Monday, March 15, 2010

It All Begins With Leaf Lard

The Canadian geese are flying over and I just love to hear the sound of their honking as they pass. I hope their bringing with them warmer spring weather. I've set up a shelf and will hopefully be starting some garden plants tomorrow. Oh how I itch to work in the soil but first I'm going to discuss how to make a pie crust from lard - completely from scratch. Well, maybe not completely because I still think I'll use white flour instead of grinding wheat or some other grain. Do you know of any crust recipes using whole grains? I'd love to try something else.

I've made the crusts with shortening and a few times with butter, which I found is imparitive to keep cold to have a flaky crust, but the fat which has been famous for centuries in bakeries all over Europe, America, maybe even Australia is leaf lard.

Many of you have probably gone to the store and bought a block of lard. Well, if you are older like myself but I would guess that it is probably getting hard to find in your local grocery store in America as few bake anymore. Since we started raising our own pigs I haven't checked in our local grocery stores. At first I had the butcher we had processing our hogs save the fat for me but now I do my own. It isn't enough to last for two years of making pies but it's definitely better than using shortening.
This is the leaf lard that hangs on the inside of the ribs on a pig. This is the only place you will find it. What makes it special? It is a denser, harder fat. A beef has fat like this in the same area only I've not heard of it being made into pie crusts instead, the pioneers used this hard dense fat to make tallow candles. I too made tallow candles once. Just so I could say I had not because they are so desireable because they are smoker when they burn.
The first step is to chop up this fat into chunks.
Then put it through the grinder. We always make sure our fat is real cold for it grinds much better that way. If you are having you hogs processed elswhere aske the butcher to grind the excess fat for soap making and to keep the leaf lard seperate and grind it also. The reason for grinding is so that the fat melts much quicker and you don't run the risk of over heating the fat which gives it a rank smell and a dark color. The hogs diet will change the color of the fat a bit so you may have sparkling white to a yellowy shade when your done.
I don't recommend melting too much fat at once since the oil will over heat easily and turn dark while the rest of the fat melts. Because of this I divide my fat into a little over a gallon size or a little over two litters and place it in large stew pots on the stove. I keep the heat down low so it melts slowly.

When the fat is melted there will be oil and little pieces of grisly meat. Those are the cracklins and they will be floating on top. So the next step is to strain the fat through cheese cloth to separate out the cracklins. I use my milk strainer with cheese cloth fastened into the bottom. Some cooks use the cracklins in cooking but I just feed them to the barn cats.

When the fat has cooled a bit but before it starts to harden, I pour it into cottage cheese containers. This is a nice size and fits well into the refrigerator or freezer.
High ho high ho it's off to work I go for today we are hauling wood. The pickup is running so I had better to but be sure and check back tomorrow for I will be making pie crusts.

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