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Cooking With Lard for Old-fashioned Taste

1/19/2010 11:09:04 AM

Tags: Recipes, Cookbooks, Lard cookbook

Jean TellerOne 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.

Apple pie with gorgeous flaky crust.

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.

Cornish pasty crust is traditionally made with lard.

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.

Beautiful pie crust with grapes and vines.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 jteller@grit.com.

Our cookbook thanks you!

Images: iStockphoto.com/apple pie, Daniel Padovona; pasty, Karen Pritchett; pie crust, Kelly Cline



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Post a comment below.

 

Carla_6
9/12/2010 3:38:53 PM
My Grandma told me that the best pies need two special ingredients... lard and a wood cookstove.

Lesa Jennings_1
4/15/2010 10:01:26 AM
My dad and grandfather always butchered hogs growing up. I can remember loving the "Cracklins". Years ago we had the scalding tanks and cookers and cooked the lard down outside. In later years, dad had an old pressure cooker (the pan was really thick) that he would use to cook the lard down and would do it on the stove. I remember he had to be extremely careful that it didn't burn and that it didn't boil over.

Anna Housholder_7
2/12/2010 9:42:00 PM
Hi! I just had to tell about my experience growing up with some good food made with lard. I was the oldest of seven kids. My dad had a widowed sister who lived on a farm in southern Minnesota. She and her oldest daughter raised pigs for a living, this was at least forty years ago. She would want my dad to come over at times to butcher a pig for her. So as a family we would go and spend the day there. She would render down the fat into tubs of lard. She would use the lard in everything she baked. I remember her pies and bread. Oh, yes, especially her bread it was like melt in your mouth goodness. She won blue ribbons for bread and pies at the county fair.

Joyce_1
2/8/2010 10:19:05 PM
My grandma used lard for everything. My most cherished possession of her's is an old hand-written cookbook made by my great-grandma between 1890-1920. Amounts are written as "lard the size of a hen's egg" or "the size of a walnut". But of all the recipes, my favorite was my grandma's pancakes. After mixing the batter a bit thinner than the puffy ones of today, she'd fry them in lard in a cast iron skillet until the edges were black and crispy, then serve them with homemade syrup. Nothing can compare to that flavor, and I still make my pancakes the same way.

Joyce_2
2/8/2010 10:18:17 PM
My grandma used lard for everything. My most cherished possession of her's is an old hand-written cookbook made by my great-grandma between 1890-1920. Amounts are written as "lard the size of a hen's egg" or "the size of a walnut". But of all the recipes, my favorite was my grandma's pancakes. After mixing the batter a bit thinner than the puffy ones of today, she'd fry them in lard in a cast iron skillet until the edges were black and crispy, then serve them with homemade syrup. Nothing can compare to that flavor, and I still make my pancakes the same way.

Jean Picard_2
2/5/2010 9:27:43 PM
Hi Jean, My mother, who was born in 1921, never fell for the idea that margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oil were healthier alternatives to butter and lard; so I grew up on "the real thing." A sometimes-semi-vegetarian, I've always been a bit squeamish about lard. So I've always made my pie crusts with butter. But I've made a few with lard and, I must admit, they were scrumptious. Whether one prefers butter or lard, I would definitely recommend the organic version. Your blog has me itching to get into the kitchen and make a batch of my famous pasties (English family) with lard instead of the usual butter. --Jean Picard

Jean Teller
2/3/2010 12:09:45 PM
Thank you all for your comments! Great memories! My mom always used Crisco and I loved her pie crusts. Wonder how great they would have been with lard? Mom thinks her mother might have cooked with lard at some point, but since we were town folk, canned shortening was more readily available. I'll definitely post when the cookbook appears! Thanks again!

Jane_2
1/31/2010 2:17:18 PM
I know of two recipes that MUST have lard in them to taste as they should. One is a French Canadian one from my childhood, Soupe aux Pois, or yellow pea soup. The other is the New Mexican state cookie, the Biscochito, an anise seed laced shortbread powdered with cinnamon sugar. Heaven, both of them, but not without lard!

Lori
1/29/2010 5:37:15 AM
Jean, My Grandma always used lard in her cooking, and her food always tasted best. Her fried chicken was especially good, and there is just nothing like potatoes fried in lard! She also used it to make her pie crusts. If we happen to process a hog, or know someone else that is, we get the fat to render into lard. We don't do large amounts, and I'm not sure if there is a right or wrong way to do it, but here is what I do. I cut the fat into small chunks and put it into a pot. I turn it to a low temp on the stove top till it starts to melt down. Then, I turn the temp up a bit and stir regularly till the fat cooks down and I am left with mostly liquid. I don't use a lard press. When I think the pieces have cooked down as far as they can, I simply strain the whole works through a fine colander. The hardened pieces that are left go to the birds! They lick them up quickly!

rennie_3
1/28/2010 3:29:56 PM
You know the old ways seem better than the new ways. I grew up on a farm just outside of town. I remember the Jersey Cow and the cream and butter,the pigs we raised and the good life. The old home place is now a subdivision and I wish it were the old way. Rennie

S.M.R. Saia
1/27/2010 5:52:32 AM
Thanks for this post. I've never cooked with lard, but I found a source recently, and I've been thinking about trying it out. I'm sorry I don't have any memories or direct experience to share. I do look forward to seeing that cookbook though!

