A Love Letter to Lard (& 4 Easy Ways to Use It!)
First, I’d like to apologize for how long it’s been since we’ve spoken. I just learned we were childhood friends—I am SO happy Sally and Weston helped us reconnect! I spoke to my grandmother the other day and she said we used to use 45 POUNDS of your deliciousness a MONTH while I was growing up! Tortillas, tamales, and potatoes just don’t taste the same without you. I’m glad my grandmother had the wisdom to welcome you back into our lives so easily. I would sincerely like to thank you for helping my mom create my strong bones and teeth, for giving my family a strong immune system, and helping me age gracefully (yes, 34 and I still get dirty looks and carded when I buy wine). Lard—you ROCK!!
I am also writing to ask for your forgiveness. On behalf of the family whose health you helped support for generations, I’m sorry…I’m sorry we believed the hype, I’m sorry we listened to the mainstream health care industry, and I’m sorry we turned our backs on a traditional fat that nourished our family for hundreds of years. I went 25 years without you in my life, but I promise to make sure you are there for my children and grandchildren.
Alright foodies, in all seriousness, pastured lard is an amazingly nutrient dense food. I firmly believe all omnivores should look into embracing it as a part of a healthy and balanced diet. For my friends who choose not to partake, due to religious principals or because they are plant-based foodies, I suggest including organic coconut oil or pastured butter/ghee in your diets for comparable health benefits. Below you’ll find my four favorite ways to use it and some tidbits about WHY lard supports our health. Enjoy <3
My 5 Favorite Uses for Pastured Lard
- Potatoes—The number one use of lard in my house growing up was for potatoes. My grandma would heat up her sartén (trusty cast ion skillet!), drop in a couple spoonfuls of lard, and the sizzle was all you needed to make your mouth water. The potatoes were flawless every time—crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. Remember to salt AFTER you cook for optimal crispiness and flavor! (Note: my grandmother’s potatoes are flawless…I’m still working on perfecting the final texture of my potatoes. I’m convinced it has something to do with the benefits of a gas vs. electric oven…at least that’s what I’m hoping, otherwise she’s privy to some sorcery she has yet to pass on to me!
- Baked goods—Pork leaf lard is premium fat from around the kidneys. It is an odorless and flavorless ingredient that will give your pie crusts a flaky quality that makes your family and friends’ beg for seconds (and your recipe!). Many of my friends wear by pork leaf lard in their baking.
- Frying/Searing meat—Cast iron+lard=beautifully seared meat (quickly and effortlessly!). In the past I’ve used pastured bacon fat but it smokes a little faster. Lard is flavorless, so you will get the sear you want, without anything extra muddling up the flavor of what you are cooking. If you have flavorful meat from dinner, shred it and fry it up in lard for crispy tacos or to make enchiladas.
- Skin moisturizer—yup, that’s right. I’ve put it on my hands and massaged onto dry/cracked skin. Cooking in winter means I wash my hands a lot after dealing with raw meat (this, on TOP of being a teacher and washing my hands a thousand times a day at school!) and the result can be quite painful. One solution? Lard! It coats your skin, providing immediate relief and a protective layer (If your skin is really chapped, my favorite product is tallow (pastured beef fat) body balm by Vintage Traditions. Perfect for dry skin and eczema!).
A Brief Look at Some Health Benefits of Lard
Since lard is an animal product, sourcing is extremely important. The adage, “You are what you eat” is particularly important here. Commercial pork lard (i.e., CAFO—concentrated animal feeding operation) is going to be reflect elevated levels of Omega 6s:Omega 3s. In nature, most pastured animal products contain a near 1:1 ratio; in grain-fed animals, that number can be significantly higher. Diets too high in Omega-6s, or lacking the appropriate ratio to Omega-3s, have been linked to increased risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease).
Fat: Yummy, rich, delicious, and HEALTHY fat. I LOVE it! Fat is the vehicle that makes many of the yummy nutrients in our food available to our body. That’s why we call them fat soluble vitamins! And if you’ve been with me long enough, you know I am a HUGE fan of saturated fat, but lard (like most fats) is a blend. In addition to saturated fat, lard is roughly half monounsaturated fat and about 10% polyunsaturated fat.
For more on WHY fat is so essential, check out my post here.
Cholesterol & Vitamin D: Cholesterol is necessary for the formation of synapses (think learning!), the synthesis of sex hormones,the formation bile for digestion, and the structural integrity of our cells.
According to Dr. Chris Masterjohn, cholesterol is present in many vitamin D foods (like lard from pasture raised pigs, yolks in pastured eggs, and liver from pasture raised-animals…notice a pattern? Pastured=sunshine=a vitamin D rich food!). A serious danger of low-fat diets is that it reduces our abilities to synthesize vitamin D, which is responsible for calcium metabolism and a healthy skeletal structure.
If you eat animal products, I hope you check it out soon because pastured lard is definitely a food your body will thank you for!