I first began experimenting with lard a few years ago when I became really interested in baking more pie, personally and professionally. I took a pie class from Kate McDermott, a Seattle-based baker and teacher who makes very special pie crust — made with lard. At the time, McDermott liked a mix of rendered leaf lard and butter so after class I set out to pick up fresh lard from our local butcher and gave it a go on my own.
The resulting crust was flakier and had a slightly savory quality that my all-butter crusts just didn't have. I was a convert.
I realize lard can be a hard sell for people, and I understand why. Many store-bought commercial lards are heavily processed. But the creamy homemade rendered lard is thought to contain omega 3s and consumers actually know the source more intimately (does anyone really understand what Crisco is made from after all?). I think variety is always good so we use a lot of coconut oil, olive oil and butter at home when cooking and baking — but the occasional bit of lard in pie crust is something I'll always welcome.
And apparently I'm not the only one. I read an article last week in The News and Observer that claims it just might be "the comeback fat," claiming, "A few generations ago, everybody cooked with lard from pigs raised the old-fashioned way," but people have grown more and more dubious as they've tried to steer clear of overly saturated fats. But today there seems to be a turn towards welcoming lard back to the table and celebrating the fact that much of it is very minimally processed and if you buy it from your local butcher it's likely quite fresh and even local.
I'd love to know what you think: have you used lard in the kitchen for cooking or baking? What's your favorite use for it?
(Image credits: Megan Gordon)