious amounts of fat. Fat can be rendered in pottery vessels by including water. In fact, that is one way to start rendering lard that is used today. The Aztecs, (well, the elite, anyway) were sophisticated enough that they had shrimp and other shell fish delivered to the interior by runners from the coast. That makes me think that they may have developed some source of fat for their tamales and only later substituted the lard. I would love to find a comprehensive study of pre-columbian cooking.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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  The real shocker for me was to learn that tamale dough, or masa for tamales, prior to the Spanish Conquest, was made without fat - hogs & cattle, the most prodigious producers of carcass or dairy fats, were brought from Europe.  There were neither animals nor plants - nor plant processing technologies capable of yielding fat in the quantities necessary for making tamale masa as we have come to know it.  However, after the conquest, fat sources began to appear - the leading contender being lard.

I have wondered about this myself. I have not seen described what the "original" tamale consisted of. (But then, I haven't looked all that hard.) I do wonder about a source for fat, though. The native americans did use game animals for fat. I have been told, and have read, that the true origin of fried turkey is really pre-conquest. When the natives would kill a bear, for example, they would render the fat and fry the wild turkeys, geese, ducks and other fowl. The story goes that the technique was "rediscovered". That makes me wonder what kind of fat sources may have been available. Water fowl? Geese and ducks can have prodigious amounts of fat. Fat can be rendered in pottery vessels by including water. In fact, that is one way to start rendering lard that is used today. The Aztecs, (well, the elite, anyway) were sophisticated enough that they had shrimp and other shell fish delivered to the interior by runners from the coast. That makes me think that they may have developed some source of fat for their tamales and only later substituted the lard. I would love to find a comprehensive study of pre-columbian cooking.

This site is by no means comprehensive, but it deals with the African oil palm in Costa Rica, where it has been around for the past 4,000 years or so. Source of fat for tortillas is specifically mentioned:

http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/FieldCours...lHistoryof.html

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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  • 3 weeks later...

Sahagun elicited many descriptions of tortilla and tamal making from his informants, as well as describing what he himself observed; all of which is contained in the Florentine Codex. He does not mention or discuss fat. Sophie Coe indicates, as well, that fat was not used - certainly in anything approaching the 1 to 2 ratio in use today.

As for the oil palm, it is not clear from what I read whether the oil is used in making the tortilla (in which case it would likely be a wheat flour tortilla), or in making a dish like chilaquiles with the tortillas and eggs, etc.

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Anyone know if the pre-Hispanic Latin American natives used any marine sources of fat? Whales and other sea mammals have lots of fat that could have been rendered, I imagine. I don't know if they had hunted them, even, though.

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That is an excellent question. I don't know that I have ever seen the issue addressed. I am not as well read on this subject as I would like to be so the fact that I haven't seen it may not mean much.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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All very interesting questions. The problem is that our written sources for pre-hispanic food are so terribly limited. They are mainly Spanish reports obtained from elite informants who probably had little direct knowledge of the kitchen. Maybe as archaeologists get residue analysis etc cheaper and speedier, we'll get more information from archaeological remains,

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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  • 3 months later...

If you are in San Francisco, Las Palmas sells very gorgeous vats of brown lard with bits often on the bottom. I think I was told once these were the carnitas drippings. A large tub used to be about a buck and would last me most of the year. A spoonful to saute' onions and garlic for beans is customary and essential in this house!

I know next to nothing about nutrition but I understand lard is high in oleic acid and I applaud that, whatever it is!

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"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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