Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Investigating Lard

I've been hearing people talk about lard recently, and being the curious sort, I had to do some investigating.  I started at my local grocery store.  Lard is available by the pound.  Nutritionally, it matches up almost exactly with Crisco as neither contain trans fat and have the exact same fat grams and total calories.  Basically, if you're looking for health food, you won't find it in a box/tub of lard.  However, I did notice one very odd thing: there are no ingredients listed on the lard packaging.  That's just weird.

What is lard?  I knew before I picked up the package that lard is rendered fat.  Simple.  But I wondered if they were using pig fat or cow fat or some other source of fat.  I assumed the package would say "lard from a pig" or something to that effect, but it doesn't.  Just "lard and hydrogenated lard."  Okay for the first one, but what's that other part mean?  And how is it made?

You know when you pan-fry bacon and have all that grease left over?  That's rendered pig fat.  If you let it cool and solidify, it's basically lard.  If you are afraid of that hydrogenated bit, you can buy "leaf lard" (cut up pork fat) and render it yourself.  No hydrobits, but you'll probably have a mess, and you could very easily light your entire kitchen on fire doing this.  Suddenly hydrobits sound not so bad.

If Crisco and lard match up so exactly, what is the benefit of vegetable fat (oxymoron) over lard?  Less artery clogging?  I don't think so.  Less fat building up on the hips?  Probably not.  Easier to market to the public during WWII when lard was rationed?  Ooooh, ding ding ding, winner!  That's when Crisco took off.  Crisco can be marketed as a brand where lard... is just lard.  Crisco can be marketed as "vegetable fat" or "plant fat."  Sounds healthier, right?  When was the last time you trimmed the fat off your veggies?  Think about it.  The only process involved in creating lard is heating fat.  How, exactly, is Crisco made?  *shudder*  more chemical processes than I can shake ten sticks at.  Which creates a flakier crust, a better french fry, or a crispier drumstick?  Sources tell me lard wins.

Talk about a learning experience!  I made muffins last night, and since I already had it, I used Crisco.  But part of me is really interested in how lard could have changed the outcome.  Many of my older recipes from grandmothers (and their grandmothers) call for lard, so I'm curious how much better or worse things could taste.  Wouldn't it be amazing to discover the real flavor of food?


Jules said...

I was just thinking about this! I cooked bacon tonight and saved the lard. But now what?! I don't really want my cookies tasting like bacon ... I think. I usually use margarine instead of Crisco in most of my cooking anyway. So, I'll be awaiting an update post on your use of lard ;) 'k?

The Guy Who Writes This said...

I use bacon grease with bird seed to make suit balls. If you want to have fun, research what Jello is made from.