Aunt Linda here on a glorious cloudy day here in the Old Pueblo. And, Whoops (!) there goes Life again, changing just when we were feeling comfortable again! Just when we think we have a handle on it, the game changes. Most of you know by now that fats are not “bad”. Fats are now heralded for the importance they play in our health. If we are wise enough, we allow Beginners Mind to open, and explore what may be there for us. Of course, we can just Resist.
Remember when eating red meat was “all bad” ? It turns out if it is grass pasture raised it is may be healthy for us.
Remember when soy was considered “all good”; it was almost a cure-all? Well … it turns out that is Not Always So.
And Remember: the game will change again.
But one “truth” that seems to stand firm, is that What Goes Into the animal you eat, or that lays the egg your feed your kids, or the bee that harvests your honey/pollen, or the seed/soil that you plant is important. For the sake of the lard we are about to render, “You are What your Animals Eat” (see feed bag below) makes a significant difference in the health of the fat you are rendering.
Well, trans-fats are “off the shelves” and in three years, as mandated by the FDA. They must be overwhelmingly “not good” for us if a government agency is willing to move that swiftly! And, among the fats and oils reshuffling themselves, and reconsidered (based on science) as healthy, heat tolerant, and delicious: Lard is “back”.
Inspiration for exploring this new/old fat and how to use it is: 100% Natural LARD: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother’s Secret Ingredient (From the Editors of GRIT Magazine) As soon as I read about book (2012) which I ordered from our independent book store, Antigone Books, here in Tucson. The book is mesmerizing. It’s recipes are divine, earthy, and delicious all at once. And it turns out, we can render our own lard right in our own kitchens. Seemed like a fun thing to do for Independence Day.
To get “off the page” and to learn more, I interviewed Cheralyn Schmidt, my dear friend and Culinary Crusader, who has been rendering her own lard for years (and is famous for her Tamale Parties where invitees create their own tamales from different types of masa, the tastiest being made from home-rendered-lard). She is a Chef, has experience in Ag-Extension, teaches food, cooking, and nutrition — and is the Make It Happen Woman behind Tucson’s Thriving THE GARDEN KITCHEN (google it). I could gush on and on about her many talents and her bright spirit, but it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
1) WHY would you WANT to render lard? Well, One it is an act of independence to have the Know How. Two, it makes food taste more delicious. Three, contrary to conventional thinking, and as stated above, lard is considered HEALTHY these days. The chemistry involves in fats is complicated, but there is significant research that is changing our thinking about animal fats. Fats are very important in our diets, I encourage you to find out more; you may be surprised. Four, fill in Your Own reasons. Five, I enjoy experimenting and learning; the lard-rendering is one place to play with flavors. Do an experiment and see if you can Taste the Difference between pasture raised lard and corn raised lard. Also, embolden yourself with experimentation. Below you’ll see a CHILTEPIN INFUSED LARD that I played with. 2) What is lard? And where can I get it to render at home? Lard is pig fat, that you can buy from your local butcher (even butchers at your grocery store, Sprouts, Whole Foods), 4-H folks, your Heritage Breeders (VERY important in supporting Heritage Animals are folks who are willing to buy heritage animals), the county fair, FFA (used to be Future Famers of America, now I am not sure what it stands for). VERY Preferably, for both your health and the health of the animal, (NOTE: not separate), you would ask for the fat from Pastured Animals pigs. Specifically, request, the “leaf lard” of the pig, which is located around the kidney’s. It has the best quality, in terms of nutrition and taste. The book gives this as a resource for Resources as well: http://www.LardCookbook.com Above: fresh summer vegetables from the garden have even deeper sweeter notes when cooked in lard. 3) What can you use this home-made lard to make? Pie crusts, biscuits, sautéing vegetables, cooking eggs, main dishes such as crab cakes, salmon croquettes, beef wellington, cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, tortillas, tamales. Summer fruit, berries and vegetables are abundant this time of year! Our nectarine tree is bursting – peoples gardens are brimming over! and one way to handle the “extra” from your trees or garden is to make pie crusts or empanadas with all that summer joy. Remember to remember the Savory pies (as well as the sweet!) – you can make a wonderful pie from your tomatoes, summer squash, herbs, your native crops …. whatever is presenting itself. If you are not a gardener, consider wooing yourself and your family/friends with the offerings of the Farmers Markets – with this much abundance comes lower prices and we can make pies galore! Above: Tortilla and Quesadilla made with chiltepin infused lard! Note that the color of the tortilla is a nice yellow from the chiltepin infused lard-fat. Are your sleeves rolled up? Here we go: Karen Keb’s section “How to Render Lard” (in the beginning of the book), says it strait. I am going to use her basic guide as well as add photos and insights from Cheralyn and my Rendering Session – that took all of an hour and a half, for 7 lbs of pig fat. The focus this post is on rendering the lard itself, so you feel both inspired and confident enough to do this at home. Later this summer, I will feature a pie crust and some amazing filling that includes tequila – so stay tuned! LARD 101 – HOW TO: 1) ” Preheat the oven to 225 F.” 2) “Fill a large roasting pan with the chopped fat.” Ask for it to be chopped or ground. Our 7 lbs that we got from a 4-H pig raised on kitchen scraps was ground for us at the Meat Lab here in Tucson. 3 “Roast Slowly for 30 minutes to one hour” (or) until the fat has melted and you and you have protein particles floating on top. Our seven pounds was divided over several pans and took an hour and a half. You may have noticed the red, round, chiltepin added to the pig fat in one of the roasting pans. I love this ancient, “closest living relative to the oldest known chile on the planet” “chile so much I simply HAVE to use it whenever I can. The capsicum infused taste and color added some spice to the lard. Now this can work for you and against you. So for savory pie crusts, quesadillas, or egg cooking it is SUPERB. You may not want to add it to your delicate pastry or your sweet berry pie. You will note that the color of the chile infused lard has a yellow-reddish tint, and that the lard without the chile is a beautiful white. These colors are seen in both the liquid lard and when it is firm and in the jars as well. Try infusing your lard at home with rosemary. Explore! 4) “Skim off the solids and set them aside for the chickens” , (Keb really writes this – which I LOVE) Cheralyn suggests that these “Cracklin’s” are good on baked potatoes, on tortillas or in quesadilla’s, even in salads. 5) “Pour the liquid fat through a mesh colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth.” We used flower sack material and it was perfection incarnate for such a project. Those of you who follow me, know I love to make the yogurts cheese; I plan to switch over to flower sack cloth from here-on-out. 6) ” Store in a glass canning jar in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep for months.”