Adventures in Lard

Yes, I said Lard. Here in follows an account of my adventures in getting to know lard.

Do you love doughnuts (who doesn’t?) Do you enjoy onion rings, french fries, and other fried yumminess, but always feel guilty (and down right sick) after indulging in deep fried food?

I think most of us are familiar with that heavy, lead in your stomach, ooey-gooey feeling you get when you eat to many doughnuts, or a plateful of mozzerella sticks, or a blooming onion. Sometimes it is hardly worth the gross feeling you get after eating these yummy treats. I believe it must be due to the rancid vegetable oils most of us usually use to deep fry things. You know – you grab the cheapest jug of oil (veggie, canola – they’re all bad) ’cause you’re gonna be using lots and are trying to be thrifty. And maybe you re-use it a few times to be even more thrifty…and yet each time you make doughnuts or french fries, you wonder if it is really worth it.  My dear friends – there is a cure, a solution, a down-right yummy alternative – and it’s even good for you.

I’m talking about Lard.

First, my interest in lard was sparked by reading about french fries over at Cheeseslave. Now, the purpose of this post is not to convince you to use lard in your own kitchen – go on and do the research yourself. It’s just to tell you what I’ve been up to in my kitchen this week and to inspire you to try new things. But I just have to quote a little from Cheeseslave to whet your appetite for…lard.

Did you know French fries can actually be good for you? If cooked in the right kind of fat, French fries are nourishing, healthy and full of vitamins.One hundred years ago, liquid vegetable oil was not invented yet. People cooked with lard, tallow, and butter. Cancer and heart attacks were also unknown.Vegetable oil is a highly processed modern food. It is refined, bleached, deodorized, hydrogenated, and totally devoid of any nutrients. An empty food โ€” and harmful to boot. (To learn more about why vegetable oil is bad for you, read this article: The Oiling of America.)
Tallow, on the other hand, is easy to render in your own kitchen from beef fat you can buy from your butcher or farmer. And tallow from grass-fed cows is full of fat soluble vitamins, including vitamin K2, which is instrumental in building bones and teeth.
Who knew that eating French fries could help us prevent cavities and osteoporosis? Now you can tell your children they they can skip the salad, but they must finish all their French fries โ€” so they can grow big and strong. (Source: Beef Tallow: a Good Source of Fat-Soluble Vitamins?)

The clump of un-melted lard looks kind of like an elephant, doesn’t it?

I found lard at my local Amish grocery store. I was delighted when I realized what a cheap source of yummy, naturally saturated fat that lard is – I paid $10 for a 1 gallon pail – butter or coconut oil would have been at least 4 times that amount. And lard really is the best thing for deep frying. I came home and scooped some into my cast iron pot immediately and set to making doughnuts.

The entire process of yumminess

 I found a really easy recipe for applesauce doughnuts – They were like large doughnut holes, but I didn’t have to do any rolling out and cutting – I just scooped a spoonful of batter with my cookie scoop and plopped it in the hot oil. The dough fizzled and sizzled and when it was cooked on the bottom side, it rolled itself over (like an obedient dog) and cooked the other side! When the bottom was the same brown as the top, I scooped them out and strained them on a paper towel and anxiously waited for one to cool enough to try it. It was worth the wait – they were soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, chewy and moist and faintly flavored with apples and cinnamon.

And the best part? I didn’t get sick….even after eating 6,7,8,…a lot of them. Yes, that’s right. I at a large serving of deep-fried yumminess and my gut did not complain – in fact, I felt great!

So, I proceeded to find more things I could deep fry.

The next day I made empanadas (using the same oil – you can use it a few times if you want, straining it through a sieve and storing it in the fridge in between uses).

Two emanadas swimming happily in their lard

I stuffed mine with taco meat, rice, and mixed, stir-fried veggies. They were absolutely cravable. I ate three for lunch, again, with no ill-effects. The emanadas were a great way to dress up leftovers, by the way!

Mozzarella Emenadas!

Not sure if the kids would like the filling, I tried a variation on the recipe and filled a couple with just mozzarella cheese. Oh, my heaven. I had trouble not stealing the cheese ones right off my kid’s plates!

