Posted by Self Reliance Outfitters on July 02, 2013
Few ingredients have swung so widely in public favor as lard, the rendered fat of pigs. Long used in cooking, this multipurpose substance took a bad rap in the late 20th century as experts and pseudo-experts debated the merits of saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats, but has lately regained some ground. Lacking trans fats in its pure form and boasting fewer calories than butter, lard—which contains about 40-percent saturated fat and 45-percent monounsaturated fat—is increasingly showing up again in restaurant and home kitchens.
Lard is produced when pork is slowly and steadily heated to separate the fat and the protein. (The latter produces the so-called cracklings, which are their own kind of delicacy.)
If you’re considering employing lard for cooking or for any other household uses, keep in mind that the highest-quality rendered pork fat will come—unsurprisingly—from healthy, pasture-raised hogs. Your average lard available in the grocery store is an industrial product that’s often hydrogenated and heavily treated, and stems from pigs whose diet and lifestyle are mediocre compared to pasture-raised animals. A little research will hopefully turn up a local farm that meets your criteria and can supply fine lard. With a little practice, you can even learn to render your own—a nice complement to your cultivation of survival skills.
As we take a look at practical sustainability, let’s consider 10 practical uses for lard.
(1) Cooking Oil: Because of its stability, its high smoke point (which approaches 400 degrees Fahrenheit), and its special flavor, lard is a highly favored oil for frying.
(2) Baking: Bakers treasure lard—particularly “leaf lard,” that rendered from the fat adjoining the hog’s kidneys and abdomen—as a shortening in pastry dough and pie crusts, used to produce a flakier, more tender confection. Lard’s coveted performance in such desserts stems from its good-sized fat crystals, which lend a grainy edge to the baked good’s texture.
(3) Other Culinary Uses: Aside from its utility as a cooking oil and a baking shortener, lard crops up in other applications in the kitchen. A classic—and reburgeoning—European snack has it simply accompanying bread as a spread or a dip.
(4) Seasoning Cast Iron: Lard is a fine choice for seasoning cast-iron cookware, maintaining a nonstick and protective sheen.
(5) Soap: Lard has been used in soap-making for centuries. Producing a moisturizing lather, the fat is often combined with other kinds of oils to bolster its cleansing properties.
(6) Cutting Oil: Machinists use lard as a cutting oil to lubricate and cool bits and work-pieces, as well as to ward against rust and apply finish.
(7) Burning: In the past, where it was abundant and inexpensive, lard was used as a fuel for lamps and candles, much like tallow (the rendered fat of cattle) and whale oil.
(8) Medicinal: Lard has been widely used around the world in folk remedies, applied as a poultice to burns, cuts, and inflamed areas.
(9) Balm: Many swear by lard as a moisturizing and protective hand cream to prevent against chapping and cracking. This is another reason to include it in the survival kit!
(10) Treatment: Mixed with beeswax, lard can be used to refurbish and maintain wood and leather. It’s natural qualities of preservation make it applicable for almost any tool or weapon.
Lard appears to be coming back into favor on the culinary scene after a period of exile, but its utility obviously extends beyond haute cuisine. From survival food to moisturizer, it’s one of those time-honored ingredients worth getting to know. Lard’s versatility also makes it something to consider for the well-rounded survival kit.