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Thread: Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here

    Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here. - By Regina Schrambling - Slate Magazine

    Wait long enough and everything bad for you is good again. Sugar? Naturally better than high-fructose corn syrup. Chocolate? A bar a day keeps the doctor away. Caffeine? Bring it on.
    Lard, however, has always been a ridiculously hard sell. Over at least the last 15 years, it's repeatedly been given a clean bill of health, and good cooks regularly point out how superior this totally natural fat is for frying and pastries. But that hasn't been enough to keep Americans from recoiling—lard's negative connotations of flowing flesh and vats of grease and epithets like larda** and tub of lard have been absurd hurdles. But no longer. I'm convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter.
    Lard has clearly won the health debate. Shortening, the synthetic substitute foisted on this country over the last century, has proven to be a much bigger health hazard because it contains trans fats, the bugaboo du jour. Corporate food scientists figured out long ago that you can fool most of the people most of the time, and shortening (and its butter-aping cousin, margarine) had a pretty good ride after Crisco was introduced in 1911 as a substitute for the poor man's fat. But shortening really vanquished lard in the 1950s when researchers first connected animal fat in the diet to coronary heart disease. By the '90s, Americans had been indoctrinated to mainline olive oil, but shortening was still the go-to solid fat over lard or even butter in far too many cookbooks.
    I have to admit even I was suckered by the nutrition nuttiness, despite having been all but weaned on lard in a Mexican neighborhood in Arizona. The great Mexican cooks in kitchens on either side of our house used it to make wondrously supple flour tortillas and almost airy tamales, while my Oklahoma-born dad worked it into biscuits and melted it for frying anything in his cast-iron skillet before we could afford, as he always put it, to "eat like white folks." (Peasant food has cachet only if you are not forced to live on it.) As a food writer, I learned early on that it was considered a four-letter word in recipes, even when it was essential for authenticity. (You can substitute butter in Mexican aniseed cookies called bizcochos, but they won't be as crisp, crunchy, and delicate.)
    That's all changed. Now you could even argue that lard is good for you. As Jennifer McLagan points out in her celebrated book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes, lard's fat is also mostly monounsaturated, which is healthier than saturated fat. And even the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Not to mention that lard has a higher smoking point than other fats, allowing foods like chicken to absorb less grease when fried in it. And, of course, fat in general has its upsides. The body converts it to fuel, and it helps absorb nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamins.
    What matters more, though, is that lard has become the right ingredient at the right time. It fits perfectly into the Michael Pollan crusade to promote foods that have been processed as minimally as possible: Your great-grandmother surely cooked with it, so you should, too.
    Add to that the new awareness that what you eat matters environmentally—if you are going to eat an animal on a planet at risk from too many humans raising too many animals to eat, you have to eat the whole thing. Lard is just about the last stop before the squeal when pork producers are extracting every savory bit from a pig.
    That environmental consciousness coupled with competitive cooking has resulted in the nose-to-tail trend set off by British chef Fergus Henderson. Walk into any high-end restaurant these days and pork chops are less prevalent than pig's ears, trotters, and jowls. The salumi/charcuterie craze has also been great for enhancing lard's profile, particularly thanks to lardo—pork belly cured Tuscan-style with wine and herbs and served in thin slices over warm bread or on pizza. If Mario Batali says it's good, diners everywhere listen.
    The best lard is leaf lard, from the fat around the kidneys of a hog, preferably a heritage hog. Flying Pigs Farm sells this at the Greenmarket in Union Square in New York City for $6 per 8-ounce container, and it sells out fast. Lard from the supermarket can still be pretty scary; most of it has been hydrogenated to make it last longer.
    (As I learned from lard crusader Zarela Martinez in New York, you can make your own if you can get your hands on top-quality fat from a small producer—back, belly, or kidney fat will all work. Cut it into chunks and cook them very slowly over low heat until the fat seeps out and only crispy bits are left. Strain it and save the fat in the refrigerator almost indefinitely. Salt the cracklings and eat them as what Mexicans call chicharrones.)
    Only one thing may put lard back on the slippery slope: Search online for news about lard, and it might as well be lard-fearing 1969 all over again. Newspaper food pages still routinely advise using olive or canola oils rather than "fattening" or "artery-clogging" lard. Or they print idiotic utterances like "you get all the lard you need at McDonald's" (a chain that actually abandoned beef tallow for frying its fries only to be saddled with a trans-fatty substitute). Occasionally an article will make a valid point—lard is still anathema to vegetarians and halal observers—but more often there will be surprise that lard does not taste anything like pig.
    Which is one more reason it is taking off at last. It's stealth fat.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    it may not be the healthiest...but french fries fried in lard blow away any fried in oil....

    i still fondly remember how good they were

    Peasant food has cachet only if you are not forced to live on it.
    this made me laugh. my grandfather used to get so annoyed when we would go to an upscale italian restaurant and they would put out a dish of olive oil for bread. he would say 'this is what we ate during the depression when we were poor.'
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    Gold Member powerorchid's Avatar
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    We changed to lard a year ago. We went all natural foods. It's very yummy.

