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Leaf Lard

Recently, I admitted my unbiased love of convenience pies and traditional pies, alike. This is about a step in the traditional pie process. Whereas last week I made a pudding pie for which my effort was finished in roughly 15 minutes, this week I’m preparing to make pies all Autumn long by rendering my own lard for pastry crusts. From start to finish, it took about four hours, at a dawdling and enjoyable pace.

This is an exercise in appreciation. This is about a back to basics approach to making a pie. I hope some of you will try this because it removes a great deal of mystery about lard, fats, and the unknown but trusted things we often use in our crusts. There was a time, not so long ago, when our forbears all used lard in pastry and for all manner of cooking. Many of us believe that we have innovated ourselves right out of a wonderful ingredient.

My History with Lard

When last we spoke about rendering lard for pastry dough, I was having a pie emergency and desperately needed lard to make a VIP (very important pie) which traveled to Galveston for The 2011 Foodways Texas Symposium.

I was very busy trying to acquire a very special sort of lard called “leaf lard.” On that occasion, I settled for regular pork fat that I acquired at a local Hispanic-oriented grocery store. These stores have many more options when it comes to cuts of beef and pork. What the “hip” food world call “tip to tail” animal consumption is merely a fact with much ethnic cuisine. But, alas, even in this great store there was nothing so obscure as leaf fat.  Now I have several resources for fresh rendered leaf lard, and a well stocked freezer so there will be no more pie emergencies of that nature. However, the notion of leaf lard has remained very interesting to me. And I believe that it does, in fact, make superior, flaky, lovely crusts.

For the uninitiated, leaf lard is a very particular type of lard. It is lard rendered exclusively from the “leaf fat” of a pig. It is fat that is deposited around the kidney of the animal. Why is this important? Well, this fat has a different structure than other fat, which lends itself beautifully to pastry applications.

“Because of its large crystalline structure, it works exceptionally well in biscuits and pie crusts…Lard is somewhat soft even when cold, so when making a pie dough, some of the fat coats the flour, inhibiting much of the gluten development. The remaining fat, which stays in larger flakes, melts at a slightly higher temperature than butter, keeping the layers of flour and water separate. This also allows what little water is in the dough to turn to steam and separate the layers further. This is what creates a pie crust’s flakiness. “ The King Arthur Baking Company website

And leaf lard is widely revered as the highest quality fat on a hog. So, while any freshly and correctly rendered lard will make a good pastry dough, leaf lard is said to be the best. I wish I had a better understanding of how a large crystalline structure in fresh fat translates into a quantifiable difference in the rendered lard. I need a food scientist to show me slides of rendered leaf lard and standard mixed lard under a microscope. I hate to blithely assert that leaf lard is superior to all unprocessed rendered lard. My experience has borne that out, and the ravings of more experienced pie makers than I have borne that out, but I also enjoy the pointy headed science end of things.

But the appeal of the crystalline structure is the most often noted factor. Let me quote a lovely book called fat by Jennifer McLagan,

“Also called flead or flare fat, leaf lard is the fat from around the pig’s kidneys. Ideal for making pastry because of its brittle crystalline structure, this is the crème de la crème of pork fat.” Jennifer McLagan

I have this book because I gave a windmill t-shirt to Daniel Vaughn, of Full Custom Gospel BBQ. He gifted me with this book and it is a love letter to an often maligned food, fat. It covers beef, pork and poultry fat and explains how we, as a health conscious society, moved away from animal fats and into the waiting arms of industrial and plant based fats, which she argues was to our detriment. I tend to agree.

My fascination with leaf lard pre-dates my meeting Daniel, and goes all the way back to conversations with another friend Jon Rowley, who is a champion of making pies with lard. Jon was the reason for the traveling pie mentioned earlier. While widely known as a seafood expert, particularly an oyster expert, he is also a pie baker with whom I had extensive conversations about optimal crusts.  When I found out that I would be lucky enough to meet him in person at the 2011 Foodways Texas Symposium, I knew the pie about which we had talked so often needed to be in attendance, too.  This pie crisis caused me to have to render my own lard, with an assist from Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan blog, for the first time. And it was fun, and it was successful. It is not rocket science. If it was, it would be Crisco. No, this is the most basic and simple of foodstuff preparations. Fat, slowly cooked, renders lard. The fat that it is rendered into is also called lard, leading to plenty of confusion. That is why I’m calling it fat before it is rendered and lard after it is rendered, but this is my convention just for the sake of clarity.

