I hope everyone is doing well! It’s been quite a while since I sat down and wrote something, partly because I’ve been crazy busy and partly because nothing blog-worthy has happened lately, except maybe the time I carried the world’s largest rosemary plant across town last week and a surprising number of people thought it was socially acceptable to stop me and ask what I was carrying, how much it was, and where I got it. The moral of that story is never buy so much produce at the market that it won’t fit on a Bixi bike!!
Anyway, yesterday was my second Canadian Thanksgiving. It has become tradition to get together with friends and eat and drink because, why not? I was excited about making rosemary potatoes and apple pie. Nothing new, fairly easy recipes. When I was at Marche Jean Talon over the weekend, I stopped at a specialty pork butcher to see if I could pick up some lard for my pie crust and avoid a trip to the supermarket. What follows is the story of what happens when you try and buy lard in a city where you do not necessarily speak the language perfectly, and the merchants don’t quite no English. This is not the first time this has happened to me; most notably, November 2010, the Thanksgiving I spent with one of my favorite people in Milan, we spent at least half an hour running around the city from store to store looking for “lardo”. That was also the Thanksgiving we rolled out the pie crust with a wine bottle, and I got to sit in on my first Italian dinner party, so overall it wasn’t bad at all. The point still stands however, it might serve me well to learn the word for lard wherever I’m purchasing it.
I thought I bought lard this weekend. The people at the store said it was lard, the package said, “lard blanc,” and even if I wasn’t entirely sure, the guy and woman at the store agreed it was the “just fat” part of the pig. I’d never bought lard with the skin attached before, but figured I would give it a try, since I’d heard you could buy lard from the butcher, and maybe this was it in its natural form. Thanksgiving day, a little voice told me to start cooking earlier that I normally would. Around noon, I started mincing garlic for my potatoes, a good 7 hours before I had to be at dinner, potatoes and pie in hand. The potatoes went off without a hitch, save the fact that my kitchen is so small I had to open the oven door and leave them on the rack for them to cool because I had nowhere else to put the cookie sheet of hot potatoes.
Then came pie time. This was when I got to play butcher. Using a sharp paring knife, I separated the skin from the fat before slicing and cubing the fat into more manageable chunks to incorporate into the dough. Something just didn’t feel right though; whereas lard is soft and pliable, this fat was not. I googled “making lard from scratch”, and sure enough, what I had was what I needed to make lard, but was in fact, not lard yet. I used these blogs to help me: http://thehealthyfoodie.com/2013/08/24/how-to-render-your-own-lard/ and http://harmonioushomestead.com/2013/02/24/loving-lard/ and set about rendering my lard with a stockpot, a Pyrex measuring cup, and a pasta colander. After some time, it worked. I didn’t add any water to my fat as the one blog suggested, mostly because I didn’t realize that was part of the directions until after I had started rendering fat. My fat also didn’t seem to need anything extra, so I don’t know that I would add water the next time I make it either. Which means of course, that there will be a next time. I don’t think I can buy pre-made lard from the store ever again. I found myself eating raw pie dough. Whereas it normally has no flavor on its own before it is part of the pie, this crust was light and buttery and so flavorful!! I had to use all of my lard in the pie crusts, but what I do have leftover are the crunchy bits of hard fat that rendered the lard. I can’t wait to try them, or find ways to sneak them into other dishes!! Lard-making was such a success, I highly recommend it. Dinner with friends was a lot of fun, and the best part is I have a few pounds of apples left and just might have to make another pie!
What do you think? Have you ever tried to make lard? What did you find and do you have any tips for me? Let me know!