You heard right… lard. Paleo practitioners are bringing sexy fatback! <– see what I did there? Lard from pastured pigs, which are organically raised and free of harmful toxins provides critical nutrients such as Vitamin D, is low in Omega-6s which are linked to inflammation (yet high in Omega-3s), and is high in oleic acid, known for its anti-cancer qualities. So why would it suddenly vanish from the American table? Well, here’s a story for you…
Lard was eaten regularly in American households until Procter & Gamble came along in 1911 with a fancy new alternative called… Crisco. Crisco is actually made from cottonseeds–yep, why wear it when you can use it to grease your muffin tins! Yay! No joke–to market this new greasy cotton concoction, Procter & Gamble developed a cookbook called The Story of Crisco, which believe it or not you can still get a hold of! (here’s a link if you want to check it out) Crisco was pushed as a more economical option to real butter and lard and was even touted as easier to digest at the time. Clearly they had no idea what was about to happen over the next century from using this product… (More about the history of Crisco is available on WAPF’s site and their website.)
Fast forward a hundred years later. A food revolution is on the rise and we are getting back to our roots, rediscovering the benefits of animal fats from pasture-raised cows, sheep, poultry and pigs. Tallow, duck fat, real butter and lard are making a comeback in a big way. They are certainly at the forefront of what Paleo practitioners value–healthy fat in lieu of harmful grains.
When it comes to lard, you should really make it yourself versus buying it from commercial retailers. They often hydrogenate the lard to improve stability at room temperature and it’s difficult to control the quality of the pigs from which the lard is sourced. Since toxins are stored in fat, quality matters with lard.
Making lard from scratch has been around for quite a while, I’m not sharing a secret or anything by explaining the process to you all, which incidentally happens to be quite simple.
- Grind, chop or process pork fatback or leaf lard into the smallest size you can manage (a friendly butcher or farmer can sometimes do this for you).
- Cook over low heat in medium batches (about a cup or two of raw fat depending on the size of pot used), stirring less at the beginning and more towards the end of cooking as the fat pieces will have less lard to render off and may start to burn if left unattended. *The fat becomes high maintenance as it dries out. Go ahead and read into that all you’d like.
- Pour the lard through a sieve or mesh strainer (NOT a colander) to catch the cracklins, or cooked fat pieces, and into a large heat-proof bowl. This separates the two from each other.
- Immediately transfer the fresh, warm lard into mason jars and seal. The heat from the lard will seal the reusable/resealable lids. Secure and allow to cool at room temperature. Please note that glass is really the best storage material for warm fats. I like to use the half-pint sizes. Seems like it’s the right amount of lard to use at a time and it’s easy to get to the bottom of the jar so nothing goes to waste. But larger jars are fine if you’d prefer that.
- Transfer to the fridge where it can be stored for quite a long time–up to 6 months, if needed.
- Reserve the cooked, crispy fat pieces and use them as cracklins to use in other recipes. They are perfectly edible and take well to seasoning.
So that’s how to make it–but here’s what you really need to know: what to expect during this process and what NOT to expect. Cause I keep it real here on Popular Paleo.
What to expect
This takes a while.
You don’t want to rush this process. Because we need to render the fat–meaning cook the fat crumbles at a painfully slow rate and low temperature so we cause it to shrivel up and melt away–there’s really no way to work around the time factor. If you try to rush it, it’s likely the fat will burn and seize up. This translates to that batch being ruined. Sayonara. Gone. So remember to take it low and slow, buddy. Low…and…slow…
People who aren’t in the know about the whole saturated fat isn’t linked to heart disease situation will gaze upon you in dietary wonderment. You’ll be like a diet and health unicorn–and honestly, who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn? Just think of the fun you’ll have bursting their whole-grains-are-heart-healthy bubbles!
Your food will taste ridiculously good.
I’ve heard it said that lard is the best fat for frying and the taste is a knock out. After smelling it render, I gotta be honest and say that I really thought the internet was lying to me–cause after all, everything you read on the internet is true. Not only was I really surprised that indeed lard takes almost everything to next-level flavor, but I also did blind taste tests on non-Paleo folks and they agree–lard wins! (Read more about my experiment on this post for Compound Lard Butter.)
*Disclaimer: let this be a warning to whomever may dine at my table. You may be an unsuspecting participant in a food experiment. It’s research, people. I’ve got a blog to run.
Not everyone in the meat business wants to help you make lard.
Shocker, right? When I got my copy of Beyond Bacon, I jumped online and started calling around for butchers that sold it. Turns out that they like to use this stuff too for making sausages and the like and aren’t always too keen on selling it. So they’re rude. I even went to one place in town and they made it painfully obvious that they had no intention of helping me make my lard dreams come true… jerks. But then I wised up and jumped onto www.eatwild.com to find a local farm with pasture-raised pigs that I could buy fatback from. I found a lovely family with a stellar operation just minutes from my house. (Read more about our day on the pig farm.)
What NOT to expect
Your home will smell like bacon.
My first time out I really honestly
hoped thought that I would get to enjoy the aroma of slow cooked bacon all afternoon. Turns out fatback does not smell anything like bacon! Like, not at all. It’s not even yummy smelling. I felt kinda robbed. So now I feel it is my civic duty to warn future renderers, lest your bacon-scented dreams be crushed.
That you’ll avoid taking a picture or 10 while you work.
I think we can all agree that rendering your own lard in this day and age is a lost art. Hell, standing in the kitchen for more than two hours to produce one basic item is a rarity enough in itself these days. So go ahead, document your work–take a selfie with your massive slab of fat even. You’re earning those likes. And just think of the thrilling exchanges you’ll get to have about how, yes, this is actually good for you. Hashtag it my friends, #FatMakesYouPhat.
To do this without getting dirty.
Apparently not everyone is comfortable handling raw meat? I often forget this and use words like fat… and carcass… and–well, you get the point. I get a friendly virtual tap on the shoulder from people letting me know that grosses them out. Whoops! It’s no big deal to me, so I just let the F-bombs fly (e.g. FAT, you potty mouths). So if you’re a bit squeamish when it comes to getting handsy with your meat prep, it’s time to step up to the plate. Rendering lard is old school, so expect to get up close and personal.
Lard to taste like bacon.
Bacon and lard are not the same thing. Bacon comes from the belly of the pig and the fat that’s reserved after making a batch is called bacon drippings or grease. Fatback, literally comes from the actual thick fat layer that runs along the pig’s back. Leaf lard is the highest quality of fat and is found inside the loin and near the kidneys. French pastry chefs are all about the leaf lard, so that should tell you something about the quality and mild taste required for delicate pastries. Caul fat also exists, but don’t let someone sell it to you as an option. It’s cheap, sourced from around the intestines and not meant for making lard.
Do you make lard at home? When did you start?
Have any tips or stories of your own to share?
Let’s hear them!