Fast forward another year. I met Daniel in person at the 2012 Foodways Texas BBQ Camp. Not surprisingly, talking about BBQ invites a lot of talk about fat. Fat is not a pejorative in the BBQ world. In fact, fat is revered for its ability to, in essence, baste meat as it renders and gelatinizes during the smoking process. It is vital. Talk about BBQ also leads to a lot of talk about pies, given that even if you have stuffed yourself to the gills with brisket, you generally are still capable of making room for pie. Daniel, I am given to believe, also bakes a mean pie.

BBQ camp is held in the Meat Sciences Department of Texas A&M in college station. Therefore, I was surrounded not only by meat experts but by the very nature of meat sciences, fat experts. Professor Jeff Savell was kind enough to field my questions about pork fat and leaf lard and in an act of utter generosity and kindness, offered to save the leaf fat from the summer slaughter for me. Bear in mind, A&M teaches very astute young men and women every aspect of meat production, grading, and safety. That means that animals are killed, and prepared as they would be at any other meat facility, but under the watchful eyes of a bunch of PhDs and graduate students (thank you, Leslie Frenzel). Meaning, I got some really great fat. A week or so ago, I found the best gift on my doorstep, a frozen delivery of pure leaf fat. Daniel will be taking half of this bounty, too.

Finally, I was able to render my own leaf lard for pies.

Being a Consumer

If it strikes you as a bit gross or déclassé to spend one’s day rendering lard, let me try to explain briefly why I jump at these opportunities. I am not a complete stickler where food is concerned. But, we as a culture have tried very hard to remove ourselves from the “unsightly” processes concerning meat, in particular. We have largely left it to others to do for us, and jumped at the glossy ads and perceived advantages of every food technology to come along. This efficiency and convenience gain has meant that, in the course of one or two generations, most of us don’t know anything about the food we eat, and we absolutely trust others to supply our most basic need.

My lard experiments, and other food adventures, have caused me to learn that lard, relative to butter and shortening, is not a “bad” source of fat. No need to recoil in horror at the word “lard” anymore. Good. Many would argue it is more suitable than other options, historically, for a human diet. But, it has caused me to eliminate about 14 processing stages from one ingredient, fat. This fat came from a hog, to a processor, to me. That is three. Shortening…well, let’s just say that its road is a bit more curvy.  Admittedly, I eat some highly processed, trans-fatty, uncouth food on occasion. But, I am not a blind consumer. And, I really like having a closer connection to my food sources where pie is concerned, in particular.

Now, having personally pulled leaf fat off of the surrounding membrane, chopped it into bits all by myself, and rendered it slowly and carefully, I really know about the fat I am putting into my pie. Shortening, on the other hand, is a scientific wonder. It is made now with cottonseed oil and soybean oil. It is impressive in many ways, though not in flavor. I’m not opposed to it completely and I use it on some occasions. I even have one cookie recipe in which I often use it. But, people prefer using shortening for pies sometimes, because it produces a dough that behaves better for highly decorative purposes. Butter and lard crusts have a more rustic look about them. And, many people prefer shortening because it can be obtained readily, no matter where you live. Certain bakers like all-butter crusts, too. I understand that completely and believe that whatever gets you baking is a good thing.

But, I love the flavor and the texture of a leaf lard and butter crust. If I am going to spend hours making a beautiful pie, I will go to the trouble of selecting (or perhaps have been gifted with) glorious fruit or berries or chocolate. I am also going to buy high quality butter (can you envision churning butter as a post soon…I can). And I will make sure that I have my favorite flour which is made from American grown wheat. If I’m going to spend the time, and acquire the best ingredients, I want the leaf lard, not shortening. I just do…if I can. It is part of the aura of a home-baked pie. A pig farmer, a dairy farmer, a wheat farmer, an orchard owner, and spice growers…people, all of whom have a hand in my pie.

