Monday, May 21, 2012 at 2 p.m.
Lard hasn't been having the best 50 years.
Once upon a time, it was America's go-to ingredient, beloved by chefs and home cooks for making pie crust flaky, fried chicken crispy, and soups, potatoes and everything in between creamy and satisfying and better. No pantry was complete without a bucket or four.
Then, thanks to a little thing called marketing, lard largely disappeared. At a time when people were weary about the meat-packing industry, a hot new product called Crisco (aka partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil) was touted as a "pure and hygienic" alternative to the rendered pig fat. Poor lard didn't stand a chance.
But it seems that lard is now experiencing a mini-revival as chefs are discovering that it's actually not terrible. (By the way, it never really left many ethnic cuisines. Malaysian pork lard crisps, anyone?) While lard does contain fat, it has less saturated fat than butter, and zero trans fat. The editors at Grit
magazine call lard a "good animal fat" and hail its joys in Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking With Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient
. Along with gorgeous photos and interesting stories about pigs and lard, the book features 150 recipes from the classic (fried chicken, biscuits, pie crusts) to the savory (beef chili, barley stew, fried okra) to the sweet (chocolate kraut cake, butterscotch peach pie, rhubarb dumplings), all reminding you what your food has been missing for so long.
Grandma would approve.