Lard

Lard

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Lard is pig
Domestic pig
The domestic pig is a domesticated animal that traces its ancestry to the wild boar, and is considered a subspecies of the wild boar or a distinct species in its own right. It is likely the wild boar was domesticated as early as 13,000 BC in the Tigris River basin...

 fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening
Shortening
Shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry. The reason it is called shortening is because it prevents cross-linkage between gluten molecules. Cross linking is what causes doughs to be sticky. Seeing as cake is not meant to be sticky, shortening is used...

, or as a spread
Spread (food)
A spread is a food that is spread with a knife onto bread, crackers, or other bread products. Spreads are added to bread products to provide flavor and texture, and are an integral part of the dish, i.e. they should be distinguished from condiments, which are optional additions...

 similar to butter
Butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished because of health concerns posed by its saturated-fat
Saturated fat
Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully "saturated" with hydrogen atoms...

 content and its often negative image; however, many contemporary cooks and bakers favor it over other fats for select uses. The culinary qualities of lard vary somewhat depending on the part of the pig from which the fat was taken and how the lard was processed.

Lard production


Lard can be obtained from any part of the pig as long as there is a high concentration of fatty tissue
Adipose tissue
In histology, adipose tissue or body fat or fat depot or just fat is loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes. It is technically composed of roughly only 80% fat; fat in its solitary state exists in the liver and muscles. Adipose tissue is derived from lipoblasts...

. The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the "flare" visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin
Loin
The loins are the sides between the lower ribs and pelvis, and the lower part of the back. It is often used when describing the anatomy of humans and quadrupeds . The anatomical reference also carries over into the description of cuts of meat from some such animals, eg...

. Leaf lard has little pork flavor, making it ideal for use in baked goods, where it is valued for its ability to produce flaky, moist pie crusts. The next highest grade of lard is obtained from fatback
Fatback
Fatback is a cut of meat from a domestic pig. It consists of the layer of adipose tissue under the skin of the back, with or without the skin...

, the hard subcutaneous fat between the back skin and muscle of the pig. The lowest grade (for purposes of rendering into lard) is obtained from the soft caul fat
Caul fat
Caul fat is the thin membrane which surrounds the stomach internal organs of some animals, such as hogs, cows, sheep, and pigs, also known as the greater omentum. It is often used as a natural sausage casing and to encase fegatelli , faggots , or pâté . Caul fat is also known as Lace...

 surrounding digestive organs, such as small intestines, though caul fat is often used directly as a wrapping for roasting lean meats or in the manufacture of pâtés
Pates
Pates is a surname, and may refer to:* Colin Pates , retired English footballer* Richard Pates , American bishop of the Roman Catholic ChurchPates is a place name, and may refer to:Barangay PatesPate's may refer to:...

.

Lard may be rendered by either of two processes: wet or dry. In wet rendering, pig fat is boiled in water or steamed at a high temperature and the lard, which is insoluble in water, is skimmed off of the surface of the mixture, or it is separated in an industrial centrifuge
Centrifuge
A centrifuge is a piece of equipment, generally driven by an electric motor , that puts an object in rotation around a fixed axis, applying a force perpendicular to the axis...

. In dry rendering, the fat is exposed to high heat in a pan or oven without the presence of water (a process similar to frying bacon). The two processes yield somewhat differing products. Wet-rendered lard has a more neutral flavor, a lighter color, and a high smoke point
Smoke point
The smoke point generally refers to the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down to glycerol and free fatty acids, and produce bluish smoke. The glycerol is then further broken down to acrolein which is a component of the smoke. It is the presence of the acrolein that causes...

. Dry-rendered lard is somewhat more browned in color and flavor and has relatively lower smoke point.

Industrially-produced lard, including much of the lard sold in supermarkets, is rendered from a mixture of high and low quality fat sources from throughout the pig. To improve stability at room temperature, lard is often hydrogenated. Hydrogenated lard sold to consumers typically contains fewer than 0.5g of transfats per 13g serving. Lard is also often treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents, emulsifiers, and antioxidants, such as BHT
Butylated hydroxytoluene
Butylated hydroxytoluene , also known as butylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic organic compound that is primarily used as an antioxidant food additive as well as an antioxidant additive in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil, and embalming...