So, THAT is why I have enjoyed the process of learning about lard.

But that is the rub, really. It is a process. I had to go, literally, to the guy at the top of the food chain to get this fat. I could probably call around to pork farmers and find a source, but that isn’t really feasible for most people. Butcher shops don’t carry it from what I’ve seen. And frankly, there is a reason for that. Most people aren’t crazy enough (yet…I’m working on you) to want to render their own lard. I am, admittedly, odd that way.

But, if you can get leaf lard, I hope you will try it. I’m in good company in my recommendation and I wish I had keyed into it even sooner. My beloved resource for all things cooking-related, Cook’s Illustrated, has this to say in an online missive about lard:

“We found leaf lard at a local butcher and finally understood why so many readers had written to us in pretty passionate defense of lard. The pie crust made with the leaf lard was extremely tender and flaky, but what most distinguished it from pie crusts made with supermarket lard (or Crisco) was its rich, almost savory flavor.”

But let me be very clear on this point. The lard product in the chain grocery stores that is shelf stable and sold right next to the shortening and oils is NOT leaf lard. And, it is not fresh lard. It is processed lard which is definitely pork lard, but has been produced for the virtue of shelf stability, not necessarily baking. And as I understand matters, if there is a health benefit (or not a detriment relative to the consumption of plant based processed fats), it is lost in the shelf stable variety. If you don’t have to refrigerate it, don’t buy it.

[This is the fat in its natural state. The leaf fat is attached to this membrane and you have to peel it off, which leaves you with the rubbery membrane in the bottom center photo, which you discard.]

Where To Get Leaf Lard

Here are my leaf lard resources. Some I have used personally and others I suggest based on their reputations. Some do mail order and some must be purchased in person. If you know of any resources I should add to the list, please post a comment for us.

Dietrich’s Meats: This is old-school mail order. Send them a check and they send you lard. If is vacuum sealed and in nice pint containers that are great for the freezer. I have used this lard and it is wonderful.

Dai Due: In Austin, you can sign up for their mailing list and be alerted of their farmers market offerings, which often includes leaf lard. I have used this lard, and it is also wonderful. At last check, they do not do mail order, but you can find them at the local farmers markets.

Revival Market: This well regarded shop in Houston specializes in locally raised meats and and locally grown produce. “Everything is pasture raised, antibiotic free, smoked and butchered in-house.” This is one of the spots on my radar for any upcoming Houston road trip. They do not ship the lard, but if you are in the Houston area, this is a great resource.  I have not used this leaf lard, but I have, on the most reliable word, heard that it is great. Adam Dorris, their Chef de Cuisine, tells me that their lard is from Mangalitsa hogs, a heritage breed, and that it has more flavor and clarity than any lard he has ever worked with.

Prather Ranch Meat Company: The retail location in the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco is wonderful. They also sell their lard at farmers markets in the SF Bay area. But this is a pick-up item for them. They do not deliver. If you stop by, be sure to pick up a “Praise the Lard” t-shirt while you are at it. I wish I had thought of that first.

Flying Pigs Farm: This is a source for unrendered leaf lard if you want to try it yourself.  They ship the fat and you can render it yourself if you choose that route. I haven’t ordered from them personally but they seem to get very positive press about their products. And their other offerings sound wonderful, as well.

Rain Shadow Meats: Jon Rowley recommended this shop. They do not ship. But if you live in Seattle, this is a good resource.

Beyond these…leaf lard can be found, but you have to do some homework. Call local ranchers who sell pork. You may find that you can get very nice leaf lard from even heritage varieties of pigs. Farmers markets are a great place to check, too. And folks, this stuff is NOT expensive. The cost is in the shipping. So it is worth your while to find a local source if you can.

How to Render Lard

In addition to this method for rendering lard, I will also give you a list of resources for fresh rendered leaf lard that you can buy, in person or by mail order. That, unlike the unrendered fat, is obtainable if you prepare in advance. But, here I will also give you the oven method for rendering your own leaf lard, or other pork fat, should you want to use it for frying or making biscuits or refried beans, or any other number of applications for which an all natural fat seems appropriate to you.

