Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 22, 2011

The Other ‘L’ Word

I come to praise the Lard, not to bury it. That’s right: Lard. The other white fat. Lard from pigs. Lard which is forgotten, except when it’s reviled. Lard featured in recipes as, or more, frequently as butter. Mind you, I’m talking Lard from pastured pigs raised on forage and descended from heritage breeds. So not the blocks of solid, blank white stuff in the cold case at the supermarket. Lard from a pig your farmers market farmer sells you. Lard from the on-line CSA. Lard from the foodshed butcher shop.This is the Lard you want. This is the Lard you shall seek out. This is the Lard which will change your life.

And I’m not just saying all this ’cause I have more than fifty pounds of Lard rendered already and at least that much more to go. I’m saying this ’cause I use the least grades of Lard I render when I’m sautéing and frying. I use the medium grades of Lard for glossing my potatoes when they go into the oven to bake, for basting my meats, and as the foundation of my roux. And I use the leaf Lard, a glowing church-candle white, for my baking and pastry dough.

For me, cooking is often laced with politics. As I grow and learn and become, my take on the politics shifts. When I cooked for a vegan caterer, I educated myself about vegan concerns in order to be able to work with confidence and correctness when I constructed new recipes and full menus. Now I’m a pig farmer. And I have been educating myself about the uses of the amazing Lard we generate with every round of pork we bring back from the butcher.

As a locavore, one of the most appealing facets of Lard’s contribution to my diet is its carbon footprint. It’s the only local fat in real volume to which I have access. I won’t rule out acquiring the machinery and learning to harvest and press wild nuts for their oil. But I will remind everyone nut oil is extremely volatile. It won’t stay fresh without special handling as it’s pressed and stored. And it requires refrigeration to keep from breaking down within a matter of weeks from its pressing. Mandatory refrigeration plays Merry Hob with the carbon footprint of any food stuff. Lard is happy enough to be properly decanted and stored in a coolish, darkish place. Like the basement, or the garage.

Beyond the indisputable environmental advantages of using Lard, there’s the matter of taste and texture. Oh boy is there ever. Lard adds a tenderness to the interiors of baked goods and a light crispness to their exteriors. Lard gives a melting quality to sweets. Lard adds depth to savory foods. And fresh Lard does all this without being intrusive. Those oatmeal cookies I made last week? Half the fat was Lard. No one cared. Everyone ate too many. And nobody could understand how the same old recipe we always use (on the box top of the container with the nice man of peaceful religious convictions) tastes so much better these days. Go ahead, get some and learn to praise the Lard with me!

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Responses

  1. So, next time I come by, can I buy some excess?

    I’ve been a little freaked out that pretty much any oil that is affordable to me is packed with genetic tampering. And of course, I don’t know if a local oil source is even available around here.

    • Of course you may have some lard. I’m not some kind of bait and switch monster! You might also try asking around at farmers markets where meat is sold. If you can get the stuff from a farmer who’s doing the pastured pig thing, you’ll know it’s local and not poisonous to your system.


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