---I went on a wild goose chase last week looking for leaf lard. What is leaf lard, you ask? Why on earth would I want lard? And, um, lard? Really?
Well, yes. Lard is real food. It isn't hydrogenated like shortening. (Hoists self up on soapbox.) There was a time when we humans ate real food. Then the "nutrition experts" --usually connected to the government, or corporations, or both-- stepped in and declared real food bad for you. Next, the chemists were hired to replace real food with food-like substances. Then we all started to get sick and fat. Think these things are related? (Falls off soapbox in a froth.)
But I digress, as I am wont to do. Leaf lard. Leaf lard is the interior lard that surrounds the organs, usually the kidneys. It is a finer grade of lard and doesn't have a pork taste or smell when baked, so it's much preferred for pastries.
Now, I'm not much of a baker. It's just not on my list of things to do, and even less so since I was diagnosed with celiac a decade ago. But, I decided that if I was going to bake this year for Thanksgiving, I was going to go whole hog (sadly, pun intended).
I looked for lard all week in downtown Detroit, in vain. It got to the point I was ready to order it online- for about $50.00, shipping included. That's an awful lot of dough for lard, even good lard.
But all along, all I really needed to do was wait for Saturday morning to go to our beloved Eastern Market in downtown Detroit. We go every Saturday, year in and year out, but our dear old farmer's market never ceases to amaze. If you can't find it at Eastern Market, you probably don't need it.
Certain vendors at Eastern are seasonal, meat vendors chiefly among them. The big old sheds that comprise the market are unheated, and the meat can't spoil in a Detroit winter. The pork vendor who appears in late November has an old portable glass butcher case with whole pig heads inside, among other impressively large pork parts. It's quite spectacular to see these whole, freshly butchered parts in what is essentially an outdoor market.
And wouldn't you know it; the pork vendor had leaf lard. For One Dollar and Forty-One Cents. that's a buck-forty-one. $1.41, people. That beats fifty bucks and airplane shipping any day.
Now I had to render it. And it was easy, and didn't take too long, either. Cube it up, toss it in a roaster (no lid), let it bake at about 325 until it melts. What's left will sort of look like soft pork rinds (but it's not what I'd call edible- I tried it, and it's darned nasty.) Strain out the solids, pour carefully and slowly into jars. Let cool. Voila, home-rendered lard, ready for baking. I cooled it outside; in a matter of hours it was solid and a beautiful snowy white. I will say that the smell during rendering was pretty strong- like I'd been frying chicken all day- and the smell stuck to my clothes and skin. But it diminished pretty quickly with the crack of a window. And personally, I don't mind smelling like I've been cooking something interesting.
I recommend this food adventure to any baker out there. It made for a fun, educational day. And I have my very own leaf lard, and also a source for leaf lard. Neat, huh?