As I was eating a lard biscuit that I had made for dinner, I was saying to my husband, “I never thought I would be cooking with lard.” His response was, “You never thought you would be doing a lot of things that you are doing now.” He was so right.
A few years back, I would have thought cooking with lard was disgusting. Yuck, who eats pig fat? I read Capper’s Farmer and GRIT regularly so I have read the articles on the comeback of lard, but it still sounded gross to me. I have also been on a health kick the last couple of years and figured it was terrible for you.
Of course, I was wrong and I am not afraid to admit it. We raised a pig over the summer and took him to the butcher in the fall. I didn’t want to be wasteful so I asked the butcher to save me the pig fat, that I would try to make lard out of it. As I was doing my research I found out that lard is an excellent source of Vitamin D and, since the sun doesn’t shine much in Central New York, that is good news. It is also lower in saturated fat than butter, and since I am trying to keep my LDL and HDL cholesterol numbers in check, that was even better news.
So the pig fat went into the freezer for a while until a cold winter day when I needed a project.
It was the easiest project ever.
I decided to grind it through my Kitchen Aid grinder attachment first before rendering it because I read that the smaller the pieces the more it renders. To me it was not the most appealing smell in my kitchen. Once most of the fat was rendered, I strained it and put it into a mason jar.
I let it cool a little before putting it in the refrigerator and then something beautiful happened. It turned a perfect shade of white and looked like shortening. It has the faintest of piggy odor only because I was using all the fat they gave me. I learned that the fat around the kidneys is the leaf fat, which you should use to make pies and pastries. Since I didn’t know to ask the butcher to separate it, I just used what I had and it hasn’t been a problem.
The first thing I made with it was a pie crust to make a quiche. I figured a savory item would be best for the first time just in case it had a hint of piggy to it.
Well, it tasted just like pie crust, who knew? Since I keep it in the refrigerator I sometimes forget to use it and automatically reach for the olive oil or canola oil when cooking.
Since I made a venison stew for dinner this week, I tried my hand at some lard biscuits, which were super simple and super delicious. Although my waistline may not thank me if I keep using lard to make pies and biscuits, it's not the lard's fault. If you haven’t tried it, I suggest you do.
Photos: iStockphoto.com (2): skillet, eyjafjallajokull; spoon, Szakaly
I did read somewhere that the stuff they sell in the store isn’t nearly as good for you as the lard you make yourself. If you can find a butcher who will sell you pig fat, then I suggest you try to make it. I have more pig fat in the freezer to make another batch when I am done with this jar. I know that you can make a large batch and it freezes well.
So our piggy adventure will continue in the spring when we try our hand at two pigs this year. My neighbor raises pigs, which started out as his homeschool project. If he didn’t sell them, not sure we would have ever gotten a pig. I miss Piggy a little, but he sure does taste good.
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