The Quest for Perfect Pie Leads to Lard

by Girl Gone Domestic

I have been on a quest for the perfect pie crust…without shortening.  I had mastered shortening pastry. I really had it down. Nothing makes a pie crust flaky and light like shortening, but as I made the switch to real and wholesome foods, shortening doesn’t make the list.  But surprisingly, lard does!  And it is also surprisingly healthier than you may think.  Now, I’m not saying that pie is a health food, with all that white flour and sugar, but when we eat it, why not make it as wholesome as possible, and switching shortening for lard does the trick.

I just love these articles sharing lard love:

Butter, Butter, Butter and Lard

Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here.

Lard: The New Health Food?

Lard Is Healthy?

and the pièce de résistance

Taking the Fear Out of Eating Fat

Now there is a bit of a catch, store bought lard has its flaws, it is often hydrogenated.  And then there is the question of the state of the animals that it came from.  So at the risk of sounding extreme, I decided to render my own leaf lard from grass fed pork fat for my holiday pies.  There are many sites with tutorials and its easier than I thought.  I found this little video extremely helpful. So here it is in a nutshell.

1.  Cut up fat.

2.  Melt until cracklings turn golden, remove cracklings. Note:  These are a yummy low carb snack.

3. Strain into jar.

4.  Chill until firm and white.

And that’s it.  I must admit the first time I rendered lard, I kept cooking it in hopes the cracklings would get crispy, but I found there is a fine line between done and tasting like burned bacon.  I was still able to use that first batch in savory things, and for deep frying.  For a less “bacon-y” taste I chose leaf lard for my holiday pies, its the fat from around the pig’s kidney, and is virtually flavorless.

I have tried using my old shortening recipe and substituting half with butter and half with lard.  It was OK, but had a tendency to remain pale and when it did turn golden, it had too much crispness.  I had read about Kate McDermott and her incredible lard pie crust, here and here, and here, so I gave it a try.  All I can say is…I pretty much love Ms. McDermott and her pie crust.

This pastry is so pliable and easy to handle.

It is still a bit crisper than my shortening crust, but cutting back the baking time may help.  I think it is far more flavorful than shortening crust, and equally attractive, it spreads a little while baking, making it rustic looking.  I will continue to play with this recipe, and I think I’ll try this one over at Cheeseslave, but my real adventure will be, gluten free pie crust.  I told you… I’m on a quest.