Having once rendered lard on my stove top, I learned why most people in days past rendered fat outside in big kettles. Your house will smell like pork rinds if you process it on the stove. Hence, I was quite pleased to read Jennifer McLagan’s instruction to render fat slowly in the oven at a low setting. My house fared much better this time.

But all other instructions that I have run across suggest that you render it on the stove top. The earliest reference I have for leaf lard in particular is found in The White House Cookbook. This is truly a classic tome, first published in 1887. Subtitled “Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts Worth Knowing,” it was written by Hugo Ziemann (steward of the White House) and Mrs. F.L. Gillette. My copy, a 1925 revised edition also owes recipe content to Mrs. Mary Dague, “for cookery is progressive.” Indeed. And now we have progressed from and back to the use of rendered lard. But you will see how little has changed in the method:

“Skin the leaf lard carefully, cut it into small pieces and put it into a kettle or saucepan; pour in a cupful of water to prevent burning; set it over the fire where it will melt slowly. Stir it frequently and let it simmer until nothing remains but brown scraps. Remove the scraps with a perforated skimmer, stir in a little salt to settle the fat, and, when clear, strain through a coarse cloth into jars….If it scorches, it gives it a bad flavor.” -Ziemann, Gillette & Dague

And years later Carol Field, in her IACP award winning cookbook, The Italian Baker (revised), wrote the following:

“In diet-conscious America, good lard is difficult to find….My butcher, who is usually extremely accommodating, has to sell me leaf lard in 10-pound amounts. So I have one busy afternoon rendering it and then can keep it refrigerated in small lots for months.” -Carol Field

She, likewise suggest that you simply cook it over a very low flame until it turns into transparent liquid, skim off the bits, and let it cool to room temperature.” And, suggests it be used for a number of bread doughs and gives them a “smooth, moist, creamy texture.”

I could stop there. That is really all there is to it. But it is funny that I am now “discovering” such a basic function of households past. If you ever see a copy of The White House Cookbook in a junk shop, grab it immediately. It is really a lot of fun to peruse. And, well, I am also a sucker for bread cookbooks.

Onward! Consider using your oven. It allows for a steady, low temperature. I far prefer this method and it takes far less baby-sitting. While the words differ here, I owe this methodology to Ms. McLagan, who, like Lisa Fain the last time, made it sound so very doable that I jumped right in.

Recipe for Rendering Leaf Lard (yield: 6 pounds of chopped leaf lard rendered 5 pints of lard)

Ingredients:

6 pounds fresh leaf lard
1/3 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Choose a heavy stockpot large enough to hold the fat.

2. Clean the fat from the membrane to which it is attached. Leaf lard is stuck to a very durable membrane and you can peel it away with your fingers or use a very sharp knife to shave it off as you would silver skin on a roast. Use caution because your hands will be very slippery from handling the fat. Be very respectful of your knife and your hand placement.

3. When you have removed the fat, you may discard the membranes. Cut the leaf fat into small bits and place them into the stock pot with 1/3 cup of water.

4. Place the uncovered pot into the oven and allow it to cook for 30 minutes. Stir the fat thoroughly. You will notice that it is starting to glisten. Return the pot to the oven for an additional 45 minutes and, again, stir thoroughly. At this point, stir it every hour until the fat has fully rendered but before it becomes significantly golden. The darker the fat bits get, the more flavor will be imparted to the lard, which is not optimal for baking. In all, my lard cooked for 3 hours and 15 minutes. Yours may go more quickly depending on how much fat you have in the pot.

5. Remove the pot from the oven and allow it to cool a bit. Strain the liquid lard through cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Alternatively, use a skimmer to remove the bits of fat. Pouring it through a sieve or cheese cloth will yield a cleaner pour of lard. Discard the fat bits, or put them back into the pot and place it in the oven for a while longer to render more lard, if you like. There are numerous uses for a slightly more “piggy” lard. Once you have strained the lard, ladle it into jars. Allow it to cool completely into its solid state and then put on the lids and store the lard in the refrigerator (for several weeks) or the freezer (for up to a year).

