When shopping through the green grocer this week I came across something I actually started fantasizing about; leaf lard. Yes I had fantasies about lard, which you may judge me for now, but you will eat your words after trying a pie crust or sugar cookie made from the stuff. Cooking with lard is somewhat of a long lost skill in a world scared of fat. If you have been caught up in the no fat, low fat, reduced fat, unsaturated fat craze like so many of the rest of us, you may be wondering why, in a series on healthy baking substitutions, I am talking about lard, but hear me out; fats are not the enemy. Fats, especially natural saturated ones like lard and butter, are one of the healthiest parts of your baked goods.
We, as a culture, are stuck in a fat free craze, but wonder why heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other serious diseases are taking our country by storm. If what we have been taught to believe about saturated fats causing weight gain and heart disease is true, you would expect to see a correlation between increased animal fat consumption and the rise of such diseases, yet we avidly decrease animal fats in our diet and disease rates continue to increase.
In fact, natural saturated fats from animal sources are a crucial part of the diet. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats are not readily stored as fat in the body, they are the preferred source of energy. The correlation between saturated fats and heart disease has been debunked, revealing instead that excess sugar and carbohydrates play the biggest role in artery clogging buildup. The calories you get from fats are nutrient filled, long lasting and, when consumed, trigger satiation messages that prevent overeating.
Natural saturated fats from animal sources play an important role in the following:
- Building cell membranes
- Enhancing/strengthening the immune system
- Absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Protecting the liver from toxins
- Protecting and cushioning all organs
- Building bone strength by aiding in calcium absorption
- Use of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6)
- Performing antimicrobial functions
- Building skin and tissue health
- Inflammatory response
- Use of proteins
Saturated fats are digested slowly and are the most efficient source of energy for your body. When paired with other foods, like butter on your morning toast, fats help your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels and keep you satiated and energized for a longer period of time before having to eat again.
So, back to the dreaminess of lard; don’t be afraid. In your baked goods real lard helps you digest and use nutrients without a blood sugar spike and crash that causes your body to store more and crave sooner. Once you render and use your first batch of lard you will never go back. A little goes a long way and elevates your baked goods to a new level of divine. Start out with a simple pie crust, I used a recipe that called for Crisco and substituted an equal amount of lard and it turned out to be the most tender and flaky crust I have ever eaten. Cookies and breads for the holidays are another good bet. The amount of lard will substitute in perfectly for the vegetable shortening or butter the recipe calls for. The result will be similar to that long lost recipe your grandmother used to make but you have never been able to re-create.
Get great quality natural Leaf Lard from Full Circle’s green grocer this month!
Check back on Wednesday for rendering instructions and some great recipes!