Land o’Lard, or look away, ye vegans!

There have been some firsts in this baking my way through The Joy of Cookies. First purchase of Irish whiskey. First taste of rosewater. First disposal of rosewater. First cookie gun. Chinese almond cookies are my first venture into the land of lard. Mind you, I’m an excellent baker of pies. However, despite years of hearing how much better pie crust is when made with lard, I have always used shortening and butter. I cede the point at last, and am persuaded to try lard in pie crusts — at least this bit I have leftover — because, oh my, but these cookies are good and I can tell the choice of fat makes them so.

Sharon Tyler Herbst says of lard that it “is the magic ingredient that makes them so meltingly crisp. You can substitute shortening or butter…but you won’t get a cookie that makes memories!” Normally I would rebel against such sentiments and stick with what I know, but I am trying to be stretched in this exercise, and so I bought some lard, and lo, they are very good. Memorably good even.

And here’s the beauty thing. The farmer who delivers a dozen eggs to us every three weeks or so, along with excellent pasture-raised beef and pork? She also sells leaf fat for rendering lard. I’m told it’s a bit of a smelly process, but really? Can it be as noxious as brewing whole black walnuts with wool? Or scouring a filthy fleece? I’ll remember to crack a window, just in case.

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About pattiblaine

Raised under the name of Snyder in the upstate NY town of Vestal, I've worked as a typesetter, a fast food salad bar tender, an art reviewer, a waitress, a part-time nanny, and a very-bad-with-phones temp. Once upon a time I was all-but-thesis toward a Masters in Art History. Now I'm just a mom with a lot of fiber squirreled away throughout the house. We call it insulation. In 2013 I completed a life-long learning program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and am a postulant toward the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In addition to coordinating volunteers for the soup kitchen, I volunteer as a tutor at a deeply impoverished city elementary school, and am a docent at the Memorial Art Gallery.
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9 Responses to Land o’Lard, or look away, ye vegans!

  1. Lard is no worse (a food) than butter–and it’s actually a step up from shortening (crisco and the like). Sure its a saturated fat–but its not hydronganated–and it’s actually healthy.
    And as for pie crusts–it’s the best. 50/50 butter and lard. Try it once, and you’ll never use crisco again. Lard also pairs well with chocolate–and makes cakes that are tender and flavorful. Its not too bad a smell to render lard–or rather it doesn’t have to be. Sows are better (Boars smell more & worse.) Your vender sound like the kind of person who would steer your right.

    • pattiblaine says:

      In the limited research I’ve done, I’ve read twice that lard (the unhydrogenated stuff found in refrigerated aisles) delivers less sat fat than butter. It’s apparently high in Vitamin D too. The hydrogenated lard is just as bad as shortening and delivers no positives. I may be sold, Helen. Particularly if rendering it is not too time-consuming. I’m pleased to have already lined up a relatively humane source for the leaf fat.

  2. Sarah says:

    I haven’t had a Chinese almond cookie since I was a little kid. Memories. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Ralton-Smith says:

    A Patti blog! What an awesome concept.
    I remember in Tasmania we went through a phase of rending lard for soap making – or was it candle making? It wasn’t too bad with all the windows open. As a domestic goddess these days I’ve been heavily into pie making – but of the vegetarian persuasion so no lard here, sad to say.

    Nearly had a source secured for black walnuts last Fall down near Portland, Maine but it fell through. I was wanting them for baking and for wool dyeing. I’ve read that a black walnut fetish is an extremely messy experience so it was probably all for the best.

  4. I’m now sold on using lard – too bad I rarely bake. ;-P Maybe the prospect of memorable, meltingly-delicious baked goods will motivate me to bake more.

    • pattiblaine says:

      Just took in the first delivery of leaf fat (w/ eggs and mild Italian pork sausage… but I digress). It’s frozen so I’ve tucked it away in the freezer until I have time to render it. Very exciting! $2/lb and I bought about 2 lbs. It’s a start! Let me know, E, if you’d like to try some of it and I’ll set a bit aside for you once it’s rendered.

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