Growing up in the Midwest and having grandmothers, and a mother, that did copious amounts of baking I was fortunate to have an early indoctrination to lard. This is a place where lard is held in high regard. I’m guessing that many of you don’t have much of a familiarity with lard, beyond the derogatory words associated with it that have been flung around millions of playgrounds over the years.
Health providers have been on the rampage against trans fat for years. It’s gotten to the point where states have gotten involved with the banning of trans fats. New York’s health commissioner has gone so far as to equate the trans fat problem with asbestos and lead poisoning. While that might be a tad extreme, numerous studies have shown that trans fats are not good for us. However, lard has many redeeming qualities – seriously!
- Lard is 40% saturated fat – Butter is 60% and Palm Kernel Oil is 80%
- Lard contains 45% monounsaturated fat (the good fat) – Butter has 30%
As you can see, lard has quite a few redeeming health qualities after all. Now for the benefits of cooking with lard. Nothing makes fried foods crispier, biscuits fluffier or pie crusts flakier. But all lard is not created equal. There are some grocery stores that carry lard, but make sure you check the label carefully. Many of them have been partially hydrogenated to keep them uniform and to help increase their shelf life. Using this kind of lard does not help you if you are trying to avoid trans fats.
My lack of being able to find lard caused me to venture out on a quest to procure pork fat to render my own lard. I’ve got several upcoming recipes that will taste much better if I use lard instead of butter or oil (recipes including dim sum, pie and some fried yummies are forthcoming). Finding pork fat isn’t too easy to get from my local chain store, as they don’t do their own on-site butchering. I went to my favorite Asian grocery store and picked up 1 1/2 pounds of fresh pork fat. I got the leaf fat, which is the better fat to use for rendering into lard.
Believe it or not, rendering your own fat is not difficult and it didn’t make my house smell like a pig farm. (full disclosure – I opened up a window just in case) Plus, I got the additional bonus of cracklings. Cracklings are the crispy pieces of skin that are a by-product of rendering the fat. These can be salted and used for snacks, salad toppings or anything else you can think of.
Sometimes seemingly bad things are good for us. Well, this isn’t exactly a bad thing…it’s more of a bad thing. Are you with me? S-E-X Okay it’s not a bad thing either, it’s more of a naughty thing. Scientists have proven that the benefits of sex go beyond those of immediate gratification and carrying on the species. Having sex is a great way to boost your immune system, reduce the incidence of prostate cancer, lower stress levels and lower your cholesterol.
Makes 1 Pint
- 1 1/2 – 2 Pounds Pork Fat (leaf fat or fat back)
- 1/2 Cup Water
Open a window.
Chop fat into 1/4″ – 1/2″ cubes.
In a heavy pot add water and cubed fat.
Place the pot over medium low heat and stir every 10-15 minutes (use a metal or wooden spoon).
After the fat starts melting, you may hear some loud pops or crackling noises. This is the moisture being released from the cracklings. Now you’ll need to stir more frequently. (Do not be alarmed if you do not have cracklings in your mixture. They are only there if some skin is attached to the fat.)
If you have cracklings in the fat, they will sink to the bottom signaling that the rendering is complete. (This entire process took less than 1 hour for me.)
Line a strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Carefully strain the fat and cracklings through the cheesecloth and into the container you will be storing the lard in.
The lard will have a slight yellowish color (this is the way it should look).
Let it cool for a couple of hours. Cover with lid and place into the refrigerator. When solid, the lard will be white.
If you wish to salt the cracklings, pour them back into the heavy pot you were using for rendering the fat. Turn the heat to medium and sprinkle liberally with salt.
Stir the cracklings and salt to thoroughly coat. (they will not be on the heat very long)
Pour salted cracklings onto paper towel lined plate and let cool.