LEAF LARD . . . the crème de la crème of lard.
This summer my neighbor and I decided to raise our own pork. We loved the idea that we would know exactly what we were eating. We were taking the consumption of organic meat to the ultimate level.
What was not expected was the opportunity to obtain organic leaf lard. The very highest grade of lard. There’s about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds per pig and it comes from the area around the kidney. Once it is rendered it is snow white, odorless and the cleanest fat. The crème de la crème of lard.
It has always been known by the cognoscenti of pie makers that lard makes the flakiest pastry. Bakers use it for light biscuits and tender cakes. It produces flakier crusts than butter. Butter begins to melt into the dough at a lower temperature; even the small amount of water present in butter may cause the dough particles to stick to one another – rather than separate into layers that constitute flaky pastry.
Naturally rendered lard is mostly monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic fatty acid which is very healthy and great to use in almost any recipe that calls for fats. Butter is primarily a saturated fat. Lard by percentage is primarily an unsaturated fat. Lard is lower in fat and cholesterol that butter.
Using your favorite pie recipe and the combination of half butter half lard for the fat results in flaky pastry with butter flavour.
You can purchase rendered leaf lard at quality butchers. You should be able to purchase leaf lard to render your self from butchers who specialize in farm-gate meat cutting .
Rendering leaf lard at home is a simple, uncomplicated process but you do have to commit yourself to time in the kitchen. You don’t need an special equipment. An instant read thermometer, a large pan to hold the lard, a long wooden spoon to stir the lard, cheesecloth, a strainer and wide mouth canning jars.
Chop the leaf lard as fine as possible.. You can also grind the lard (or you may have purchased it ground). Spread it into a generous sized pan and put it into a 300F. oven.
The secret to perfectly rendered leaf lard is long, slow cooking at a low temperature. Stir the lard about every 20 minutes or so. As the lard melts it raises the temperature of the melted fat. Check the temperature using an instant read thermometer . Remove when the temperature reads 250F. It is important you do not over-cook your lard. Depending on how much leaf lard you are rendering this could take 3 to 6 hours.
Let cool briefly and ladle the melted lard and the crackling into a strainer lined with a double thickness of cheese cloth. Carefully remove the strainer and set the crackling aside.
Ladle the melted leaf lard into large mouth canning jars. Be cautious at all times when working with hot oil. Small children should be kept away from your work area.
When cool refrigerate. The golden lard will turn firm and snowy white. Leaf lard will keep several months in the refrigerate and up to two years in your freezer.
The crackling left over in this process is a delicious and decadent treat. Saute it with sea salt, a little onion powder and a few red pepper flakes (or any seasoning of your choice) and serve warm.
CHEF NOT: If you have a slow cooker you can use it to render a small amount of leaf lard. It is important to keep the temperature low and stir frequently. Monitor the temperature (using an instant read thermometer) carefully as small amounts of leaf lard can be rendered in a short time – an hour or two.