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Gifted Gourmet

Believe it or not: in praise of ... yes, lard!

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article in NYT

The stage might be set at last for the comeback of the great misunderstood fat: lard... The baker proudly led me to a tub of golden lard he had bought from the farm down the road. I was looking at a tub of joy... Vegetable shortening, of course, tastes like greasy nothing. And there is ample evidence, as the city health department knows, that it is anything but good for you... Butter, cream and egg yolks were the first to go, to the heartbreak of cooks just learning the glories of French cuisine, and lard soon followed. Besides, lard seemed old-fashioned - redolent of poverty and its companion cuisines.

So, time to fess up here: do you bake with lard? Or use it in your cooking in other ways?

Is lard actually the devil in a shiny, oily disguise? Talk to me ...


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I must confess I have a block wrapped up in the back of my fridge.

Empirically speaking, pie crusts made with a bit of lard do come out pretty flaky, but I'm not sure whether it truly is flakier than ones made with butter/shortening. I think someone must have done a blind taste test on this (Cook's Illustrated anyone?)

I have never used shortening in my baking/cooking just because of a personal bias.

I am tempted to one day make some frites using a big tub of lard just to see how they taste.

To share an anecdote, I once made an apple tart with a crust made with lard and brought it to the hospital during teaching rounds. The cardiologist commented on how flaky and light the crust was. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was made of lard..... what you don't know can't hurt you. :raz:

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I didn't have the heart to tell him it was made of lard..... what you don't know can't hurt you.  :raz:

Unfortunately, this is often not the case ... interesting story though!


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I always have lard on hand. Refried beans just taste 2 dimensional cooked in anything else. When making pasties, I use it for the crust and I like to use a little in buttermilk biscuits.

Some of my favorite Chinese dishes call for finishing with a spoonful of lard.

And remember it doesn't have transfats unless it has been hydrogenated.

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I adore lard. I got used to it, without realizing what I was eating, in pastry items in China, and then when I left China I just forget all about that particular taste.

Fast forward a few years (well, a decade and then a few more years as well). There I was in Spain eating some cookies and trying to figure out what it was that was making them so delicious and why they kept making me think of things I'd eaten in China.

Well, the answer was lard.

So when I got back home the first thing I did was run out and buy a couple of tubs of it (not exactly hard to get hold of in Germany :wink: ). A plain one for cooking with, and a salted one with little bits of pork crackling in it for spreading on toast. Heaven.

Since then I've been using it for frying up onions and the like around about one quarter of the time I fry anything (the rest is divided between ghee - even more unhealthy than lard?? - butter, and various types of oils). IMO lard adds a certain sumptousness and depth of flavor to a dish, particularly soups.

Is it really all that bad? All things in moderation, and all that...

And even if it should be bad, better a small quantity of food that is utterly delectable, I feel, than a large quantity of food that tastes like nothing, or tastes worse than nothing, but is meant to be 'healthy'.

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Great to see lard being restored to its rightful place. Along with butter, its exile has been way too long. I would not make pastry without it (half butter, half lard) and it is wonderful for making roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. No fridge should be without it.

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the fat profile of lard. It has half the level of saturated fat of palm kernel oil (about 80 percent saturated fat) or coconut oil (about 85 percent) and its approximately 40 percent saturated fat is lower than butter's nearly 60 percent. Today's miracle, olive oil, is much lower in saturated fat, as everyone knows, but it does have some: about 13 percent. As for monounsaturated fat, the current savior, olive oil contains a saintly 74 percent, yes. But scorned lard contains a very respectable 45 percent monounsaturated fat - double butter's paltry 23 or so percent.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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pie crust, absolutely.........

especially a savory pot pie..........

even better is popcorn, popped in the stuff...................

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Just need to add that those bleached white bricks you buy at the grocery store are a sad imitation of real lard and I'm sure the over-bleaching and processing have some less than savory side effects.

You need to know a good butcher, make your own or move to San Francisco and get the carnitas drippings from La Palma.


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

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

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I rendered a bunch of leaf lard from a hog we bought and had butchered to specs. There was so much leaf lard in that bag, I still wonder whether we got the unclaimed fat from other people's hogs too. At any rate, it's lovely stuff but I'm still getting used to using it, and don't always think to do so.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Just need to add that those bleached white bricks you buy at the grocery store are a sad imitation of real lard and I'm sure the over-bleaching and processing have some less than savory side effects.

Most commercial lard is partially hydrogenated; it's why it can be formed into bricks and will hold that shape at room temperature. Am pretty sure the figures jinmyo quotes are for non-hydrogenated artisanal lard, which is almost always sold in tubs. Much commercial lard also contains BHT and other preservatives to extend shelf life.

Portuguese and hispanic butchers and grocery stores often have the good stuff.

I use it mainly in pastries and Mexican food. It's also the best fat for sautéing pork and maybe even lamb.

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I used leaf-lard for pie crusts last year and it was awesome. I use regular lard --which usually render myself -- in all sorts of things... usually pastries (in place of crisco) but also mexican food, etc.

Those white bricks of Armour Lard are gross... nothing like real lard. You might as well use Crisco.

~A


Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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I haven't found any worth buying, so I just head down to the local mexican carniceria and get a few pounds of pork back fat - which they sell to me for about $1 - and render up my own. That way I get my precious cracklings! Yum.

