Most Americans are horrified by the very thought of eating lard. Some seem to think that even a small amount of lard will stop their hearts, or make them obese, or both. Yet lard was once the most popular cooking fat in America. Lard was also the most popular cooking fat in China.
Lard was demonized so margarine, hydrogenated oils, and other creations of the processed food industry would sell. The artificial fats created by the food industry taste and feel much worse than the traditional fats of our ancestors. This means that the only reason people would buy the factory fats is if real fats are believed to be unhealthy. There are no shortages of scientists and studies that the food industry could and can buy to scare people into giving up real food. Lard, and all saturated fat, was blamed for heart disease, and countless other illnesses.
The truth of the matter is that real lard, from healthy pastured pigs, is very healthy and nutritious, and one of our best sources of vitamin D.
Real lard is one of the very best cooking fats, having a high smoke point, and being unlikely to spatter in most circumstances.
And food cooked with real lard can be incredibly delicious.
The Two Types of Lard
Nearly all the lard you will find in the supermarket is hydrogenated, which means that the very molecular structure of the fat has been changed to something that never appears in nature. This lard almost always comes from pigs that have been kept in confinement, may never see the sun, and are fed almost totally on GMO soy and GMO corn. This lard does not need to be refrigerated, which means that it has been processed to the point that it will not spoil. But lard like this has a horrid, greasy, slimy texture, and a truly disgusting taste, at least to me, and many others. It will, in my opinion, ruin any food cooked with it.
Real lard, the lard enjoyed by our ancestors, is not hydrogenated. It comes from pigs raised in the open air, who forage for a great deal of their own food, and see plenty of sun. It is hard to find, but it tastes and feels a thousand times better than the hydrogenated abomination. You can get this kind of lard at some farmers markets, though it can be very expensive. My favorite Internet source is U.S. Wellness Meats, which sells rendered lard from pigs who spend most of their life in the open, foraging for a large part of their food. The price is also quite reasonable.
The Benefits of Real Lard
Real lard gives incredible flavor to food. It is great for basting meats, and has been used for that purpose for thousands of years, from Sardinia to China. Meat basted with lard is more tender, retains more of its juices, and tastes fantastic.
Real lard is also great for baking, and played a huge part in traditional European and American biscuits, pies, cakes, and breads. It gives incredible flavor and texture to these dishes, one that is unique and wonderful.
Real lard is perhaps the best fat for frying and sautéing. It has a very high smoke point, spatters rarely, and adds its own wonderful flavor to the food that is cooked in it. We do not have French fries or fried chicken very often, but when we do, it is usually fried in real lard. It is the fat of choice in most of our stir fries. Not only is frying easier, safer, and smoother, but the taste benefits are immense.
And real lard is healthy, to the great surprise of most people. The Weston A Price Foundation, which I consider to be the most knowledgeable food organization on earth, recommends the use of real lard in cooking. Not only does real lard provide a valuable balance of essential fatty acids, it is one of the best sources of natural Vitamin D, and other nutrients.
Today, following the suggestion of a seventh generation English butcher, we fried eggs in real lard for the first time. Awesome.
We use real lard in cooking all the time, and enjoy it immensely.
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