Maybe it’s because for years lard has had a negative connotation. During the low-fat craze of the 1980′s and 90′s, health professionals encouraged people to limit fat and drastically reduce consumption of animal fats and especially saturated fats. Many of our ancestors, however, consumed large amounts of animal fats like lard, and they didn’t suffer from diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity that are so rampant today
The Weston A. Price Foundation, who is bit extreme but also gives some good advice, claims that big food corporations were responsible for the vilification of lard. Their motivation was increasing sales of vegetable shortening, margarine, and other processed food products that contain hydrogenated soybean oils and the like. Today, we know that many of these foods are full of trans fats that are much worse for you than saturated fats. Actually, lard isn’t even high in saturated fat; it’s mostly comprised of monounsaturated fats.
Lard just tastes good. It adds a special flakiness to pie crusts, and it give Mexican food that extra-authentic taste. I use it to make refried beans or ropa vieja (shredded cooked beef sautéed in lard with onions, garlic, and chilis). It gives food a certain pleasurable texture and mouth feel.
So where do you get lard? It’s widely available in the Mexican neighborhood where I live, but its a cheap variety that contains trans fat and other preservatives. Sometimes you can buy high quality lard at farmers’ markets if you can track down a pig farmer. I’ve noticed high quality lard showing up at hip locavore butchers like The Meat Hook, Dickson’s Farmstand, and Boccolone in San Francisco.
Lard at farmers’ markets and at these rock star butcher places is pricey, but making your own is easy! It’s best to render lard using fat back, but I haven’t been able to track that down. I usually buy some pork belly, which is one of the cheapest and most versatile cuts of the hog. I favor local meat because its important to me that the animals are raised humanely and free of antibiotics. As a bonus, the fat from these animals is also more beneficial to your health.
Homemade Lard: Lard
Morell Snow Cap Lard: Hydrogenated Lard, BHT, BHA to Help Protect Flavor
Crisco: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oils, Mono-and Diglycerides.