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Okay, so maybe lard has never been granted an invitation into your home in the first place. Maybe it never even had a place in your mother or grandmother’s homes. It almost certainly had a place in your great-grandmother’s home, however. And this is for a good reason! This traditional food is amazing for baking, it is great for high temperature cooking, it even has beauty applications. And let’s not forget, it is healthy! What, you say?! Lard is healthy?! Yes, it most certainly is. Let’s break down the facts and myths surrounding lard.
What is lard, exactly?
Before that, maybe I need to remind you what lard it. Lard is the fat of pigs. After harvest, it is rendered for cooking. My favorite type is leaf lard which is the highest grade and the most coveted for baking. Once rendered, lard is a creamy white fat that imparts a flakiness to pies and biscuits. It is composed of mono-unsaturated fats and saturated fats. (See my post on how to render lard if you would like to do it at home.)
But I thought saturated fats were bad…
If you need a reminder, saturated fats are those found in foods like coconut oil and butter. They were demonized in the past, and heart disease was blamed on them. (The vegetable oils are the real culprits when it comes to heart disease, fyi.) You have probably heard by now that saturated fats are not only NOT bad for you, they are GOOD for you! Your body needs saturated fats to compose your cell membranes. Very important! If this is the first that you have ever heard of this you would like to understand how the myth that saturated fats cause heart disease came into being, I highly recommend the book The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. I thought it was a page turner, but I am admittedly a nutrition nerd, so take that recommendation with a grain of unrefined sea salt, please. Be forewarned, it may make you mad. I was quite angry while reading it!
A Note on Quality:
Now that we have that saturated fats mess all cleared up, let me tell you about what a nutritional powerhouse lard is! With all foods, quality matters. With animal foods, quality is of the utmost importance. Only use lard from pastured pigs! Pastured pigs are out in the sunshine doing what pigs do. While doing what pigs do, they are soaking up vitamin D from the sun and rooting around in the dirt. Why is rooting around in the dirt so important? Well, my friend, pigs don’t have sweat glands. In order to keep themselves detoxed, they eat dirt to bind to the toxins and carry it out of their systems. If they aren’t allowed to do this (like some conventionally raised pigs that are pigs kept on concrete), they have to store the toxins in their fat just like humans do. So, you do not want to be eating the lard (or anything else for that matter), from conventionally raised pigs! Pastured pigs, on the other hand, produce an amazingly nutritious lard. Let me tell you about it!
- has a good balance of Omega 3s to omega 6s. It also contains more omega 3s than lard from conventionally raised pigs and fewer Omega 6s. This balance is important for stemming inflammation.
- contains monounsaturated fat like that found in olive oil and avocados. (Specifically, Oleic Acid.)
- has a high smoke point so it is great for high temperature cooking. French fries used to be fried in lard and/or tallow until saturated fats were falsely accused of causing heart disease.
- is odorless and tasteless making a great backdrop for baking. Try this recipe for Lovely Lard Double Pie Crust from They’re Not Our Goats, or this recipe for Old-Fashioned Lard Biscuits from Baker Bettie. This recipe for Tigernut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies from Naturally Free Life uses lard and contains resistant starch for a nutritious (yet delicious) version of a cookie. Pixie’s Pocket has a recipe for Bacon Fat Gingersnaps that sounds absolutely delightful!
- contains a significant amount of vitamin D. One tablespoon contains 10,000 IUs of this important fat soluble vitamin in its bioavailable form. (This just means in a form that your body can readily use.)
- is amazing for your skin. It can be found in homemade soaps and lotions. Try this recipe for Lard Soap from Frugal and Thriving if you want to try making your own. Or, if you would rather buy it, there are all sorts of handmade versions on Etsy. If you’re looking for more DIY skincare recipes, try this Honey and and Lard Cream from Whole Fed Homestead.
- contains the antioxidant fat-soluble vitamin E as well as the harder to get selenium which is crucial for thyroid function
I hope you are now willing to give this superfood an invite into your home. Your health and your tastebuds will thank you. Are you going to try to render lard at home or buy a jar of it? What do you plan on making with it! I would love to hear from you in the comments below!