By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Animal fat is demonized in our society, and this includes pork lard. People are brainwashed into thinking that eating pork lard, or any animal fat, will “clog” their arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes. Animal fat seems to be blamed as the cause of almost every conceivable disease. This is truly ironic, as animal fat, especially pork lard, was the most popular cooking fat for most of humanity, throughout most of history.
The traditional diets of two of the healthiest peoples studied in modern times, the Georgians of the Caucasus, and the Okinawans of the Pacific, were quite different in the actual foods they ate. Yet both of these healthy peoples did share a favorite food—pork lard and fatty pork. Despite the fact that these healthy peoples ate large amounts of pork lard, along with fatty pork, heart disease and strokes were very rare for them. Both of these cultures were known for a very high number of people who lived to be 100 years old, or older, and were healthy at that advanced age.
The truth is that traditional peoples whose religion did not forbid it loved pork lard and animal fat, and ate huge amounts of it. Not only did they eat it and cook with it, they would often use pork lard to treat damaged skin, and as a moisturizer.
Pork lard has many uses in cooking, and excels in all of them. Breads, biscuits, pies, and cakes made with pork lard come out especially delicious, and the fat in the lard helps counter the glycemic effect of the grains.
Pork lard is perhaps the perfect frying medium, having a very high smoke point, cooking at an even heat, and providing a wonderful flavor to the foods fried in it. In fact, pork lard was the traditional fat used for stir-frying in Chinese cooking, and is still perfect for it, enhancing the flavor of every dish. Pork lard (along with duck and goose fat), was used for making confit, a way of cooking and preserving meat in large amounts of fat.
Though pigs are omnivores, and not grassfed, I use a lot of pork lard in my recipes for grassfed meat. I use pork lard to sauté other meats, which gives them a nice flavor. I will also rub pork lard on various grassfed roasts, especially those which lack fat. The lard keeps the meat moist, adds great flavor, and causes any vegetables added to the pan to come out caramelized and delicious. The flavored pork lard from such a roast is also perfect as a base for gravies or sauces, making them utterly delicious. The ancient Chinese would often fry other meats in pork lard, just for the flavor. I have tried this, and it is delicious.
But it is very important to know your pork lard, just as it important to know all of your food.
I would not even taste most of the pork lard on the market, and I avoid it. If that sounds odd after I have been filling this article with praise for pork lard, there is a reason. Most of the pork lard sold in the U.S. has been hydrogenated, which means that it has had an additional molecule added to its structure through artificial processing. Not only does this create a fat which never existed in nature, it affects the nutrition and the taste. But the food industry invented this kind of modified lard because it can be stored at room temperature, and can stay on the shelf for a very long time.
I make a real effort to eat food only in a natural, unmodified state, and it creeps me out to have the very molecular structure of a food altered for profit. It is now accepted that hydrogenated fats are bad for human health. I strongly dislike the taste of hydrogenated lard.
All of the benefits of lard described in this post came from real, unmodified lard, the kind that will actually spoil, and must be refrigerated or frozen. The best of this lard comes from pastured pigs, from heritage breeds, who are raised in a traditional manner, rather than being stuffed with GMO corn and GMO soy. This kind of lard is actually very good smeared on bread, like butter, and has a pleasant, nutty flavor. This is the only kind of lard I use or recommend.
Natural, unmodified pastured pork lard is wonderful for cooking and eating.
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