For the Love of Lard
Posted by Julia Smith on
One of the best things about well-raised, well-fed heritage pork is the fat. Pigs have a unique ability to recover fats from the food they consume and store them in their own fat without altering the original molecular structure of the fat. This is why some farmers "finish" pigs on apples, hazelnuts, and other tasty things. The flavour from the fruit and nuts is transferred on to the meat through the fat. Fear of fat, coupled with the drive of the industrial farming system to produce more for less, has left us with the anemic, tasteless version of this once noble meat that passes for pork in most grocery stores and butcher shops these days.
During World War II, lard was commonly used as a substitute for butter and was was prized for frying, particularly as meat became less available. It declined in popularity in the late twentieth century as it was considered less healthy than vegetable oils. Pound for pound however, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than butter and contains none of the trans fat common in margarine & vegetable shortening. It even contains palmitoleic fatty acid which is known for it's antimicrobial properties.
It is the fat that makes our pork so outstanding. Our pigs eat a lot of fruit and all that sweet flavour gets locked away in their fat. If you've tried our pork neck steaks, you're already a believer. This lesser known cut has become one of our best sellers due to the beautiful marbeling of rich fat working it's way through the dark, flavourful meat. When heated, the fat melts into the meat making it one of the tastiest cuts you'll ever experience. If you ever find that there is too much fat on a pork chop or a steak for your liking, cut off the excess and save it. Chopped into cubes, it can be fried up to make delicious "pork croutons" which are great on salad!
Pork fat is the ideal frying medium due to it's high "smoke point" of 400F/200C. This means that you can get it nice and hot before you put your food in it. That sizzling sound you hear when you're frying is the sound of steam releasing and it is this moisture being released from the food that prevents the fat from being absorbed. In this way, foods fried in lard don't get greasy. You can fry everything in pork lard. It does wonders for chicken! It has a neutral flavour and doesn't leave you with a room that smells like a deep fryer after you finish cooking. You can even reuse it a few times. Simply filter it and pop it back in the fridge for next time.
Rendering your own lard is easy. The easiest way I've found is to simply cut fat into chunks and pop it in the slow cooker over night. Strain the fat through cheesecloth into a clean container and refrigerate. It will keep in a sealed container for many months or in the freezer for a year. You can even use lard to make beautiful soaps!
Save your bacon fat too! It is essentially, smoked lard and is marvelous for frying.
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