The leftover bits in life

So, what’s a gardener to do if it’s raining on her weekend? She cooks.

Spring means egg season, so I have been trying hard to find as many different ways of preparing them as I can. So quiche has been on the menu quite a bit lately, especially asparagus/leek quiche. And quiche means piecrust, and piecrust means…lard!

I read this book when it came out a few years ago. I also read this one somewhat recently. I was a vegetarian at the time that I read both of them. I am not fat-phobic; never have been, and wondered always why it got such a bad rap. But since we’re eating locally as a matter of principle, and going whole-hog as it were with the bits and bites of the side of the pig we got late last fall, I have been experimenting with different kinds of fat. And one of the best fats of all? Home-rendered leaf lard.

Before you go all Ewww on me, I will have you know that lard is one of the few monounsaturated fats out there. It is great in my savory pie crusts, though I have been known to add it (half with butter) to my sweet crusts, too. Rendering is a fairly simple process. Leaf lard comes from around the kidneys of a pig, and therefore has no muscle fibers in it (unlike, say, back fat) and tends to be very light in color. You chop up the white lard into small pieces, place a little bit of filtered water in the bottom of a heavy pan, and you let the stuff cook down, without stirring it, over very low heat. I swear if you cook it slowly/low enough, it won’t smell at all. Use a ladle and scoop it through cheesecloth into a canning jar. The first liquid will be the clearest/most white; the further down you go the more little bits you will get. (The bits, frankly, are great to use to cook up some spuds and onions!) I tend to do two jars: the pure stuff, the last stuff. You cap the jars and put them in the fridge to use as you need them.

10 responses to “The leftover bits in life

  1. I’m a big fan of lard myself. A book of interest to you may be Nourishing Traditions. It’s a great read although it’s technically a cookbook.

  2. We can’t eat any pork-related products, but we both are of your same opinion about eating real fats rather than the current medical community’s notion of low-fat being healthy. Incorporating healthy fats into a real-food diet is the way we have gravitated, and even though we’re trying to lose weight, we’re simply doing other things to trim ourselves, and slowly. We’ve found that what earlier was a sensitivity to milk products (bloating, gassiness, etc) now has disappeared since we’ve incorporated raw whole milk into our daily eating, most often in the form of caspian sea yogurt, kefir, or just drunk by the glass. We’re satisfied, and when we’re full, we FEEL full.

    Nourishing Traditions is a book we go back and back to, more and more.

    We feel that as we re-connect with the most basic real foods and the most basic ways of raising them, the less we alter chemically those GOOD things, the better off we are. Thank you for bringing attention to the subject of fat…which seems to be a real taboo in American mainstream culture. I have to tell you, since we ditched the “modern wisdom”(what? of less than a handful of decades??) of LowFat, I can eat an avocado with no guilt, and feel SO good afterward! …the same thing with unprocessed cold-pressed coconut oil, real raw milk butter and cream, etc. When those excellent garden veggies are the bulk of our eating, these fats are the “icing on the cake” 🙂

  3. “lard is one of the few monounsaturated fats out there.”

    I’d be curious to hear your numbers on this. According to my nutrition textbooks, lard does have a higher % of monounsaturated fat to saturated, but it’s hardly what I’d call a monounsaturated fat. Leave a jar of that lard on the counter and it doesn’t go anywhere near liquidy on you (like my jar of chicken schmaltz does). Per 100g, lard has 39 sat, 45 mono & 11 poly.

    I definitely agree that lard is a good fat, way too overlooked these days. And rendering your own is the way to go (we’re renderers, too, and James makes a mean pie crust with half lard, half chicken butter). Frankly, I’m mighty scared of those white blocks of industrial lard that they have in the grocery aisle. *shudder*

  4. The lard give food a deep rich taste found in the cooking of a couple of generations ago. I was an adult before I knew how to make a pie crust without lard. I’ve never made lard myself.

    One though on the eggs from when we had chickens before: I would freeze 2 or 3 eggs in little snack baggies, then put a bunch of those little snack baggies into real freezer bags. In the winter when eggs are low these work just fine in recipes. I never tried them just on their own.

  5. LARD. I am SO JEALOUS. I managed to get a quarter of a well-raised pig this year, but – no leaf lard. I think I found a source for good duck fat, though, and it’s as tasty – but not for crusts. When I’m rendering fat I usually get it started on the stove top then do most of it inside the oven until towards the end.

  6. My experience with pasture raised animals is that they have very little fat, even when fed some grain. We raise tamworth pigs, which are known to be lean, but are definitely so when raised on pasture with only supplemental grain. I’m sure breed affects this to a large extent.

