Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Lard

Anybody who says they never google themselves is probably lying, and if that person is an author they are definitely lying.
I google myself quite regularly and discover interesting sites, blogs and reviews that writers promised to send me and forgot. The last couple of days I have stumbled across two food blogs, the first Syrup and Cornbread written by Aimee a southerner living in New England. I knew she was going to be a fat lover. She had problems rendering lard so I left a comment and hope she will try rendering again. The second blog, Nosheteria, written by another person transplanted to New England, Adrienne who was making lard pastry but alas she didn't render the lard first. With the exception of butter and beef suet, all animal fat should be rendered before using. She also noted her lard had a very piggy smell. In my experience good quality lard has a clean neutral odour and is creamy white, sometimes with a blush of pink. Other writers often claim their pastry had an odd piggy taste or smell when using lard. I've never encountered this and I've used lard on three continents. An animal's fat, like its meat, is flavoured by what it eats. This is very evident with good butter. The fat must be fresh, all fat deteriorates with time, light and heat and although animal fat is a lot more stable than highly polyunsaturated fats it can still turn rancid. Buy your fat from a reliable natural or organic supplier.
I have posted a photo of some back fat that I have in my freezer. You can see that is creamy white. One piece has traces of meat, don't worry let that worry you, they'll be left behind when you render it. If you do want a stronger flavour, not piggy but more roast pork, often useful for Mexican recipes, just render your lard longer, until the pieces become dark golden in colour. Leaf lard, which is great for pastry making, should come in a piece with a papery membrane surrounding it and it should be firm. Next time I have some I'll post a photo. I hope Aimee keeps rendering lard and that Adrienne renders hers first, before trying the pie dough again.


Athenaeus said...

Jennifer - Thank you for coaching us all on the process of rendering lard, it's something of a lost art in the US.

Thanks also for the link to Athenaeusbanquet.blogspot.com!

Aimee said...


I'm so glad you found my blog; I had so many questions for you after my experience! I'm definitely going to try again; I'm still flummoxed as to why it didn't work...I suspect my oven temp., but don't know. The first batch I kept in the oven for 8 hours, but it definitely has a roasted smell (more like what I think you describe as Mexican lard, and it was good in the refried beans). In the second batch I got neutral lard only after pouring it off halfway through.

I'm waiting now to get some fat from a local farm, but will definitely try again. Thank you so much!

Sally said...

The only memories that I have of lard are of when Gran use to grease the tray prior to making a pavlova! Great pav but the taste of the bottom of it has put me off lard forever!

Jennifer said...

For those of you who are interested (perhaps Aimee)I am going to post a step by step "how to render lard" with photos this week.
The flavour of lard should be neutral. Perhaps Sally, Grandma Barr's lard had been hanging around in the fridge too long. I bake my "pav" on parchment paper.

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