Love pie crusts with lard. They are indeed flakier. Very nice for apple-based pies.


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Lard rules for pie crusts! I found a butcher here who will basically give me the leaf fat because no one else wants it. :huh:

Even if it isn't readily available in your supermarket, they may be able to special order it for you. Our local Kroger will order a 50# block of it (@ $1/lb). The butcher there said if I didn't want it all, he would sell me part and make the rest into suet (lucky birds). He is willing to sell me as little as 10#, which would make a fair amount of lard. (luckily it freezes well). If my other, basically free, source dries up I'll do that. But I won't be without good lard again.

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Where would I be without lard! Sure it has a bad rep, but it's a lot better than any hydrogenized fat (yes, I'm talking about margarine and "I can't believe it's not butter")

There's no better fat to cook your regional latin american eats, like mote (also called pozole or homminy in the US) boiled and then sauteed with lard. We also use it to fry arepas or llapingachos, or to make flour tortillas and pastries.

I remember once, a couple of mexican chefs were asked if they ever considered any other type of fat for cooking in the traditional mexican cuisine, and they said that they had not. They liked using lard. Of course, some americans insisted in asking them that "surely, there has to be a good substitute that's not animal in origin and has less cholesterol" The chefs looked at each other and one of them finally said; Yeah. No. We pretty much only use lard" Me too, my brother. Me too.


Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

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Yes, ditto to all of the above, but remember that if you are using lard in a business such as a restaurant or a bakery, you are rejecting a large clientele -- Jews, Muslims, vegetarians. In places like New York City, so diverse and competitive, I would think twice.

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I use lard in pie crust, cornbread, certain very "short" cookied and for frying certain things that simply do not taste the same with any other fat. I never stopped using it. I render my own or buy the bulk stuff at the Mexican market.

You can do a simple test to see how it is different from vegetable shortening (Crisco, for instance).

Cream together lard and sugar in your mixer for a measured amount of time.

Then cream together equal amounts of shortening and sugar, same amount of time.

The lard/sugar mixture will be lighter and fluffier with more volume. It also tastes like something you would like to eat. The shortening/sugar mixture is bland, bland, bland, greasy sugar and that is all.

I do not use lard if I am preparing something for people whose dietary laws do not allow it. However I do have friends who keep kosher at home but are not strict when out, and in fact we actually met at the Newport Lobster Fest, several years ago and the first time they came to my home for dinner I had prepared a peach pie. When they mentioned something about their kosher kitchen, I was horrified. I apologized and said I would prepare a different dessert for them.

Arnold simply said that there was no way he was going to miss having a piece of that pie and his wife Mimi agreed. She said they had just spent a month in Mexico and would have starved had they adhered strictly to the dietary laws.

In any event, I never believed that lard was all that bad, healthwise. A lot of people I know, who consumed it all their lives, seem to have aged well.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I rendered another batch this weekend, and wonder whether I overcooked it. Although my thermometer never indicated higher than 207F, the alarm (set at 220F) kept beeping at me. The drained, clarified lard has a slight golden tone. After I drained and strained that lard (cheesecloth in a chinoise) I put the strained material back in the pot and did quite a bit more cooking before I got cracklings. The lard strained from that batch is a bit darker, but still more gold than brown. My previous batch of lard (first attempt) was snowy white, and when I'd first started this batch the spoon drippings were clear to white. Did I overcook? A little, a lot?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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A little, it sounds like.

When I am using lard in sweet pastry, I go as low and slow as possible, to avoid caramelizing the protiens. When I want a good, porky flavor for use in savory foods, I put the spurs to it, and end up with cracklings.

You can actually get both kinds from a single batch of fat: Go slow, use water to help melt the fat (it will simmer off and/or remain liquid when chilled, thus easily poured off). Then, once you've skimmed off the mild lard you need for baking, keep going to the cracklings stage and use the golden lard in cooking.

~A


Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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I'm a regular lard freak. I love it!

But Rancho Gordo is, as always, completely right. Leave that shelf-stable Armour (hot dog drippings?) stuff behind and step up to the real deal.

I recommend rendering your own after a visit to a good butcher. There are quite a few instructions on how around here.

For an awesome treat get yourself some good leaf lard. The fat around the kidneys is incredibly clean and works great in pastry. I can't wait for my uncle's brutal pig slaughter in November.

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I think lard is another thing that got a bad rap. When we stopped eating unhealthy lard and started eating pure, white shortening was when the trouble really started.

I don't use lard very often, but I never use shortening at all. A few years ago, I made my own lard (the stuff you get at the store is hyrdrogenated) and did a side by side bakeoff of pie crust. The lard made the flakiest crust, no comparison. The very best pie crust was one made with a combination of lard for texture and butter for flavor.

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Lard fans, check out the Polish "Fit through Fat" diet that got some press this spring:

http://www.kbtx.com/news/features/4/1413072.html

I love lard in my tamales, but go for butter in piecrust. For cooking fat I just save my bacon grease-- pork fat, salt, and smoke all together! (And if we're cooking the Nueske's pepper bacon, pepper too.)

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at the risk of being immodest, the los angeles times did an entire section on cooking with lard in 1994, the point being its nutritional superiority to butter. and yes, it is almost impossible to find lard worth cooking thhese days.

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