. These treatments make lard more consistent and prevent spoilage. (Untreated lard must be refrigerated or frozen to prevent rancidity.)

Consumers seeking a higher-quality source of lard typically seek out artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

al producers of rendered lard, or render it themselves from leaf lard or fatback.

A by-product of dry-rendering lard is deep-fried
Deep frying
Deep frying is a cooking method in which food is submerged in hot oil or fat. This is normally performed with a deep fryer or chip pan; industrially, a pressure fryer or vacuum fryer may be used....

 meat, skin and membrane tissue known as cracklings
Cracklings
Cracklings or crackling is a crisp, deep fried food that may be made from various animals. Pork rind cracklings are popular in the American south. The skin of all kinds of poultry are used to make cracklings, including duck, chicken, goose and game birds...

.

Chemistry of lard


Lard is mainly fats, which, in the language of chemistry are known as triglyceride
Triglyceride
A triglyceride is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many triglycerides, depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated, some less so....

s. These triglycerides are composed of three fatty acids and the distribution of fatty acids varies from oil to oil. In general, lard is similar to tallow in its composition. Pigs that have been fed different diets will have lard with a significantly different fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

 content and iodine value. Peanut-fed hogs or the acorn-fed pigs raised for Jamón ibérico
Jamón ibérico
Jamón ibérico, Iberian ham, also called pata negra, is a type of cured ham produced mostly in Spain, but also in some Portuguese regions where it is called presunto ibérico...

 therefore produce a somewhat different kind of lard compared to pigs raised in North American farms that are fed corn.

History and cultural use



Lard has always been an important cooking and baking staple in cultures where pork
Pork
Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig , which is eaten in many countries. It is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC....

 is an important dietary item, the fat of pigs often being as valuable a product as their meat.

During the 19th century, lard was used in a similar fashion as butter
Butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

 in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and many European nations. Lard was also held at the same level of popularity as butter in the early 20th century and was widely used as a substitute for butter during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. As a readily available by-product
By-product
A by-product is a secondary product derived from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction. It is not the primary product or service being produced.A by-product can be useful and marketable or it can be considered waste....

 of modern pork production, lard had been cheaper than most vegetable oils, and it was common in many people's diet until the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 made vegetable oils more common and more affordable. Vegetable shortenings were developed in the early 1900s, which made it possible to use vegetable-based fats in baking and in other uses where solid fats were called for.

By the late 20th century, lard had begun to be considered less healthy than vegetable oils (such as olive
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

 and sunflower
Sunflower
Sunflower is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence . The sunflower got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. The sunflower has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads...

 oil) because of its high saturated fatty acid and cholesterol content. However, despite its reputation, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat
Unsaturated fat
An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain. A fat molecule is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Where double bonds are formed, hydrogen atoms are...

, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter
Butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

 by weight. Unlike many margarines and vegetable shortenings, unhydrogenated lard contains no trans fat
Trans fat
Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid. Because the term refers to the configuration of a double carbon-carbon bond, trans fats are sometimes monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but never saturated....

. It has also been regarded as a "poverty food".

Many restaurants in the western nations have eliminated the use of lard in their kitchens because of the religious and health-related dietary restrictions of many of their customers. Many industrial bakers substitute beef tallow
Tallow
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.In industry,...

 for lard in order to compensate for the lack of mouthfeel
Mouthfeel
Mouthfeel is a product's physical and chemical interaction in the mouth, an aspect of food rheology. It is a concept used in many areas related to the testing and evaluating of foodstuffs, such as wine-tasting and rheology. It is evaluated from initial perception on the palate, to first bite,...

 in many baked goods and free their food products from pork-based dietary restrictions.

However, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the unique culinary properties of lard became widely recognized by chefs and bakers, leading to a partial rehabilitation of this fat among "foodies". This trend has been partially driven by negative publicity about the trans fat content of the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in vegetable shortening. Chef and food writer Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless is an American chef who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. He is perhaps best known for his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time....

 is a prominent proponent of the virtues of lard for certain types of cooking.

It is also again becoming popular in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 among aficionados of traditional British cuisine. This led to a "lard crisis" in early 2006 in which British demand for lard was not met due to demand by Poland and Hungary (who had recently joined the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

) for fatty cuts of pork that had served as an important source of lard.

