It’s pie-making season! And professional pie bakers know that to achieve the most tender, flaky pie crust, there is no substitute for lard. But what is it?
Lard is simply rendered pork fat. Rendering is the process of separating the fat through boiling, steaming, or using dry heat. Like tallow, which is rendered beef fat, lard has a mild taste, is rich in nutrients, and because this fat is so versatile, it makes magical things happen to your baked goods and fried foods.
Today, as we learn more about the benefits of sustainable living, many are revisiting the resourceful practices of generations past, and using lard in cooking is one of them making a strong comeback.
Lard Vs. Crisco?
If lard tastes and performs so well in culinary dishes, why did it ever fall out of favor? In 1907, German chemist, Edwin Kayser, told Procter & Gamble about a chemical process that could transform cheap, cottonseed oil into a solid fat. The process was known as “hydrogenation.” The company filed a patent and launched a massive campaign to market Crisco, the new “vegetable oil” to hit the market.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that we came to understand the increased risks of heart disease associated with the consumption of hydrogenated oils and trans-fats such as cottonseed. Thus many people stopped baking with Crisco, and instead turned back to lard, which today, is making a comeback.
6 Reasons To Try Baking With Lard
Here are 6 reasons to try lard in your holiday baking this year.
1. No Pork Flavor
Lard does not have a pork flavor. Like refined coconut oil, rendered lard is virtually flavorless.
2. Lard Has A High Smoke Point
Lard is ideal for frying foods because it doesn’t smoke when heated at high temperatures. Its smoke point is 374 degrees F. Because it is heat stable, lard can also be used in a variety of baked goods recipes. Try it in your next batch of cookies or brownies!
3. It’s Shelf-Stable
Lard doesn’t go rancid quickly like other cooking fats. Because it is solid at room temperature and has a more stable structure, it is less likely to spoil. While lard can be kept at room temperature, the chance of spoilage increases if its temperature is not kept constant. Stored properly, lard will keep at room temperature for about six months; stored in the refrigerator it can last up to a year. It can also be frozen, where it will last up to three years. Keep it in a tightly-sealed container or crock.
Always give your lard a sniff before using it to ensure it hasn’t gone rancid. You’ll know!
4. Doesn’t Cause Inflammation
Lard doesn’t cause inflammation in the body when heated (due to oxidation), like unsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn and canola. Lard’s high monounsaturated fat is primarily oleic acid, making it a heart-healthy food. Trans-fat vegetable oils increase the risk of heart disease.
5. Lard Is High In Vitamin D
Lard is rich in immune-boosting, vitamin D. One tablespoon of “free-range” lard is reported to contain 1000 IU of vitamin D. No, that’s not a typo!
6. Gives Butter A Run For Its Money
And in terms of its fatty acids, lard is better than butter: lard contains 60% monounsaturated fat, which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. Butter is 45% monounsaturated fat. As for saturated fat, lard has half the amount as butter (but double the amount found in olive oil).
Not All Lard Is Created Equal
To obtain optimal nutritional benefits of rendered lard, purchase it from a local, sustainable farm. Most commercially available pork lard is often treated with chemicals and contains hydrogenated fats, which are associated with heart disease.
Grannie’s Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup lard
1 cup cold buttermilk
Mix the dry ingredients together, then cut in the lard with two butter knives. Stir in the buttermilk. Roll out the dough on a floured bread board and cut out biscuits using a biscuit cutter or jelly jar. Bakes on cookie tray in a 450°F oven for 12 minutes.
Excerpted from Pearls of Country Wisdom by Deborah Tukua.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.