That is it. Happy Baking.

Note:

Today, I spoke to approximately 4 people about rendering lard. As in, “what have you been up to?” And I say, “Oh, just rendering lard for pie crusts.” One agreed that I had flipped my lid completely, but I’m perfectly sure that she would be on board when there is an actual pie involved. Three were completely on board. One was Daniel Vaughn (who showed up with Pecan Lodge BBQ, the dear sweet man). Another friend, who is a chef, told me that she grew up on a hog farm and her neighbor would render the lard from their pigs and share back the bounty. And one friend related to me that her Hungarian grandmother uses lard in absolutely everything, including sweets and cookies and that she loves cooking with lard. I think there is a lot of room for this tradition in our lives. And, if we start asking for leaf lard from our better butcher shops, we will be able to get it.

So I ask, would you bake with leaf lard if you could find it? And, would you rather buy it rendered, or try your hand at rendering it yourself?  And, if you have any memories of your family making or using lard during your earlier life, I’d love to hear about it. Finally, if you have any sources for leaf lard, let me know and I will add them to the list.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this giant piggy stream of consciousness. Thanks for hanging in there, by the way. At over 4,000 words, this is surely one of my War & Peace posts.

Here are several other articles that are worth reading about baking with lard.

Heaven in a Pie Pan: The Perfect Crust

The Nasty Bits: How to Use Leaf Lard in Pastry Doughs

 

 

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40 comments to Leaf Lard

  • This is the best article I’ve read so far on lard, leaf lard in particular. Thank you so much for the resources, the instructions on how to render lard and for posting this very informative post. I went to Mueller Farmer market today and no one had leaf lard available.

  • Kath

    A year or so ago, I ordered 5# of leaf lard from Heritage Foods USA. I thought it would say leaf FAT if it were unrendered but that was not the case. I learned quickly from the internet how to render it. I used my large crockpot on low and it took all day but I was rewarded with beautiful snowy white leaf lard that I strained and ladled into muffin cups (1/4 c. each), cooled and froze individually in sandwich bags inside a larger freezer bag. It is wonderful for piecrust or biscuits. I have added the following two sources for you and there is actually a third called christiansenfarm.com They are a family farm in Utah who raise heritage hogs. Their lard is made from all the hog fat which they sell for 4# for $30.00 including shipping. Even though they don’t sell the leaf lard separately, it is still a healthy fat and I intend to try some of theirs in the near future to see if I can tell the difference between it and my leaf lard.

    Prariepridepork.com Open kettle rendered leaf lard 4#3oz $45.95 + $15.95 shipping.
    Heritagefoodsusa.com Leaf lard 5# (unrendered) $39 + $23.00 shipping.

  • Monica Weiskopf

    Well, well! After having read your sumptuous article I truly felt I spend a quite moment back in time, enjoying for myself your wisdom. Thank you ever so kindly for sharing. I am off now to experiment for the first time for myself “True Pie”. It was this key ingredient I have wanted to understand for so long and now do. It is my hopes that I too can make that one pie that I so faintly remember once touched my palate. A tradition perhaps one day in the making ;~D, Ever so Grateful for your eloquent words of wisdom, Blessings Monica

  • Leaf lard is awesome! I’ve been a fan for years, but have had a very hard time getting hold of it locally. Luckily, a tiny butcher shop just opened in my neighborhood and they have leaf fat out on display, as if people are buying it all the time! Imagine that! I bought some of it and rendered it according to your excellent blog post, to replenish my pie making stash. If anyone is interested, you can check out some pictures and notes here:

    http://tooling-up.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-beauty-of-home-rendered-leaf-lard.html

    Thanks for a great blog post!

  • Kelly

    Weisha…GOOD PLAN!