Culinary use


Lard is one of the few edible oils with a relatively high smoke point
Smoke point
The smoke point generally refers to the temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down to glycerol and free fatty acids, and produce bluish smoke. The glycerol is then further broken down to acrolein which is a component of the smoke. It is the presence of the acrolein that causes...

, attributable to its high saturated fatty acids content. Pure lard is especially useful for cooking since it produces little smoke when heated and has a distinct taste when combined with other foods. Many chefs and bakers
Bakers
Baker's is a supermarket chain operating primarily in the metro area of Omaha, Nebraska. It is owned by Kroger.-History:Abraham Baker opened his first grocery store in Walnut, Iowa in 1927. His first Omaha-area store opened in Bellevue, Nebraska in 1947, and his first in Omaha itself opened in 1957...

 deem lard a superior cooking fat over shortening because of lard's range of applications and taste.

Because of the relatively large fat crystals found in lard, it is extremely effective as a shortening in baking
Baking
Baking is the technique of prolonged cooking of food by dry heat acting by convection, and not by radiation, normally in an oven, but also in hot ashes, or on hot stones. It is primarily used for the preparation of bread, cakes, pastries and pies, tarts, quiches, cookies and crackers. Such items...

. Pie
Pie
A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savoury ingredients....

 crusts made with lard tend to be more flaky than those made with butter. Many cooks employ both types of fat in their pastries to combine the shortening
Shortening
Shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature and used to make crumbly pastry. The reason it is called shortening is because it prevents cross-linkage between gluten molecules. Cross linking is what causes doughs to be sticky. Seeing as cake is not meant to be sticky, shortening is used...

 properties of lard with the flavor of butter.

Lard was once widely used in the cuisines of Europe, China, and the New World and still plays a significant role in British
British cuisine
English cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with England. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with wider British cuisine, largely due to the importation of ingredients and ideas from places such as North America, China, and India...

, Central European
European cuisine
European cuisine, or alternatively Western cuisine, is a generalised term collectively referring to the cuisines of Europe and other Western countries...

, Mexican
Mexican cuisine
Mexican cuisine, a style of food that originates in Mexico, is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration and variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through thousands of years of blending indigenous cultures, with later...

, and Chinese
Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine is any of several styles originating in the regions of China, some of which have become highly popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa...

 cuisines. In British cuisine, lard is used as a traditional ingredient in mince pies and Christmas puddings, lardy cake
Lardy cake
Lardy cake, also known as Lardy bread, Lardy Johns, Dough cake and Fourses cake is a traditional rich spiced form of bread probably originating in Wiltshire in the South West of England, which has also been popular throughout the West Country and the southern counties of England including Oxford...

 and for frying fish and chips
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is a popular take-away food in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada...

, as well as many other uses.

Lard is traditionally one of the main ingredients in the Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n pâté
Pâté
Pâté is a mixture of ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste. Common additions include vegetables, herbs, spices, and either wine or cognac, armagnac or brandy...

 leverpostej
Leverpostej
Leverpostej , leverpostei , leverpastej , , maksapasteija or leverpastei is a "pâté" made of pork liver and lard, which is a popular spread in northern Europe...

.

In Catalan cuisine
Catalan cuisine
Catalan cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine from Catalonia. It may also refer to the shared cuisine of Roussillon and Andorra, which has a similar cuisine to the Alt Urgell and Cerdanya comarques, often referred to as "Catalan mountain cuisine"...

 lard is used to make the dough for the pastry known as coca
Coca (pastry)
The coca is a pastry typically made and consumed in Catalonia, eastern parts of Aragon, most of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Andorra and in French Catalonia....

. In the Balearics particularly, ensaimades
Ensaimada
The Ensaïmada is a pastry product from Majorca, Spain. It is a common cuisine eaten in most former Spanish territories in Latin America and the Philippines, which has been continuously made and eaten for a very long time. The first written references to the Majorcan ensaïmada date back to the 17th...

 dough also contains lard.
Lard consumed as a spread
Spread (food)
A spread is a food that is spread with a knife onto bread, crackers, or other bread products. Spreads are added to bread products to provide flavor and texture, and are an integral part of the dish, i.e. they should be distinguished from condiments, which are optional additions...

 on bread
Bread
Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed , fried , or baked on an unoiled frying pan . It may be leavened or unleavened...

 was once very common in Europe and North America, especially those areas where dairy fats and vegetable oils were rare.

