Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Use Lard as a Household Fat

In some ways this is a continuation of the previous blog about Grandma R and her patterns, as you will see.
The little 32-page booklet pictured above was among Grandma's things. Published by Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Extension Service, Ames, Iowa in 1932, it is chock full of everything you could wish to know about lard - how to choose the fat to render, how to render, how to store, how to make soap from the non-edible fats, even the number of hogs marketed in Iowa from 1926-1930 (12,100,000).

Most of the recipes in it are for cakes, cookies, breads and pies. Mom always said the only way to get really good pie crust was to use lard. And she made the best pie crusts, ever. The caption under this photo from the booklet reads: "Potato chips appeal not only to the palate but to the eye. You will like the flavor, the color and crispness obtained by soaking in salt water and frying in lard."
As popular as cheese straws have become, I thought they were something relatively new but there's even a recipe for them made from either puff or plain pastries - using lard, of course.

Rendering lard was just one more task performed any time a hog was butchered. The trend toward lean pork did not begin until at the end of my Mom's & Grandma's hog raising days. Hogs were fatter then and provided up to 40 pounds of lard per 250 pound hog. A by-product of rendering was cracklings (pork rinds) which my Mom loved. I never cared for them, myself. The picture above is of Grandma Delphia and her sows. (Around 1964) By the way, only fat from the hog is called lard. Beef fat is suet and sheep is tallow. 
I've read many books set in the depression (or about poor immigrants) where lard was eaten as a spread on bread - just like we use butter or margarine now. I can't even imagine eating that - guess I've never been hungry enough.

Cooking with lard began to be considered less healthy around the time I became a wife and mother, so much so that even when I raised my own pigs for butchering, I never rendered the fat into lard. I only ever used different kinds of oils, margarine or Crisco.
Fast forward fifty years and the use of lard is once again acceptable - even desirable for some foodies. There is a new cook book focused on the use of lard (pictured above) from the Editors of Grit Magazine: Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient."

Grit Magazine began as a weekly newspaper and has been around more than 130 years. My parents did not subscribe to it - being Capper's Weekly regulars - but Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour did. When they had read their Grit papers, they would pass them on to us. You can still get a subscription to Grit, though now it is only published bi-monthly. It still offers practical advice geared toward a rural lifestyle.

As soon as I saw the Grit cookbook, it jogged another memory - Grit patterns. Grandma often sent for Grit patterns. How could I have forgotten that?


  1. Can you tell I am catching up? I've been reading so many books, I forget to visit my blogs. When Cliff and I first married, we raised a hog once in awhile and I rendered the lard. It's true, lard makes the best pie crust. Sometimes I wonder if all that lard I used back then contributed to Cliff's heart problems.

  2. Donna - Did you eat the 'cracklings'? I know I quit using lard because of all the health scares about it. I suppose it is like everything: moderation is the key.
    When you see pictures of Grandma Ridnour, do you remember her at all? I know they were in Guss a lot.