In a time before Crisco--a time before refrigeration was common--Americans' go to cooking fat was lard. Pork was widely consumed in the late 1800s, and the by-product of pork production was creamy and flavorful fat that could be rendered into lard for use in cooking and baking. It wasn't until a smear campaign by the makers of Crisco that lard fell out of favor. But what is old is new again and cooking with lard is being rediscovered.
In Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient, the editors of Grit Magazine have put together 150 recipes alongside family memories and cooking tips all using lard. While lard does contain fat, it contains less saturated fat (54%) than butter, and none of the trans fats found in many cooking oils and vegetable shortening. The argument supported by this cookbook is that lard should have a place in your kitchen as a healthy fat. That, and because it's delicious.
Lard is what makes biscuits fluffy, pie crust flaky and fried chicken crispy. You'll find recipes for all three in Lard. There is also a recipe for how to render lard, tips on where to buy it and how to store it. Many of the savory recipes include lard simply as a fat to sauté vegetables in, like the barley stew or beef chili. Use lard for sautéing onions and other vegetables and you've added some extra flavor to the pot. There are also several recipes for using lard to fry with, such as fried green tomatoes, potato chips, onion rings, salmon croquettes, and zucchini patties.
Pie crust made with lard will result in a flaky and flavorful crust and this book contains several recipes, including one that stores well in the freezer, one that uses milk, one that uses vinegar, and one for fried pies. There are recipes using the different crusts for sweet pies like cherry and bumbleberry, as well as savory pot pies and a green tomato pie. And there are tips for rolling out crusts and making a lattice pie crust.
Pie doesn't have the monopoly on desserts in Lard however. There are also recipes for pound cake, brownies, cobblers, and cookies. If you aren't already curious about cooking with lard when you open this book, you certainly will be by the time you close it. Butter and olive oil may be more popular for many cooks, but lard is back and may once again become grandma's secret ingredient.