As the demand for lard grows in the high end restaurant industry, small farmers have begun to specialize in heritage hog breeds with higher body fat contents than the leaner, modern hog. Breeds such as the Mangalitsa hog of Hungary or Large Black of Great Britain are experiencing an enormous resurgence to the point that breeders are unable to keep up with demand.

Lard generally refers to wet-rendered lard in English, which has a very mild, neutral flavor, as opposed to the more noticeably pork flavored dry rendered lard, which is also referred to as dripping
Dripping
Dripping, also known usually as beef dripping or more rarely, as pork dripping, is an animal fat produced from the fatty or otherwise unusable parts of cow or pig carcasses...

 or schmalz. Dripping (or "schmalz") sandwiches are still popular in several European countries - in Hungary they're known as "Zsíroskenyér" or "Zsírosdeszka", and in Germany pork fat is seasoned to make "Fettbemme". Similar snacks are sometimes served with beer in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. They are generally topped with onions, served with salt and paprika, and eaten as a side-dish with beer. All of these are commonly translated on menus as "lard" sandwiches, perhaps due to the lack of familiarity of most contemporary English native speakers with dripping. Attempts to use Hungarian "Zsir" or Polish "Smalec" in British recipes calling for lard will soon reveal the difference between the wet-rendered lard and dripping. In Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 as well as many parts of mainland China
Mainland China
Mainland China, the Chinese mainland or simply the mainland, is a geopolitical term that refers to the area under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China . According to the Taipei-based Mainland Affairs Council, the term excludes the PRC Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and...

, lard was often consumed mixed into cooked rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 along with soy sauce
Soy sauce
Soy sauce is a condiment produced by fermenting soybeans with Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds, along with water and salt...

 to make "lard rice" (豬油拌飯 or 豬油撈飯). This is less commonly served in modern times due to concerns with saturated fats.

Other uses



Rendered lard can be used to produce biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

and soap
Soap
In chemistry, soap is a salt of a fatty acid.IUPAC. "" Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. . Compiled by A. D. McNaught and A. Wilkinson. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford . XML on-line corrected version: created by M. Nic, J. Jirat, B. Kosata; updates compiled by A. Jenkins. ISBN...

. Lard is also useful as a cutting fluid
Cutting fluid
Cutting fluid is a type of coolant and lubricant designed specifically for metalworking and machining processes. There are various kinds of cutting fluids, which include oils, oil-water emulsions, pastes, gels, aerosols , and air or other gases. They may be made from petroleum distillates, animal...

 in machining
Machining
Conventional machining is a form of subtractive manufacturing, in which a collection of material-working processes utilizing power-driven machine tools, such as saws, lathes, milling machines, and drill presses, are used with a sharp cutting tool to physical remove material to achieve a desired...

. Its use in machining has declined since the mid-20th century as other specially engineered cutting fluids became prominent. However, it is still a viable option.

See also

  • Lardy cake
    Lardy cake
    Lardy cake, also known as Lardy bread, Lardy Johns, Dough cake and Fourses cake is a traditional rich spiced form of bread probably originating in Wiltshire in the South West of England, which has also been popular throughout the West Country and the southern counties of England including Oxford...

    , an English bread with heavy lard content
  • Schmaltz
    Schmaltz
    Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered chicken, goose, or pork fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Also is very common in Ukrainian cuisine Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered chicken, goose, or pork fat used for frying or as a spread on bread,...

    , rendered chicken, goose, or pork fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

External links


  • "High on the Hog" by Corby Kummer, New York Times, August 12, 2005.
  • "Rendering Lard 2.0" by Derrick Schneider, An Obsession With Food (blog), January 12, 2006.
  • "Lard", Food Resource, College of Health and Human Sciences, Oregon State University
    Oregon State University
    Oregon State University is a coeducational, public research university located in Corvallis, Oregon, United States. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees and a multitude of research opportunities. There are more than 200 academic degree programs offered through the...

    , February 20, 2007. – Bibliography of food science
    Food science
    Food science is a study concerned with all technical aspects of foods, beginning with harvesting or slaughtering, and ending with its cooking and consumption, an ideology commonly referred to as "from field to fork"...

    articles on lard.