Shelly_2
1/24/2010 8:33:16 AM
My grandma and I make 20 - 25 apple pies in the fall and freeze them. We went to the orchard and picked the best apples of the day. We were excited when we peeled the apples and saw how pretty they were in the old crock. Grandma began to work up a batch of her great pie crust. The more she worked with it, the tougher it became. She blamed it on her age. That afternoon I was in our local Sav-A-Lot store and saw a tub that said "LARD" on it. I had remembered some stories grandma had told me about using lard in everything that was cooked when she was younger. I bought a small tub and took it to grandmas. Her face lit up. We had apples left over from the previous day. She quickly made up a batch of pie dough. I have never tasted flakier, sweeter, more tender crust in my life! I went back to the store that day and snatched up a couple more tubs. I won't be without from now on.

Bettie
1/22/2010 2:02:14 PM
Jean, Using lard was a way of life when I was growing up in south Missouri. I was born in 1938. We raised our own hogs,chickens and milk cows as well as farming with horse power. Butchering was to me a hated task, as I detested the smell and long day of hard work. But my Mom made the best pies, cakes and yeast bread in the area,according to many people, other than family. I remember the lard stand in the smokehouse and coming home one Sunday and finding it half empty with someone's hand prints in it where they scooped it out. I have used lard in the early days of marriage, but gradually believed it to be bad for our health. Now, the bad part may be the antibiotics and unhealthy food that is fed to the commercially raised hogs. I do enjoy reading and learning what others think and do. Bettie

Jo Lee T Riley
1/22/2010 11:13:02 AM
Sizzling side pork, fresh from the backroom (natural refrideration)in my grandparents cottonwood log house, woke me on those cold North Dakota mornings. They lived on the school side of the river, so I lived with them when ice on the river was too thin or breaking up in the spring. The lard they rendered and used may be the reason that my pie crusts and biscuits never turned out at good as Mom and Grandmas. I always thought that butter was healthier than olio, but never dreamed that lard had less saturated fat and colesterol than butter and no trans-fats. I will go back to using it in my pie crusts. Thanks much for the insight. It is amazing how many things were as good or better for you then. I always wondered how the fat could be so bad for you when my grandmother cooked that way and lived to 96 years old. She was in her own home, alone at 90. Jo Lee T Riley

Kathy Deutsch_3
1/22/2010 11:01:49 AM
I just bought my first container of lard the other day. What a difference it makes!

Cathy_2
1/22/2010 10:16:05 AM
I started baking with lard again 3 years ago when I and my neighbor were told by our doctors that is was ok in moderation. It makes all the difference with homemade bread,and pies. We home butcher our hogs, so the fat never goes to waste here!! I also use some of the lard for making birdfeed! Cathy

Cindy Murphy
1/20/2010 2:26:01 PM
Wow! This certainly falls under the "learn something new everyday" heading. I never would have thought that lard is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than butter! And no trans fat, either?! Thanks for the enlightenment, Jean. I shall now eat those pastries and Cornish meat pies without guilt then....or, maybe less guilt. Perhaps. I don't suppose though, that this means my younger's brother's "affectionate" term for me, "lard-head", when we were growing up was actually a compliment. No, I suppose not.

Nancy Retired
1/20/2010 12:20:36 PM
There is nothing better than popcorn popped in lard! One of our ag teacher friends raised hogs. We went over one night to play cards, and Joe made popcorn. It was so good, and I asked his secret. He said, "I always pop it in lard in a big ol' pan on the stove." And it was well-salted, of course. Just couldn't stay out of it. Nancy

Nebraska Dave
1/19/2010 10:41:46 PM
Jean, it always amuses me to see food fads come full circle. Eggs, milk, butter, and many other things have come under the scrutiny of expert nutritionists. It’s seems that manufactures just can’t come up with a better product than nature. Imagine that. Sensible eating just seems to balance out over the long run. I’ve decided to just stay away from anything that gets processed and put in a bag or a box as much as I can this year. My Dad claims to have used lard for butter during the depression years. I can remember cutting the hog lard up in chunks on hog processing day when I was about maybe 5 or 6. I can’t really remember what happened to it after I cut it up. I long for some of the simple ways of my youth. Then again I can definitely do without the outhouse. Mom always made the best apple pies and it was probably because of the lard used in the crust. All this talk about pies is making me hungry. Fifty nine days until Spring. Yea!!

vickie
1/19/2010 6:45:07 PM
Jean, When we first got married my mother-in-law used to have a huge tub of lard in her kitchen pantry. All of her baked goods tasted so good. Now that I remember that I may have to starting using it. Good post. vickie

Hank Will_2
1/19/2010 3:13:59 PM
Hey Jean -- I love cooking with lard and have used it to make pie crusts many times. In the olden days, I also rendered my own lard (also goose fat) and I'll still take butter over oleo any day. Thanks for the post. Hank

Jenn
1/19/2010 12:05:33 PM
Hi Jean, My grandmother used lard for many things, and I can still remember how flaky that crust was! Thanks for the memories! Jenn



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