Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lard and why I love it

A few days ago I made lard. Unlike vegetable shortening (such as Crisco), lard has no hydrogenation.  The problem with hydrogenation is that it generates trans-fats.  Trans-fats are worse for one's health than cis-fats (like those found in lard) because trans-fats are not found in nature so the body processes them differently.  Although the new Crisco formulation claims 0 trans-fats, it actually contains 0.5 grams of trans-fat per serving (less than the required amount for labeling). I looked at the Crisco food label and noticed that the total fat was 12 grams, but when I added up the fats they list it only adds up to 11.5 grams, leaving out the 0.5 grams of trans fats (below I added them back in). I was surprised to learn that other than Crisco having trans-fats, lard and Crisco are relatively similar in nutrition:

Vegetable Shortening Lard
1 tbsp 1 tsbp
113 calories 115 calories
Total Fat 12 grams Total Fat 12.5grams
Saturated Fat 3.0 grams Saturated Fat 5.0 grams
Trans-Fat 0.5 grams Trans-Fat 0    grams
Monounsaturated  6.0 grams Monounsaturated 6.0 grams
Polyunsaturated 2.5 grams Polyunsaturated 1.5 grams

Ingredients Ingredients

Another great thing about lard is that you can make it at home, with just one simple ingredient (according to Michael Pollan's food rule: don't eat anything with more than 5 ingredients).  Plus by making my own lard I can support small farmers instead of big agribusiness. My adventure in lard-making started at Whiting Meat in New Wilmington, PA where I asked for 4 pounds of pork back fat. I intended to make a small batch, to last a few months.  The man at the counter went into a cooler and returned with a long piece of fat he folded in half on the scale.  The meter read 18 pounds and he murmured "if you don't use it all just throw it out" and charged me about $15.  The chunk I took home was over 2 feet long and 2 inches thick with bumpy pale skin on one side and a few long streaks of pink muscle left on the other.  I cut half of it into cubes (the rest is in the freezer) and put the cubes into a glass Pyrex dish and cooked them in the over for about 3 hours at 250 degrees.  Then I let it cool for 10 minutes and poured it through cheesecloth and into mason jars.  It was so easy and the final product is wonderful.  Tonight I used my lard to make a fantastically rich and flaky pie crust for quiche.

For more about lard check out these articles:

Lard: the new health food? in Food & Wine

High on the Hog in The New York Times

Who Killed Lard?  in NPR Blog

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