Topline Trends Tuesday: In your face, fat police!


Lard is back and although we were so cruel to it for so many years, it’s still soft, mild and yielding. It’s not bitter and hardened after our rough treatment at all.

Recipes that use lard (pork, duck and goose) for pastry and savoury dishes have been turning up frequently the last few months. Likewise, gourmet shops are selling clarified duck and goose fat for people who don’t want to cook the meat ahead so that they can have the fat for later.

Not convinced? Consider that Jennifer McLagan’s Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient (Ten Speed Press) won a 2008 IACP award. Her book is just teeming with recipes that depend on delicious fatty ingredients and if her success doesn’t provide ample evidence that lard is finding a place in the kitchen once again then I guess I’ll just have to tell you about how lard is elbowing butter off the table. It’s totally true. I’ve seen it myself. Seasoned lard-based butter substitutes such as Italian lardo and Ukrainian salo (pictured above) are keeping breadbaskets company on many restaurant tables.

How do you feel about lard? Will you use it as an ingredient but stop short of spreading it on bread? Or, are you revolted by the whole idea and reading this post only from the corner of your eye to avoid full contact with such evil messages?
Note:  If you want to read more about food trends, the Spring ’09 issue of my Topline Trends newsletter went live just a few hours ago!


12 Responses to Topline Trends Tuesday: In your face, fat police!

  1. Lard? I know it makes the best pie crust, but there’s no way on earth I’d spread it on bread. It’s a mental block more than a taste issue. And yes, I read this through the fingers covering my eyes.

    I’m cutting down on the fat I use in general, not increasing it. I’m also looking for healthy fats and solid-at-room-temperature lard will not be finding its way into my diet.

  2. Barb says:

    Hmmmmm. I can’t hardly find the words to speak with! Not sure if I would use it to cook with (I might) but I definately wouldn’t have a slice on my bread. I am reminding me of a friend of mine who says “No thanks. I don’t like that” about something even though he has not tried it before. I’ll have to give it some more consideration. Hmmmmmm.

  3. sillygirl says:

    I remember reading somewhere a while back that lard was actually good for you – contained something for better health!

  4. Amy says:

    I own that book!

    I think lard adds particular flavors to the dishes it’s used in. I know it’s unhealthy but hey, helpings once in a blue moon does no harm! I got duck fat sitting my freezer as we speak : )

  5. I thick when referring to lard (at least for Americans) you need to be more specific. The picture appears to be smoked back fat, which would be fat in English or graisse in French. Lard in the U.S. is hydrogenated, rendered pork fat. This shelf-stable product is a much different product than saindoux, the French term for rendered pork fat, which is not hydrogenated. Also, fat from different parts of the pig cooks differently and has different uses.

    Back fat is hard fat and is used where you don’t want it to melt, such as in sausages. Jowl fat is a soft fat and is used in pâtés. The fat from the belly and side usually processed and eaten by itself, such as in bacon or pancetta. Also called lard in French. Italian lardo is made by curing back fat.

    An exception to the French term lard referring to cured and sometime smoke side pork (pork belly) is Vallée d’Aoste Lard d’Arnad, which is made from back fat.

    BTW, I love fat in all forms and regularly use chicken fat (great for greens) and goose fat (great for potatoes) for cooking.

  6. Cheryl says:

    I’d try it in a restaurant any which way but have only bought it once for home, and it must have been for some kind of pastry / pie crust recipe that called for it.

  7. Sheryl says:

    Eat it while ya got it. Today’s Toronto Star has a piece from a study released recently – animal fat (and meat) looks to be on the way out.

  8. Natashya says:

    My experience with lard is limited to pie crusts, but I am all in favour of “real fat” over fake.

  9. CakeSpy says:

    Fat, fat, fat, fat. I adore it. Lard cookies and crust–I am all over it. I have to admit! And my husband is a vegetarian! The horror!

  10. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for all of your comments folks! This discussion continued most of the day on Facebook, too – fat certainly gets people’s attention!

  11. Barb says:

    Thank-you Peter for your comments. I didn’t realize….. Very interesting.

  12. Paula says:

    People frightened by the cholesterol propaganda starting in the ’60s have avoided lard, presumably because they think it’s even worse than beef fat, so pigs are so darn FAT. But my Italian grandmother used it to brown meatballs for her spaghetti sauce, and used it in cooking generaly. It gave everything she cooked in it an extra dimension of taste.

    I discovered the difference lard can make when I tasted refried beans on a trip to Tucson. The beans were delicious, unlike the bland and uninteresting refried beans I’d tasted at Mexican restaurants in the East. I asked how they were cooked, and they said the beans were cooked in lard. No wonder they were delicious!

    The amount of lard you need to add a delicious flavor to a dish is minimal, so there’s no need to be afraid of it and deprive yourself and your family of something that takes deliciousness to a new level.

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