Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Praise the lard and pass the ammunition!
Lard has a bad reputation. It's that old-fashioned fat used only by ignorant redneck grannies with no teeth in a holler in W. Virginia and by similarly uneducated Mexican women who don't know that saturated fat is bad, bad, bad. Civilized, educated people do not...ever...eat lard. Epithets for the obese include terms such as 'lard-ass'.
Guess what? Lard is AWESOME. Really. It makes pretty much anything taste better. Pie crusts, biscuits, veggies, beans and, yes, tortillas. The problem is that the lard you can buy in the store really is awful. they've taken a good fat and screwed it up completely. Instead of using the fat from pastured and humanely raised animals, your store lard will come from grain fed confinement hogs who have never seen sunshine or rolled in the grass. It will be processed in highly questionable conditions and then it will be hydrogenized, deodorized, and adulterated with BHT and/or BHA. Homemade unadulterated lard is believed to promote lower cholesterol, contain Vitamin D, discourage the formation of cancers, and is high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
The good news is that lard is really easy to make at home. For locals, Mt McKinley Meat and Sausage in Palmer will sell you locally grown leaf fat by the pound. $.99 per pound last time I got some. Take it home, and prepare to render. If you have a meat grinder, grind your leaf fat first. I was amazed by how much grinding sped up the entire process and reduced waste. Once your lard is ground, put a big pot on medium to low heat and toss a few (3? 4?) cups into the bottom. Stir it occasionally and when all your fat is melted, pour it off into the container of your choice and repeat with more fat. I rendered 10 lbs in about 35 minutes that way.
If you don't have a grinder, cut the fat into the smallest cubes you're willing to do and toss the fat into a pan or slow cooker and, again, wait for your fat to become liquid but take care not to burn it.
I pour my lard into my jumbo muffin pans and freeze it then pop out the 'pucks' for nice 1 cup portions. Others pour theirs into sterilized canning jars, fill it clear to the top and store it in a cool pantry until opened. I find my method more convenient from a cleanup and portioning perspective but if I had a bigger pantry I'd be willing to use the jars.