    Likewise our pastured geese and duck were similarly lean. Tasty, definitely, but absolutely did not have fat oozing out like grocery store versions. In fact, I was sorely disappointed not to have my year’s worth of goose fat from roasting two of our geese for Christmas dinner.

  7. Hi Mia! Yep, I’ve had Nourishing Traditions around the house for a while. My only quibble with it is it so BADLY needs an editor for the most minor spelling errors that, for me, it throws the whole book into question as far as its sidebar research goes. But that’s my bias, I suppose, as in general the book is chock-full of great information. Mary Enig co-wrote a couple of books with Sally Fallon, I think.

    Robbyn, you bring up a lot of great points in your comment. I do understand the reasons behind a religious prohibition against eating pork, and my only thoughts for this are it’s too bad, for pigs are one animal that are very useful in the sense that there’s little that cannot be used and, more importantly, many of the parts can be preserved for long-term eating, whereas other animals (goat, sheep especially) must be eaten quickly. In other words, a pig goes a long way, whereas a goat or a sheep is instant feast material. But hey, there’s 5000 years of tradition behind your reasons, so who am I to quibble, right? 😉 In general, I am glad you brought up your own examples of eating “real” foods and its noticeable effects on the way you feel. Fats like everything else are part of that picture, and again a little goes a long way: the icing on the cake, or the binder in my crust, as it were, literally!

    Liz, (Hi!) that’s the great puzzle about fats, and frankly it’s why people get so confused about the whole word. Lard gets categorized as monounsaturated only because of that 45%, and that’s enough, even though there’re, for some people, enough of the “bad” fats in there to make people shun it entirely. (I was truly curious about how metabolic processes in general, having missed out on nutrition classes in college or even high school, so I have been catching up.)
    But, like you and James, I am trying to save little bits. Schmaltz was another revelation, frankly. Saving these leftover fats makes my food budget go further, and, by so doing, I am using less EVOO…but with what I am saving I am buying better EVOO, even if I use it more sparingly. But in all honesty? My favorite fat is BUTTER!

    Verde, thanks for the egg tip! We’ve usually had eggs year-round, so in the times when they’re scarce I tend to simply hoard them. But yeah right now I am getting between 8-12 eggs a DAY between 9 girls. They are BUSY. Which means i have lots of egg-loving friends appear out of the woodwork… Anyway, yeah, the whole putting-your-finger-on-the-reason things taste better is something that occurs to a lot of people who’re older who’ve come to the house and eaten our food. Especially the eggs, come to think of it. Me? Even though I ate a lot of fresh unprocessed food my whole life, I can’t say I was ever exposed to anything as good as that pig or these eggs before in my life. And that has been proof in the pudding for me.

    Hayden, ack, I wasn’t terribly clear in my lard post; I got the leaf lard from my meat co-op, and it didn’t come with the side. I got back fat with the side, and that is great stuff in biscuits, I tell you! But yeah, duck fat, goose fat, chicken fat, turkey fat…everything has a ready purpose, which is something that has been lost and is somehow being found again. I think we can all be glad of that, certainly. Thanks for the oven tip. I am a spaz with my oven (in other words out of sight out of mind) so stovetop works best for me because I see it and see how it’s going.

    Danielle, I’d imagine that, just like people, genes and lifestyle affect fat content in our barnyard critters. That we’ve consciously selected them for their expressed characteristics (growth rate, taste, ease of raising) leaves the critter’s lifestyle the only great variable. I cracked up at your lack of goose fat from your Christmas birds: this year, roast four maybe??? I know the pig side wasn’t a commercial breed but dang I have no idea if it was heirloom or not; I do know it was pastured. I know my meat guys are moving into heirlooms slowly, though not for chickens. I guess it’s all a balance. You’re like me in that we’d both select for taste over any other factor. I guess that just means less fat for us!

  8. Great post!! And thanks for the reading suggestions. I so want to get into this! (Especially after reading Little Heathens!!:) ) We’re getting a whole, pasure raised hog this weekend and I want to make use of it all.

  9. I participate in some homesteading and critter forums on yahoo (well – that’s stretching it. mostly I read and learn.) have heard there that feeding pastured hogs dairy fattens them up. One guy raises pastured hogs commercially and gets whey from a nearby organic cheese-maker to supplement.

  10. Angie, that’s great about the hog. You get to make a choice about the kinds of cuts you’ll get, right? I am really interested in making sausage this year with ours. But yeah: so much about that book made me think. Just their meal descriptions alone! And going down to the cellar and lifting out a precooked pork chop covered in fat? WOW.

    Hayden, yeah, that of course makes sense as that’s what traditionally was done. Some cows in high season can give you four gallons a day. You have to do something with that leftover milk, and piggies happily oblige milk and whey with their slops! Closed loop, too.

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