Bakers and chefs alike sing it’s praises. Popular among foodies and culinary afficionados in the UK (think mince meat pies and fried potatoes) this item has often been relegated to the bottom shelf in US stores in past years. It’s lard, and it’s ready for a comeback, although some would argue it never really left the scene.
While living together with a few friends after college, someone noticed a non-descript green oblong box (you’ve seen it before!) on the shelf in the kitchen. We visibly showed our repulsion to which the owner replied “you just don’t know or understand lard”. True, but we really didn’t WANT to.
Turns out my housemate was onto something although the lard most sought after today is not the green box version but rather leaf lard. Leaf lard is the highest grade lard and comes from the fat surrounding the kidneys on a pig. It has little to no flavor and bakers contend it makes the best, flakiest pie crust on the planet.
A few other lesser known facts about one of my favorite fats:
• Lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight
• If you seek out unhydrogenated lard you will get a product with zero trans fat
• Lardo di Conca di Colonnata, once a poor man’s food is a type of salume made by curing strips of pig fat with rosemary and other spices that is now considered a delicacy (hint: you can purchase it here in the States!)
Today with trends pointing to less processed, natural foods lard is starting to show up in recipes and in homes more often. A recent visit to the Prather Ranch meat company in San Francisco brought a close encounter with rendered leaf lard and a tub for the trip home ($10.)
If you’ve been waiting to capture a sliver of summer by encasing your favorite fruit in a flaky pie crust, now is the time to discover the fine properties of lard. Consider trying the fried potatoes and let us know what you think!