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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lard-Ass


There is no such thing as the Lard Information Council.


If someone calls you a “lard-ass,” take it as a compliment. Lard is one of the best things about pigs (after the bacon and hams and chops and cracklings, of course). Lard is the rendered thin white fat that surrounds various of the hog’s internal organs, and has been an indispensible part of old world cuisines since men first wrestled a boar to the ground, had them a fry-up and said “yum!”


Because we all know that the flavor in meat is carried in the fat (you knew that, right?), it is most often pig’s fat that is made into lard, because on the contrary, it carries little flavor. This makes it ideal as a shortening for pastry, and its high smoke point also makes it a good choice for frying. Hogs fed on their natural diet (foraged acorns and scraps) produce the most lovely tasting meat, whereas hogs fed on corn (as industrially raised ones are) have very little flavor.


While it is true that as an animal fat, lard has its fair share of saturated fat, it is worth pointing out that the same amount of butter (by weight) contains more unsaturated fats and less cholesterol. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, developed in the early 1900s made cooking with shortening possible for those whose dietary restrictions forbid pork products, and for a long time, this trend was followed in restaurants too. But recently, good old-fashioned lard is making a comeback. It’s delicacy and the ease with which we can digest it cannot be substituted for something made from soybeans.

But lard has gotten a bad rap. It’s become synonymous with wanton, endemic obesity — so much so that it has even spawned spoof posters proclaiming its health benefits, such as the one above.

The thing is — the fake poster is, well, true.

Here’s what Mrs. Beeton has to say about making your own:

Lard (to Make):

METHOD.— melt the inner fat of the pig by putting it in a stone jar, and placing this in a saucepan of boiling water, previously stripping off the skin. Let it simmer gently, and, as it melts, pour it carefully from the sediment. Put it into small jars or bladders for use, and keep it in a cool place. The flead or inside fat of the pig before it is melted makes exceedingly light crust, and is particularly wholesome. It may be preserved a length of time by salting it well, and occasionally changing the brine. When wanted for use, wash and wipe it, and it will answer for making paste as well as fresh lard.

 Here is a very nice modern version from chickensintheroad.com: Lard Recipe

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