  • Weisha

    1) Find a local organic, humanely-slaughtered pig farmer.
    2) Organize a multi-family meat purchase of 1/2 or whole pigs, with other folks who either don’t bake or have no interest in doing what is needed to render leaf lard.
    3) Secure their promise that they will request the leaf lard from their pig when giving butchering directions, and that they will pass that leaf lard on to you.
    4) Be prepared to receive many, many pounds of leaf lard to render at your leisure :)

  • Charlie

    I have no problem with the rendering.
    I rendered the fat off my goose every year, add menthol and it is the best chest rub ever for a chest cold.

    My only concern is where to get it.

    I live in NB Canada, and things that are not asked for often can be really hard to get.

    My Grandma made her crust from lard or suet. Nothing better!

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie

  • Kelly

    Sharon, please check back in and let me know how the quest is going after you find the perfect lard. I love the 50/50 lard and butter crust. I’m crazy about it.

  • Sharon Houk

    This is a great post. My family has been on a perfect pie crust quest ever since they changed the formula for Crisco (in the last couple of years) and this post has inspired me to look into proper lard. My sister used some lard this fall as a trial run, but it was too piggy tasting. She bought it at the store and we were thinking that perhaps a better quality lard would be a better pie crust lard. I’m going to give your ideas a try. My favorite part of your whole post was the reference to a “VIP” = a Very Important Pie! You obviously know my family!

  • Kelly

    Oh no! You are breaking my heart. I pour off my lard in successive batches to make sure the first few jars are totally clear. The longer you cook it, the more golden the cracklins get and the more flavor is imparted to the lard. If it has a porky scent, I would recommend using it for savory pies like beef pie or chicken pot pie. It will be wonderful for those uses. You might even try it for an apple pie which is served with cheddar cheese slices…things that aren’t strictly sweet. I find that my kitchen smells so porky after doing rendering that I cannot tell what is the kitchen smell and what is the scent of the lard. So you might make sure the lard itself is porky smelling after a few days. Either way, use it in biscuits and savory pies and for a million other things. It will still be great. I’m so sorry you didn’t have great luck the first time out. But, I bet it will still be good for lots of wonderful things. (by the way…try it for a sweet pie, you might find that you like the contrast of a slightly savory crust.)

  • Cathy

    hello, I recently purchased leaf lard and melted it down. I must have cooked it too hot as the finished product, while white and creamy is pork smelling and doesn’t seem fit for my Thanksgiving pies. Is there any hope of salvaging it? If I use it will it smell/taste of pork? thanks for any help..

  • Kelly

    That is funny! The shipping…not so funny. Hopefully it will make enough lard for a year’s worth of pies.

  • Terry

    I just took delivery of about 5 pounds of leaf fat from Flying Pig Farms in New York. Still have to render it before I can try it. Shipping was very expensive — costs $65 to ship from NY to Georgia. I will search closer to home next time. They also sent a picture of a (the) hog along with it, which is somewhat akin to having a fish sandwich at the aquarium. I’m still debating that one, but I can’t wait to try the stuff in a crust.

  • Kelly

    Yay, Caroline! I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Please check in.

  • caroline

    I am in Lexington VA visiting my son who is a chef at The Red Hen. He has Donald’s Meats here and they are butchering 2 pigs this week. They said I can have all the leaf lard I can carry ! I am glad to see your inst. and will post back when I get my lard rendered. c

  • Kelly

    Kathleen, I’m so happy you found me. Let us know how the lard acquisition works out. I suppose you are talking about Revival…it is supposed to be a great shop.

  • Kathleen Vondra

    I was soooo happy to see this post on lard, especially leaf lard. I live 30 miles outside of Houston city limits and I’ve been looking for a meat market that sold leaf lard. I did purchase some lard at a mexican meat market but I don’t believe it’s true leaf lard (there was a little bit of a language barrier). I did render it but hadn’t cooked with it yet. So I was ecstatic to see a local meat market on your list of places to purchase leaf lard. I called the market and it is always readily available. I plan on visiting them this weekend. It looks like an awesome meat market by the pictures on their website.

  • Donna

    Great post! I have some lard from our local organic pig grower that I am ready to render. I LOVE the idea of being more connected to your food…and good pie crust!
    Thanks! Off to the kitchen.

