I’ve been more or less off dinner duty lately – last night I was in Red Deer teaching a class, and tonight we went to Vin Room (didn’t want to miss out on Dine Out Calgary completely! we ate creamy mushroom soup, braised lamb shoulder and crème brulée, with wine pairings for each, for $50) but I do have something on offer. This morning we talked about lard on the Eyeopener, and I finally made some pastry using my homemade stash, and a third of it came back home with me. And wow.
Seriously-I am pulling up my soapbox and preaching the word of the lard. A little more research on the subject revealed that lard is only (I realize only is relative – but far lower than I would have guessed) 39% saturated fat and 45% monounsaturated fat. (I know! It’s pig fat! How can that be? Is lard really that misunderstood? I think perhaps so.) Comparatively, butter is about 63% saturated fat. So it’s not just a smidge lower – it’s quite substantially lower. In saturated fat. Than butter. Pig fat, that is. My worlds are colliding. My Dad called later in the morning to stress that he couldn’t possibly believe this to be true. But yes, I double and triple-checked, and so far no one has called or emailed to point out that I got my facts wrong.
So swapping some of the butter for lard when making pastry (I usually do all-butter pastry) makes it flakier (lard makes it flaky while butter adds flavour) while reducing saturated fat. Crazy. And it’s an ingredient my Grandma used, and would recognize – which is the whole point, no? The movement back to whole and familiar and real food? And it makes some pretty fab poutine, by the way. (Although canola oil does too, and there’s no question that canola oil is better for you than lard.)
Not Without Salt has a nice little write-up and video on rendering your own lard, although hers is much darker than I like mine to be – the darker it gets the toastier and more intensely flavoured. If you’re gentle and slow, you should be able to keep it pure white and almost flavourless, if you like it that way. Strain it – chill it – lard. I have done a batch in the slow cooker and it works fabulously – it does tend to colour the fat, though – or mine did, anyway – which intensifies the flavour a bit and gives it a pale golden hue. Which is fine, if you don’t mind that – just be warned.