The folks over at GRIT Magazine have produced a cookbook with 150 recipes that are akin to grandma’s cooking. Most people think lard equals fat. As this book points out, that simply isn’t true. Lard has been used throughout the years for cooking, soap and even lighting. I found it quite interesting to learn that Americans have gained weight since switching over to the supposed healthier versions of vegetable shortenings. When I’m hungry, I eat. Most of us do, I believe. They’ve now found that these highly processed, low fat versions of oleo, margarine or shortening actually make most of use gain weight.
I must admit that I never quit using lard. I’ve always used it to fry my husband’s favorite breaded pork chops. What I found from this book is that the lard I’ve been buying in the store isn’t always the best choice. While I’d love to render my own lard, and the directions for doing that are included for the price of the book, it’s not feasible for me at this time. The authors share invaluable resources on how and where to get the best lard.
This book organizes the recipes by chapters and groups the food together by breads, vegetables, desserts, etc. The bread section is first and I like that. Biscuits aren’t the same if they aren’t made with lard. My mother never had a fancy pastry blender, but she used the two-knife method well. (You may need to acquire this skill to prepare the recipe below.) She taught me how to blend the flour and lard into a coarse mixture before adding the rest of the ingredients. Thinking about her homemade biscuits has my mouth watering. I could slap some real butter on a few and drizzle them with honey and oh my, I’ll try to stay away from the ‘they’re so good they make you want to slap your mama’ slang since she’s the one hopefully making them for me this weekend.
I can’t wait to try the homemade flour tortillas and the apple dumplings.
I love this cookbook, but there are a few issues that make me say, ‘hmm.’ First off, there are very few pictures. I like pictures and I’m not afraid to ask for them. The pictures that are included are not located by the recipe. Page 51 has a recipe for Firm Eggplant and to the left is a picture of Corn-Stuffed Peppers from page 57. Makes you wonder who was in charge of that right?
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of sugar
½ cup of lard, cold and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup of milk
1 egg beaten
Butter and honey for serving
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives, but in the lard until it resembles coarse crumbs. Beat together the milk and egg; add to the flour mixture and stir until a ball forms. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a few minutes. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ¾ inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze the biscuits until solid (about 6 hours) then transfer to a zip-top plastic bag. Freeze for up to one month.
To bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the biscuits 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not thaw before baking. Bake 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm with butter and honey.
***I highly recommend you use this book. Overlook the lack of pictures and realize that what makes this cookbook exceptional is the total uniqueness it brings to the kitchen. These recipes are nostalgic and comforting. Cook it up for Sunday, invite the family and sit a spell. ***
Looking forward: Next month I’ll be reviewing Allergy-Friendly Food for Families.
This article is featured in the Night Owl Reviews Magazine. Edition 31 - June 15th 2012.
Using lard in cooking dates at least as far back as the 1300s. It is prized by pastry chefs today, and it is an excellent cooking fat because it burns at a very high temperature and tends not to smoke as heavily as many other fats and oils do. Rediscovered along with other healthful animal fats in the 1990s, lard is once again embraced by chefs and enlightened health-care professionals and dietitians.
Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient offers you the opportunity to cook like your grandmother, while incorporating good animal fat into your diet once again. Lard is the key to the wonders that came from Grandma's kitchen, and with lard, you can turn out stellar Beef Wellington, Bierocks, or crispy Southern Fried Chicken. Serving your family the 150 treats you enjoyed in your younger days when you visited your grandparents' farm is as easy as flipping a page in this great cookbook. Try your hand at creating fluffy Grandma's Homemade Biscuits, tasty Spanish Corn Bread, delectable Fried Okra, sweet Chocolate Kraut Cake, a Perfect Pastry piecrust for a delicious Butterscotch Peach Pie, or Rhubarb Dumplings.
You will never regret adding Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient to your cookbook collection. Don't be afraid to bring a little lard back to the table; your taste buds will be glad you did.