Through my journey into farming and eating real, local food, the discovery of pastured-pork lard has been the most fascinating. Pastured-pork lard, which I will refer to only as lard from here on, is unaltered fat from pigs raised on pasture. It is not hydrogenated or bleached and does not contain added chemicals. The only processing that occurs is the removal of the fat from the animal and melting the fat, to separate any pieces of meat, to create a pure white unaltered lard for baking or cooking. Lard can be used in any recipe that calls for shortening, butter, margarine, oil or lard, of course. Pastured-pork lard is, in my mind, an essential ingredient in the art of cooking.
About five years ago, I started to take a closer look at the foods that we consumed at home and their effects on my body and environment. Around the same time, we started to raise pigs on pasture and organic grains. Although I was an avid home cook, I had never used lard. I was one of millions that cooked and baked with vegetable shortening, a blend of hydrogenated soybean and palm oil introduced in the early twentieth century as an alternative to lard, a once common kitchen staple. If you’re curious about the history of lard and how Crisco took over the shortening market, listen to the podcast called “Who Killed Lard?” on NPR.
Many people are not familiar with cooking or baking with lard and often ask, how do you use it? Over the past few years, I’ve experimented and expanded how I use lard in the kitchen. Lard can be used in place of butter, shortening or oils in most recipes. Here’s a list of foods that I regularly make with lard:
- Cookies, breads, cakes, pie crusts, etc. (substitute for shortening, butter or oil)
- Sautéed vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, potatoes are some favorites)
- Deep fried fish, chicken, potatoes, donuts, etc.
- Grilled cheese (use lard in place of butter)
- Stovetop popcorn (instead of vegetable oil)
So where can you find pastured-pork lard? Generally, you can buy it directly from pork farmers, food co-ops, local local butchers. When you buy a half or whole hog directly from a farmer, you request your pork cuts form the processor and can request to keep the pork fat and then render your own lard at home. For more details on how to order a Graise Farm pork share, click here. Once you try lard, you too will be fascinated with how this essential ingredient enhances the art of cooking.