I love lard. A lot. Probably more than I should. But the fact remains that there is a lot to love when it comes to lard.
We took lard to the farmer’s market today and based on the reactions of most customers, people think lard is gross. I am here to correct this unfortunate misconception.
Lard is fat that comes from a pig. Similarly tallow is cattle fat. Butter is simply fat extracted from milk and olive oil is fat that’s been pressed out of olives. All of these fats have different properties and uses when it comes to cooking. The beauty of lard is that it is shelf stable (no refrigeration required!) and has a high smoking point. That means you can safely fry with it. Other less stable oils, like olive oil, become rancid at high heats. This not only affects the flavor but also creates carcinogenic free radicals.
Just over a hundred years ago, lard was a staple in every home kitchen. Everyone cooked with lard (and they weren’t plagued by obesity and heart disease, but that’s a story for another day). Vegetable shortenings were available, but people were distrustful of lab-made food and preferred all-natural lard to Crisco. How did we get from a tub of lard in every home to health-conscious farmer’s market customers turning their nose up at this beautiful product?
NPR has a theory which they lay out in their article “Who Killed Lard?” They blame Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and E. C. Kayser, the German scientist who discovered hydrogenation. Hydrogenation gave us Crisco, a lard-like product made from vegetable oil that was supposed to be healthier, but was actually laden with trans fats.
It is time for lard to make a comeback. I use lard every day. I cook with it. The best biscuits and pie crusts are made with lard. Sauté vegetables in it. Substitute it for butter or shortening in just about any recipe. I use it to season my cast iron. That’s another love affair of mine which deserves its own post. When a recipe requires me to grease a pan, I reach for my lard.
I also use it as a moisturizer. Working outside in the sun/wind/rain/elements leaves my skin pretty dry. Lard works better than any lotion. Plus, have you read the ingredients list on your favorite lotion recently? Chances are good the first ingredient is water and that you can’t pronounce or identify anything beyond that. Lard has one ingredient: lard! If you are worried about the smell, blend in a few drops of essential oils and you’ll have a beautiful-smelling, all-natural, chemical-free moisturizer!
Be sure to buy lard from a reliable source. Most grocery store lard has been at least partially hydrogenated. Why? I have no idea. Because they can?
For more about lard:
- Lard: The New Health Food (Food & Wine)
- Lard (Slate)
- Lard May Not Be As Bad For You (Washington Post)
- Lard Book Review (The Kitchn)
- Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient (Amazon)
Recipes & Ideas:
- Rendering lard in a crock pot
- Fried chicken
- Pie crust
- Buttermilk biscuits
- Seasoning cast iron cookware
- Moisturizer (No link for this one. Just slather it on your legs, hands, face, etc., …and don’t touch anything for a few minutes.)