In my quest to eat cleaner and healthier, I was looking to get rid of those liquid vegetable oils you might use for high heat frying. Soybean oil, corn oil, mixed vegetable oil etc. All byproducts of farming with pesticides. Hell, cottonseed oil comes from a crop that isn’t even grown for human consumption. And manufacturing these oils involves heating them and exposing them to solvent extraction. Vegetable oils that contain polyunsaturated fats…these fats are chemically unstable, meaning its very easy for them to break down, or go rancid. Air, light and heat cause oils to go bad. Rancid oils contain free radicals that can damage your body on a cellular level. Vegetable oils are exposed to air, light and heat when they are manufactured. Remember, these are byproducts of crops usually produced for feed. They are not manufactured with human health in mind, these oils are manufactured to monetize the leftovers of grain production. They are manufactured the cheapest way possible.
Olive oil is good for your health, but its low smoke point can damage the oil at frying temperatures destroying those great health benefits of the monounsaturated fat it contains.
I just wanted to roast some potatoes without freaking out about the health hazards of cooking in toxic oil….
Enter lard. Yup, lard. Lard is solid at room temperature…that’s because the chemical bonds in the saturated fat are very stable. Less breaking down, harder to go rancid. Consider the french confit: meat (usually waterfowl) is basically salted and braised in its own fat as a means of food preservation. The confit entry on Wikipedia states:” After salting and cooking in the fat, sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, confit can last for several months or years. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a specialty of southwestern France”. Can last for even years. Lard has a high smoke point, making it ideal for high heat. It is low in omega-6 fatty acids which the American diet is pardon the pun, saturated with. It’s great. But don’t buy it from the store. The junk in the store is….you guessed it…the byproduct of animal manufacturing that is manufactured in the cheapest way possible. They add a lot of preservatives and hydrogenate the oil to make it last longer on the shelf. Bad stuff man. Luckily, making your own lard isn’t that hard. It will keep for a long time in your fridge. It will also make your food taste great.
Making Homemade Lard
I followed the process outlined on the healthyfoodie.com. It’s very complete and in depth. Basically you start with some high quality pork fat, as natural as you can get. My butcher sells only natural meats including some of the nicest pork available in the country. I asked if he had any pork fat. The most common types of used are the back fat and the fat from around the kidneys also known as leaf lard. James didn’t have any leaf lard, but he did have back fat. Next, I cut the fat down, eventually into small diced pieces:
Everything goes into a stock pot on medium heat, and you wait. And stir. And wait. And eventually, the fat will melt and become liquid. Continue to heat and stir. Maybe pour some of the melted fat off as you’re waiting for the rest of the fat to melt. Because it’s off the back, back fat has a small amount of skin attached to it. Theses small pieces of meat/skin get cooked in the fat and were the last thing in the pot as I strained off the fat. I transferred these “lardons” as they are called to a cast iron skillet and finished them off:
These things are seriously better than bacon..soooo good. Pour the oil into jars, let cool and keep in the fridge:
Reach for the lard any time you are needing to cook with high heat. Especially potatoes. Potatoes roasted with lard instead of oil come out flaky and crispy on the outside.
The whole process of making lard was inexpensive, didn’t take a whole lot of time, and was fun (lardons!). And I’m not so concerned that I’m poisoning myself next time I roast some vegetables.