With the advent of inexpensive vegetable fats, the art of making and using animal fats is getting lost in time. Chances are good that your grandparents or great-grandparents used and made their own fats or at least knew someone who did. Many so-called health nuts would be thrilled to see animal fats die out with time, but more and more research is showing that animal fat, when used with a healthy diet, can actually be more healthful than some vegetable oils. Lard, perhaps the most maligned of all saturated fat, does in fact have some health benefits that you simply cannot receive from soy, corn, and canola oils.
The Benefits of Lard
Lard, otherwise known as the fat from pigs, is perhaps the Standard American Diet’s proponent’s worst possible nightmareHowever, lard wasn’t always the bad boy of the fat scene and certainly doesn’t deserve this reputation today. The truth is that lard rendered from pastured pigs has health benefits, including the fact that it’s chock full of immune system enhancing Vitamin D. Additionally, all humans need a certain ration of saturated fat in order to maintain optimum brain functioning and skin health. What better way to get a bit of saturated fat in your diet than with a bit of lard?
Selecting the Right Animal Fat for Rendering
To be sure, everyone should steadfastly avoid the lard sold in grocery stores. This product is more often than not rancid, and laced with trans fats. Your animal fats should always come from naturally raised animals at minimum, preferably those who are raised on pasture (and finished on grass as well, since just a small bit of grain negates all those months of grassfed nutrition). Visit www.eatwild.com to find healthy sources of animal fat near you- chances are, you have a farm close by that can provide you with these products.
Coming home with your first bag of pig fat can be intimidating. It’s large, looks nothing like food and, well….it’s fat. Soon, however, it will be something delightful. Partially thaw your fat on the counter or in the fridge-it should still be a bit frozen when you work with it. Chop into one inch cubes, and put the cubes in a large, heavy saucepan. As with any animal fat, when placed over low heat, it will start to melt. Soon, you’ll have lard and delicious “cracklin’s, which indicates that the lard is done. Pour into jars and you’ve got a great, inexpensive, healthy fat! Celebrate by making a pie.