Praise the Lard

Reader Contribution by Nicole Wilkey
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Pie season is upon us and that means pie crust! Butter makes a delicious pie crust, but do you know what makes an even more amazing pie crust? Lard! We are big believers in ‘nose-to-tail’ whole animal butchery, meaning no part of the animal goes to waste just because it may seem ‘gross’ in our society. Pig fat is an amazing nutritional resource that can be utilized and cooked down into lard.

Types of Lard

Leaf Lard: is considered to be the highest quality coming from the ‘leaf’ of fat surrounding the kidneys. Best for baking as it is flavorless.

Fatback: is considered second highest in quality and makes up the largest volume of fat off a pig as it is the hard, subcutaneous fat from just under the skin.

Caul Lard: lower in quality, this is the ‘lacy’ looking fat surrounding the digestive organs.

Not just for the flakiest ever pie crust though, lard is great for all general cooking such as pan frying, sautéing, browning and baking, both for sweet and savory. Lard has a high smoke point; it is high in fatty acids such as oleic acid; it has zero trans-fats; full of monounsaturated fats {MUFAs} and if it comes from pasture raised pigs, they have spent a lot of time in the sunshine which translates to high levels of Vitamin D {10,000 IU/tbsp}. I do recommend that you do find a high quality lard source- pastured pigs, humane conditions and untreated. Some commercialized lard can often be hydrogenated, bleached, deodorized and have additives. Even better, having your own fat to render, either from your own pigs or sourcing from your local hog farmers or butchers. As always, know your food!

Lard has gone many years with a bad reputation, replaced for many decades with highly processed vegetable oils, but people are returning to the idea that lard is truly one of the healthiest fats you can use for cooking. Historically speaking, lard was very widely used until the industrial revolution, even taking the place as a spread on bread in many rural areas. Speaking of lard as a spread, have you ever had ‘Whipped Lardo’? It’s whipped lard mixed with garlic and herbs, giving you the creamiest savory spread around. I have a recipe for it here. Lard also fits well into many of today’s popular diets such as the Paleolithic Diet, Ketogenic Diet and the Primal Diet.

Different breeds of pigs also produce a difference in lard. Some of the best known ‘lard pig’ breeds are Mangalitsa and Large Black pigs. In 2016 we butchered a Large Black pig and in early 2018 we butchered our first Mangalitsa Cross pig…the amount of lard was amazing! The fat cap was the biggest I had ever seen, not to mention the beautiful marbling throughout the meat, and we have been enjoying that lard in many different ways.

Not just for cooking, lard can also be used to make soap. All soap recipes require fats for the saponification process, and lard creates a creamy and conditioning bar of soap. As you can see, lard really is a great resource we have available to us as a byproduct of pork farming. The more that people can get on board with the idea of ‘nose-to-tail’ or whole animal butchery, the closer to nature our food supply becomes.

If lard is something you’d like to incorporate into your life, visit your farmers markets, befriend the butchers or talk to your local farmers. Lard is a sustainable, healthy and traditional fat we are happy to have in our kitchen. As always, praise the lard!

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run the California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sell goats milk soap and lotion. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook.

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