I intentionally did not use punctuation in my title. You fill it in however you like.
So why do I want to talk about lard? Well, I've seen info on lard on other blogs touting it's wonderfulness, but I brushed the thoughts aside. The thought of lard still kind of frightened me, I could hardly imagine the look on Jason's face if I told him I wanted to render it myself, and I hadn't seen any in the stores, so I put it on the back burner for something to think about when I have a bigger kitchen with actual cooking tools (we still only have one bowl that barely qualifies as a mixing bowl).
But then I saw it in the store. I was looking for butterschmaltz (clarified butter) since it's cheaper than the imported ghee available at the Arabic grocery store in town (I love that store for spices though). The word schmaltz caught my eye, and then I saw it: schweinschmaltz. Lard. Right there in the refrigerated section where Lisa at Homesick Texan and Pim at Chez Pim told me I should find it. I looked at the price. Around a dollar for 250 grams. I was tempted. So I bought it. I was intrigued to hear that lard has less saturated fat than butter, so much so that it is considered an unsaturated fat. And I won't even start on how much better it is for you than vegetable shortening... though if you buy the lard sitting next shortening, you're still purchasing a hydrogenated fat, thus all health benefits are gone. So make sure it's non-hydrogenated before you buy it!
Lard is highly acclaimed for two things (at least to my knowledge): superb pie crusts and great frying oil. But something in me cannot get past turning a vegetarian item, such as strawberry pie (yes, that's for you Heather) into something that vegetarians cannot eat. So I haven't used it for pie crust. Heck, I've never made a pie crust. For that matter, I don't live on the same continent as my pie plate! So I'll wait on pie crust and tell you about my experiences with frying.
Round One: Chicken. Delicious of course. However, I put the heat to the same level I normally do for vegetable oil frying and it took much longer for my chicken to brown. While tasty, the chicken was a bit dryer since it spent more time in the oil since I was trying to brown it. I didn't tell Jason I used lard until AFTER he'd started eating and told me it was yummy. His reaction to hearing the word lard was similar to mine... Eww. Why?
So we discussed it. I spent the rest of the evening researching lard v. vegetable oil. I'm still not convinced lard is better for you than vegetable oil for frying. If anyone has any information on it, I'd love to see it (and citations!). I can agree that it would be better to use lard than butter or vegetable shortening, but I don't fry my chicken in butter or vegetable shortening, so I'm still not sold.
But I tried it again because I didn't want to give up too easily.
Round Two. Pork Chops. Tasty again. This time I increased the heat in hopes to decrease the frying time. I don't have a thermometer, but I can tell you the lard bubbled nicely. Again, the meat took a while to develop a pretty golden color. Maybe I just need a cast iron skillet?
One major plus about the lard is that it doesn't pop nearly the same way oil does. I didn't get hit with lard once tonight, and only twice during the chicken experience. And I always get popped several times with oil. It's just something I've learned to expect.
But my lard did one thing I expected it not to do... it smelled... well, porky. Thus I've come to the conclusion I don't have the highest quality lard. One day, when I have the communication skills to ask for leaf lard (or even read the package), I may try lard again. And if I ever get that fully stocked kitchen, I may try rendering it myself. But for now, I'll go back to oil for frying. I hear coconut oil is fantastic for you and fantastic for frying, so maybe I'll give that a try. What do you use for frying?