    Interestingly the increase of heart disease and obesity coincides with the increase of processed foods (margarine vegetable oil) and the decrease in lard and butter.

    Our bodies work with natural foods but not these highly processed ones - they screw you up.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    margarine is fucking poison.
    there's nothing wrong with butter if it's used in moderation.


    Quote Originally Posted by witchcurlgirl View Post
    it may not be the healthiest...but french fries fried in lard blow away any fried in oil....

    i still fondly remember how good they were
    i've never had french frieds fried in oil but i've had them fried in duck fat and also in goose fat (this belgian place that specialised in gourmet belgian comfort food) and it was one of the most delicious things i've ever tasted.

    they used to cook a lot with lard at my grandmother's place until her children started giving her hell about how unhealthy it was. i still have the fond childhood memories though...
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    I must have a hypersensitive sense of smell, I swear I can taste the bacon-y/pork flavor--which I can't stand--in stuff cooked with lard. It's especially offensive if it's used in something meant to be sweet. My relatives in Mexico cook with lard and I just couldn't eat some things they cooked, it triggered my gag reflex.

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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    Lots of lard in authentic flour tortillas, tamales, refried beans.. which is a shame since they taste so good.

    I saw something on TV about a restaurant that literally smothers their hamburger buns with lard as if it's a condiment. YUCK.

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Oh,lawd. My Grandmother used it in biscuits,pie shells,flavoring in veggies-you name it. I have NEVER tasted anything like her cooking. Everyone was thin-I almost wonder if it tasted so great & that made it so satisfying people ate less-not more.
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    Elite Member Moongirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Lane View Post
    Lots of lard in authentic flour tortillas, tamales, refried beans.. which is a shame since they taste so good.

    I saw something on TV about a restaurant that literally smothers their hamburger buns with lard as if it's a condiment. YUCK.


    Was that the Heart Attack Cafe (or something like that), where all the servers dress as nurses?

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    Elite Member sparkly's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure I've never had anything cooked with lard, but it has to be better for you than poisonous maragrine. Now I want some greasy comfort food.
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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moongirl View Post
    [/B]

    Was that the Heart Attack Cafe (or something like that), where all the servers dress as nurses?
    YES.. they were slathering it on like mayo.

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    My parents grew up in the Depression and they remember eating bread and dripping (the beef equivalent to lard). You can't make Yorkshire Pudding with anything else IMO. Animal fat works with roasting things because you can heat it to a higher temperature or something. Potatoes roasted in duck fat - just enough for basting, you don't have to drown them - are quite delicious.
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    Elite Member Moongirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beeyotch View Post
    I must have a hypersensitive sense of smell, I swear I can taste the bacon-y/pork flavor--which I can't stand--in stuff cooked with lard. It's especially offensive if it's used in something meant to be sweet. My relatives in Mexico cook with lard and I just couldn't eat some things they cooked, it triggered my gag reflex.

    There's nothing like frijoles fritos with lard, IMO. Once in a while, if I cook bacon, I'll even use the drippings to make my beans...

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    Elite Member Sylkyn's Avatar
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    There is absolutely nothing...repeat..nothing better than biscuits made with lard. My first mother-in-law made the best biscuits I have EVER had in my life, and she made them with lard. Trust me, there is no comparison.

    You don't taste any 'bacon' or meat at all. I think I'm going to give this new 'rule' a test next time we need to use shortening or oils. I can't wait!
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    Weird, I just bought a thing of lard on a whim the otehr day. I just thought it would be fun to cook something with it.
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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    I don't use lard normally but the family does use it for savory things, like meat pies and stuff. Soo much better than using oil, so flakey and savory. Mmmmmmm. Yeah I had to run 15 miles afterwards to burn off the calories, but it was worth it.

    Margarine is a very processed form of fat. It may have less calories, but it's also got the added crap that's in processed foods nowadays. Butter is always the way to go, just use it in moderation instead of going all "Paula Deen" on it.

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