  • Here in NYC, Flying Pigs Farm is my local source here for leaf lard–both rendered and not–and I can vouch for the quality of their fat. I had no idea they shipped so that’s great to know. Hooray for lard!

  • Kelly

    Bebe…thanks for all the great resources! We will all find leaf lard before this is all said and done, I hope.

  • Bebe

    NB. That last reference is from 2006. May be seriously out of date now…but worth a try.

  • Bebe

    And in Carlsbad, CA (a lovely place north of San Diego),

    This might get removed or moved, but I saw both leaf lard and caul fat last weekend at Tip Top Meats in Carlsbad. They had it in their freezer case, vacuum packed. They might mail order it to you, or point you to a more local source.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/343631

  • Bebe

    I have never used leaf lard, but plan to as soon as I can get some.

    Found some sources in the Los Angeles area (and one in Seattle) here:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2011/05/ready-for-summers-pies-wooly-pig-leaf-lard.html

    Another forum included mention of its being in the freezer case at Surfas, on the west side of Los Angeles (a store I’ve never visited that is said to have almost everything for chefs).

  • Kelly

    Of course! And, thank you. Love you, too.

  • susan

    Hi Kelly- I love your website!! Can family be in your drawing?? Love you, Susan

  • Clare

    Your blog is wonderful and this is such a refreshing post. I have been rendering my own leaf lard for several years. I do it in the crock pot which reduces hands on time (but not stink). Not only does lard produce superior pie crusts, it’s high smoking point makes it great for frying and it is unparalleled for seasoning caste iron. I had a great source, The Meat Shop of Tacoma, but they recently closed!

  • Love this post. Thank you for all the detail and photos….definitely going to give this a try. Heading to my butcher later this week…will see what he can find for me. He has been great in taking care of other special requests and have a feeling this will be another one where he will come through.

    Again, thank you!

    Take care,
    Tania

  • Kelly

    Great, Melissa. Thank you. I hope you find some good lard to work with. Please let me know how it turns out.

  • SUPER post. I am a whole food kind of woman and have been wanting to render my own lard for years now with no clue where to start. I’ve done some talking but nothing more than that. This is a stellar post and I love all your reasoning. Lard has gotten such a bad wrap, but have they read about margarine lately LOL! Pinning this for later!

  • Kelly

    Dave, thanks! I know you love the real stuff. You have such a great food-view…all the good stuff. It is like an English Pub and Savuer had a child together. I love the rendering party idea. In fact, it would probably be easier to get a giant amount of something so obscure than a small amount, because it might make it worthwhile for a farmer to actually separate the stuff. Here, I suppose it would only take me about 15 minutes to round up 10 turkeyfrying/crawfish boling outdoor cookers together plus mine. That is how my grandpa did it, watching it in a big pot on an outdoor stove. Now we just need to find enough fat and enough true believers who want to join the pig party.

  • Kelly

    Jon, “definitive” for me is like “perfect” for you. That is one heck of a compliment, especially coming from you. I’m just a traveler on this road, a perennial student. I get nervous with words like “definitive.” But, gosh, thank you. You know, it is funny, Jon, I’ve been in a supermarket haze for so long that I feel like a complete novice where meats and animal bits are concerned. I don’t feel like it, actually, I am a complete novice. But I am having so much fun trying to figure it all out. And I must be doing something right, because I keep running into the most wonderful people on my path: you, Gossen, Savell, Fain, Vaughn, Walsh…the list of passionate, happy, real teachers just keeps growing. I mentioned recently Pitts’ friend Lefty Kreh, a true fly fishing legend. It is said of him often that he doesn’t show his knowledge, he shares it. You are a kindred spirit with Kreh in that regard. Whether it involves oysters or apples, you are always open to talk about it and I am grateful for that. And, putting together a list of heirloom apple purveyors who will ship pie assortments to the Texans is high on my list of priorities.

