Lard : The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient by Editors of Grit Magazine

Nov 25, 2012

I jumped on the don’t-eat-anything-you-can’t-pronounce bandwagon about five years ago. While I’ve lost no weight and have yet to be inspired to lead a “healthy lifestyle,” my HDLs have gone way up, my LDLs way down, and my husband has experienced the longest period of remission of his Crohn’s disease in ten years. In any case, when I saw this title, I knew that even if I didn’t take to cooking with lard long-term, the comfort-food recipes would be worth a try—but more on that later.

Surprisingly, lard is actually better for you than plain ‘ol butter. Less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat and less cholesterol. It also has zero trans-fat, unlike most of its substitutes. The hardest part is finding the lard. No grocery store junk lard will do—it’s more processed food now and is often bleached. The 20-minute drive is a little long for a $5 tub of rendered fat, but on the upside, I was so impressed with the meat selection and prices that the trip was worth it just to get some fresh meat and a chicken that actually looked like it could walk.

Of the recipes in the book, Henrietta’s Spicy Fried Chicken was the best I’ve ever had. My husband, who claims that his recipe is the best, disagreed, but I caught him writing it down later. I suspect “his” recipe will evolve into one mysteriously similar to this one. Even if you don’t cook in lard, the technique used in this recipe makes the spices sharp and well-defined.

Breads cooked with lard were golden brown on the outside, but soft inside. Using lard, I made whole-wheat dinner rolls, banana bread, and Corn Pone Pie—which is basically chili with cornbread baked right on top of it—a huge hit on a cold, rainy day.

And finally, pie crust. The book holds a recipe which should yield 21 crusts that would freeze for a year. I laughed. Any non-professional cook who has the time and energy to make 21 pies clearly has too much time on their hands. After making just one crust, I’ve changed my tune. The tender crustiness is my new best friend and the thought of using these crusts for chicken pot pie? I’m drooling.

Rather than everything tasting like pig, I found the opposite to be true. Beans taste more like beans. Chicken tastes more like chicken. And the spices seem to be more infused into the food. I don’t entirely understand why this is true, but it’s such a delectable result that I’m not sure I can go back to oil and Crisco.

Reviewed by Library Staff