True, I'm no longer young but I am in love (with the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot) and I've been meaning to render and eat my own lard for a long time, now.
I'd been hearing for years about its magical properties for biscuits and pie crusts. And I've recently been learning of its health benefits. The stuff's been getting a bad rap for years. But I'd also been warned off the hydrogenated kind in those shelf-stable boxes at the supermarket.
Nope, the only kind to use was from the leaf fat around the hog's kidneys, and an organically raised porker at that. That stuff's been hard to come by at my local supermarket. But at last the lard gods have smiled upon me.
The Chehelis Valley Farm booth at Tacoma's Proctor farmers market had leaf fat from their "forest-raised" pigs. No antibiotics, no steroids, no hormones, though even a blind one can find an acorn now and then. I fell upon that fat from a great height and took it home, where it languished in the freezer for five weeks while I waited for the part that would restore my range to active duty.
Now, just in case you're gasping "Lard?!? Are you #*%! serious, Stein?" Here's what Prevention Magazine has to say about lard.
And the final product
Nancy Leson: Lard apostate
Nance used to like a 70/30 butter to lard mix for her pie crusts but she's since switched to all butter. Here's her recipe.
Nancy’s All-Butter Pie Dough (serves 6-8)
This all-butter dough recipe is great for pie (sweet or savory: same recipe!). The technique allows you to directly handle the dough as little as possible, which greatly helps the flake quotient. The recipe makes enough dough for one double-crusted 9-inch pie (or two bottom-crust-only pies). I regularly use it to make a large, rustic, open-faced fresh-fruit crostata — or two smaller ones.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more, for dusting)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces very cold unsalted butter, diced (preferably Kerrygold brand)
1/2 cup ice water
1. Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor to distribute. Add diced butter and pulse, swiftly, until the mixture resembles small peas (you should still see bits of butter in it).
2. Add ice water through the feed tube, little by little, pulsing only a handful of times until the dough is just beginning to form a ball — but has not yet entirely done so. You may not need all of the water, so pour judiciously.
3. Turn the dough out onto the center of a sheet of plastic wrap (overlap two sheets for a larger surface) then gather the wrap, twirling it into in a topknot. Hold onto the topknot while squeezing the sides of the dough firmly to form a tight cylinder, then flatten into a fat (2-inch) disc. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Unwrap, slice horizontally and, if not using immediately, re-wrap each disc in plastic. (Or freeze in a zip-top bag for up two months.)
Note: No food processor? Whisk the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two dinner knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture then add ice water bit by bit. Use your hands — sparingly — to form a loose ball then follow direction 3 above. Bake according to your pie recipe.
"Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig." – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn