How to Render Lard

Render lard and revisit the virtues of your grandmother’s secret ingredient.

| September/October 2012

How to Render Lard

Healthy lard, a source of beneficial saturated fat, comes from grassfed or pastured pigs. Radosavlje

You know how they say “everything old is new again”? Well, if you remember your mother or grandmother cooking with lard … it’s back, and in a big way. Why?

Back in the day, lard was considered a good, traditional source of fat in America, with cooks using it almost exclusively for pie crusts, frying, and myriad other things, including soap making. But in 1953, American scientist Ancel Keyes popularized the “lipid hypothesis” in his book Eat Well and Stay Well, which states that “there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease.” This led to the belief that high-fat foods were “dangerous” and “unhealthy,” and to the subsequent adoption of low-fat diets.

The modern industrial diet with its emphasis on low fat, fat free, and “healthy” fats like canola oil and margarine, are just that … the product of modern industry. The lipid hypothesis has many detractors, and research has placed its validity in question. But important saturated fats from animal (and vegetable) sources provide needed energy in the diet; they provide essential building blocks for cell membranes; and they act as carriers of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Fats from animal sources — lard, tallow, duck and goose fat — and vegetable sources — olives, coconut, flax — provide our bodies with highly beneficial fatty acids; they keep our bones healthy (aiding calcium absorption); and they enhance the immune system. Engineered fats have none of these benefits. The matter of choosing which fats to consume is very important, and I urge you to explore research on traditional fats, specifically the research of Mary G. Enig, Ph.D, Sally Fallon, and the Weston A. Price Institute. 

All about fats from animals

Lard, or pork fat, is about 40 percent saturated fat, 48 percent monounsaturated, and 12 percent polyunsaturated. The amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids varies in lard according to what the pigs have eaten, making fat from pastured or grassfed hogs the best choice. Lard also is a good source of vitamin D. 

However, not all lard is healthy. Most of the lard you find stocked on the grocery store shelves has been harvested from “factory farmed” animals; it’s been hydrogenated, bleached and deodorized, and emulsifiers and other chemicals have been added. Stay away from it!

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