  • Dave Evans

    Awesome post! I went looking for decent lard last fall to make a proper Cornish Pasty pastry and was amazed how impossible it was to find any fresh, organic option in a city as large and diverse as Chicago. I have a buddy with an organic farm in Iowa who renders his own lard from locally raised hogs, so am planning on visiting him for a lard rendering party in the next few months. Quite why Lard has such a bad rap compared to some of the industrially polluted shortening substitutes amazes me.

  • Jon

    This is a really good piece, Kelly. Definitive. I love the triumphant tone, Leaf lard mastered! I’m looking forward to seeing what you turn up for heirloom apple sources in Texas.

    Rain Shadow Meats in Seattle is a good leaf lard source.

  • Kelly

    Lauren. Oh, my gosh. Thank you for saying that I am amazing. You almost brought a tear to my eye (it is the end of summer and my kids are driving me nuts and “amazing” is not the word that is getting tossed around this week). But, yes…get’cha some lard, friend. And let me know how it works for you, please. My only caution to pie bakers working with lard is, put some foil in the bottom of your oven to catch drips. Depending on the lard, it seems some is drippier than others. The MOST drippy came from when I learned the hard way not to store flour in my freezer for long. It was absorbing all the moisture in the freezer, I think and then not absorbing the fats the way it should when baking…result…pools of drips. This is my non-scientific guess, but as a baker, I’d love to know if you have run into this issue. Which, of course means, it is not the lard’s fault, but my fault. But still….foil.

  • I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post. I have been earnestly looking for leaf lard since last Thanksgiving’s pie season. I learned after purchasing a half-gallon bucket of Armour (read “over-processed”) lard that it was not much of an upgrade from Crisco. Being an avid reader of and vintage cookbooks myself, my pies already stand out, but I can only imagine how spectacular they’ll be once I can combine grass-fed butter with real leaf lard. The ranchers & butchers I’ve spoken to so far haven’t been able to procure the quantities to do much. Thanks to your sources listing I’m near fulfillment of the quest. As always, you are amazing.

  • Kelly

    Deanne, Thank you for your kind words. You’ve made my morning. It is always nice to get up to a happy comment. I’m excited that you can get lard. It probably is mixed lard. But if they carry it at all though, they may be more amenable to saving you leaf lard though. You may have to do some explaining though. Some know precisely what it is and some nod their heads and give you regular lard anyway. I hope these photos will help with identification. One big problem for these purposes is that many butcher shops now order their meat from elsewhere and really only do final cutting and trimming, if that. So, they don’t have whole carcasses to play with. I understand this, certainly. But that is what makes specialty butchers such as Revival Market so interesting to me…they actively cater to people who are wanting to try other cuts. I can’t wait to visit.

    As to your other question about cracklins, the bits left here are consumable but you will have to raise the heat a bit and let them fully render and brown and get crispy. They are just crispy little fat chunks like delicioius crisp bacon fat. Season it and go for it. Lisa Fain (The Homesick Texan) even suggests putting it on a salad as a topping which I think is deliciously ironic. Typically, cracklins are from fat that has skin attached which this doesn’t. But I suspect this fat will be a LOT easier to find. I’m sure several of the hispanic grocery stores in my area carry it. But if you are going for lard and cracklins, pour off a good portion of the rendered to keep before everything starts getting browned. There are a lot of tutorials for cracklins online which might help you if you try to make them on purpose, and not just incidental to lard making.

    Have a great day!

  • Deanne

    I love your posts, and I especially love this one. I am able to purchase lard through our Oklahoma Food Coop, but I am not sure if it is leaf lard or general purpose lard. I might be willing to give this a try! Are the “bits” you talk about the same as cracklins? Or do they come from rendering the whole hog lard?

  • [...] Buttermilk Pie And, if you want to know more about baking with leaf lard, here is a primer on rendering your own lard for pie crusts (and a million other tasty things). For a more thorough treatment on making crusts, read the above [...]

  • [...] can find a source of fresh leaf lard (unrendered fat), you can render your own. See this post on Rendering Leaf Lard if you are up to the [...]

  • [...] in the eye and be grateful. And, why on Earth would I not be overjoyed at a market sporting giant vats of creamy lard. Here and I thought the term “tub of lard” was just a figure of speech. Not so. And, [...]

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