One doesn’t usually think of the Industrial Revolution affecting food. In the case of lard vs. vegetable shortening, it definitely did affect the outcome.
Lard, until the Industrial Revolution, was the fat of choice, used in place of butter in many homes. Rendered from pig fat, lard was an important factor in cooking and baking, resulting in light, flaky pie crusts and delectable cookies and pastries.
Many people, in fact, still consider lard a key ingredient in such items as pasties, those Cornish meat pies that are popular in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan.
By the way, lard comes from pigs. Suet and tallow are the terms used for rendered fat from cattle and sheep.
The Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) lowered the cost of vegetable shortening and made it more readily available to the urban population. Use of lard became less frequent as cooks and bakers chose vegetable alternatives.
In the late 20th century, lard fell even further out of favor. Considered less healthy than vegetable oils and shortenings, lard was regarded as high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Then came a revelation of sorts – lard is a good thing, in moderation, of course. Lard is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it has more unsaturated fat than butter. And, unlike many of the margarines and oils we’ve gone to, lard contains no trans fat.
Foodies the world over are touting the benefits and the taste of lard. Breeders and hog producers are actually considering the fat content of the animals and moving toward raising more heritage breeds.
GRIT is joining the fray with a cookbook focused on the use of lard. The recipes come from the extensive archives of GRIT and our sister publication CAPPER’s, some of which go back to the 1920s.
We’re asking for your help. We’d like to populate the cookbook with your remembrances of cooking with lard. Did your family raise hogs and render the lard? Do you remember your grandmother cooking with lard, and her philosophy surrounding cooking with lard? Do you have a favorite recipe that tastes right only when you use lard?
Send your stories (and recipes, if you’d like) to us through the comments section, or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our cookbook thanks you!
Images: iStockphoto.com/apple pie, Daniel Padovona; pasty, Karen Pritchett; pie crust, Kelly Cline