I went one day without deep frying, then I was at it again, this time with fruit empanadas. I made two fillings – spiced apple and fresh peach. My guests could not figure out which was their favorite and kept trying one more, and then just one more. Everyone agreed that they were tasty, and my friends were excited to hear that they were good for you, too. (or, at least not as bad as one usually thinks of fried food being. I could improve on these by finding grass-fed beef tallow, or rendering my own, but I’m not quite there yet. I just know this is a vast improvement over veggie oils.)

That meal inspired Rachel and I to make dinner together so she could teach me how to make her awesome onion rings. Boy, were they ever good. I will have to get her to post her recipe – or you can nag her in the comment section! ๐Ÿ™‚

By the end of the week, I had to buy another tub of lard.

Next on the menu plan – I wanna try mozzarella sticks – I can only imagine how much better they would be homemade! And I wanna realize my long-held dream of creating a canoli entirely from scratch. And more onion rings, and maybe a blooming onion, and of course, more doughnuts, including traditional dutch style “Olie Bollen”. Oh, and Perogis, and chicken wings, and french fries! The sky’s the limit from here!

What would you deep fry? Inspire me! (as if I needed any more motivation – lard is seriously yummy, people!)

8 responses to “Adventures in Lard”

  1. Katie Avatar

    Catherine~ I've run into the same problem. I can find lard but it is always hydrogenated ๐Ÿ™ I'm still keeping an eye out for the good stuff though.

    Trina~ Thanks for your perspective on cooking with lard. I've slowly been switching to healthier fats and I can't wait to try lard. So sad that it has such a bad rap when it is actually one of the fats we all should be using.

  2. Rachel B Avatar

    My mother has been discussing the ugliness of most vegetable oils in our cooking chats lately. Good to hear (and see!) that lard is a better alternative! I've got a hankering for donuts…now I'll go see if I can find some lard before I make another batch! Thanks for sharing, Trina!

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Growing up, we always popped corn in lard and used it to make pie crusts……nothing better!!

  4. Trina Avatar

    Welcome, Catherine! ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for de-lurking. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Hmm – hydrogenated lard? I didn't know they did that to it – I will have to check my source. The amish lady I get it from buys it by the 5 gallon pail and divides it into smaller pails, so I have not seen the original packaging. I'll have to check that out.

    I have no idea where else you could find lard – an ethnic store, such as your mexican groceries is the first place I would have checked. I know our local bulk-food store carries it, as well.

    Jessica – I thought it would have an 'animalish' taste, as well. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that, though the lard itself does smell something like its origin, anything I have made from it has been devoid of unwanted flavors.

    Natalie, I recently learned that, though coconut oil is delicious and healthy for frying, it has a lower smoking temperature than lard and thus you can't get the same crispiness when you fry in it. That and the cost are what inspired me to try it over the coconut oil.

  5. Catherine R. Avatar

    Okay I'm de-lurking to say… I'm intrigued! Healthy donuts and french fries?! Where do I sign?

    Do you happen to know where I could buy some good quality lard if I don't live near any Amish? There are several Mexican grocery stores in my area… but all the lard I've seen says it's hydrogenated and I don't think I have the correct set-up to do it myself.

    Congratulations too… I had my baby a few days after you did : )

  6. Natalie_S Avatar

    I've used coconut oil a few times when I wanted to fry some chicken, but lard sounds good to me as well. I'll have to look for a source. Unfortunately I have yet to discover a method for cooking that doesn't overwhelm my tiny kitchen ๐Ÿ™

  7. Jessica Avatar

    I've thought of using lard, but for some reason I always think that whatever animal it is from will make the food I'm frying taste like that (same thing with soaps).

    We don't fry too much, but I've done hush puppies and fastnachts (which is sweet dough cut out with a cookie cutter, fried and then filled with jam).

    Now I'm curious about the lard….

    1. Stephie N Avatar
      Stephie N

      Lard is from pork, we actually render our own lard from bacon leftovers! So long as you use a good strained lard the only flavor left to add is yumminess!

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