Professionals with years of experience slaughtering pigs and rendering pork fat to make lard are divided into two groups, one claims that leaf lard got its name because the fat in the visceral part of the pig resembles a leaf, while the other group strongly disagrees.
Lack of imagination, perhaps? Or a lot of it? It is a friendly disagreement since, at the end of the day, everyone agrees that leaf lard is a tub of great lard to have at home, especially if you are the type who enjoys making pies and pastries, with a high appreciation for getting a perfect crust all the time. This is the hallmark of leaf lard put to good use.
Leaf Lard Trivia
- A copy of the 1912 Armour’s Simon Pure Leaf Lard print ad is still in existence and is being sold to collectors.
- A print ad that appeared in the 1909 issue of The Fra magazine stressed the importance of picking leaf lard and not just ordinary lard.
- A 1909 issue of the American Cookery instructs consumers that pure lard is not leaf lard and lard with a brand name called Leaf is not automatically leaf lard, helping consumers with their confusion when it comes to correctly buying leaf lard from ordinary lard.
Leaf Lard Buying Guide
Here are some tips when buying lard:
If you want high-quality lard, choose the one that says “leaf lard” or “back fat”.
Always inspect the overall condition of the product. Check the packaging to see if there is no damage that could have compromised the condition and quality of the lard inside.
Before buying, make sure to check the best before or expiration date of the lard.
Leaf Lard Production & Farming in Texas
Where does the fat that is used to make leaf lard come from? It is that soft, visceral fat near the kidney and loin of the pig, that is what producers use to make leaf lard.
The rendering of pork fat to produce lard is a thriving industry in Texas, an agricultural state where you can find many farms and ranches that raise livestock including pigs. Farms specializing in producing lard opt for heritage hog breeds over modern hog because heritage hog breeds have higher body-fat contents, while modern hogs are leaner. Sought-after breeds great for producing lard because of fat content include the Hungarian Mangalitsa hog and the Large Black pig of Great Britain.
TexasRealFood provides a listing of local businesses selling lard to help you find the nearest local source, like Zanzenberg Farm in Center Point, Texas, which sells fresh lard. Hillbilly Nutrition in Waxahachie, Texas, also sells lard. Ask if they have leaf lard, specifically.
Grocery stores and supermarkets like United Supermarket, Central Market, Walmart Neighborhood Market, and H-E-B (an American privately held supermarket chain based in San Antonio, Texas) sell lard. Check the packaging if it is ordinary lard or leaf lard.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Here are some of the additives you will find in store-bought leaf lard.
- Antioxidants – This prevents the auto-oxidation of fats.
- BHA and BHT – Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are antioxidants used in lard to help in keeping the lard stay fresh for as long as possible.
- Propyl gallate – also known as propyl 3,4,5-trihydroxybenzoate, is a white to creamy-white crystalline powder used to protect lard from oxidation. Propyl gallate can potentially become an endocrine disruptor.
- Tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is used to prevent the oxidative deterioration and rancidity of the fat due to anti-lipid peroxidation activity.
- Bleaching agents – This is used to manage the appearance of the rendered fat.
- Citric acid – This is used to improve the flavor of lard.
- Deodorizing agents -This is used in the deodorization process, considered as an important part of the process of refining the product by removing odoriferous compounds so that lard does not have any unwanted smell.
- Emulsifiers – Emulsifiers help bind fat and liquid molecules.
The US is at the top five of the list of major lard producers worldwide. China is the top maker of lard followed by Germany and Brazil. Russia, Italy, Poland, Romania, France, and Mexico are also major producers of lard consumed worldwide.
Lard is called Griebenschmalz in Germany. The English word “schmaltz”, on the other hand, refers to kosher fat rendered from chicken, duck, or goose.
Lard, including leaf lard, is usually sold as paper-wrapped blocks. Lard is also sold in plastic tubs and glass jars.
Enjoying Leaf Lard
Lard is used in cooking, and if lard is produced properly, there won’t be any bad smell or bad taste from food cooked with lard when you eat it.
Lard sandwiches are commonly served along with beer in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. If you are in Poland, try the local sandwich that features lard and chopped apples spread on a thick slice of bread.
Leaf lard has a very delicate consistency, which is why it is easy to use it as spread and use it on sandwiches.
Keep lard in a tightly sealed container. Do not store lard where it is exposed to direct sunlight or where it is very hot. Lard can tolerate room temperature but it will last longer if you keep lard refrigerated. Can you freeze large? Sure you can. Freezing lard will extend the shelf life of your lard; you can still use frozen lard 3 to 6 months past the expiration date or best before date. Here’s a great tip: freeze lard in small parts so you don’t have to defrost the entire tub.
Lard will eventually go bad, unsuitable for cooking, and unsafe for eating. So always check the lard in your storage.
Storage is important to make sure the quality of your lard remains optimal, but remember that there are other things you can do if you want to improve the shelf life of your lard. First, make sure to use clean utensils for scooping, always. If that utensil has been dipped or was used to scoop something else, do not use it to scoop another batch of lard from the tub. Many of us appreciate the practical wisdom of reusing lard and that is fine, just make sure that fresh, unused lard is not mixed with any used lard you want to reuse. Just store used lard in a different container.
There is nothing in the taste of leaf lard that connects it in any way to any flavor associated with pork. This is why this is great when making donuts or frying french fries, and the most popular use of all: for pie crust and pastries.
Lard in general is a prominent ingredient in many different recipes found in European, American, and Asian cuisine at the height of lard’s popularity.
Lard is used as a cooking fat, shortening, or as a spread, providing flakiness to pastry. You can use lard in making savory dishes like sausages, pâtés, and fillings. Lard is used in making mince pie, Christmas puddings, lardy cake, Mexican tamales and empanadas, in cooking refried beans, and for frying fish and chips. Lard is an important ingredient in the Scandinavian pâté leverpostej. Lard is popular in Spain, where it is called manteca, which is used in toasted bread and for making ensaimades dough. Lard is used in making dripping sandwiches which are popular in Europe. They are called zsíroskenyér (“lardy bread”) or zsírosdeszka (“lardy plank”) in Hungary, and “Fettbemme” in Germany.
Chinese, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, and Macao cuisines feature the use of lard in making lard rice, while in Japan, lard is used in ramen.
Lard is commonly used as general-purpose cooking oil, used in stir-fries and deep-frying.
Kashrut and Halal restrictions mean lard cannot be used in making food. Beef tallow is used instead. Today, vegetable oil has become more popular over lard, but many people still prefer to use lard.
Leaf lard has a high smoking point. What does this mean? It means leaf lard does not quickly “smoke” as the temperature rises, allowing you to fry without the risk of having your food have that burnt, toasted, smoky taste, which happens when you use oil that has a low smoking point (or smokes easily when heated).
Downside: if you are looking at your cooking oil to improve the pork flavor of what you are cooking, leaf lard will not do it for you, unlike what bacon grease can do to the flavor of fried pork.
There are a lot of foods today that contain trans fat which increases bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol in the body. One of the advantages of (unhydrogenated) lard is that it has zero trans fat while hydrogenated lard contains fewer than 0.5 g of trans fats per 13 g serving.
Lard has zero protein and zero carbohydrates. But lard provides fats that are important so that we have energy. Fats also help us absorb vitamins. If you eat carbohydrates with fats, digestion happens slowly, helping us avoid experiencing a sugar crash.
Leaf lard is high in saturated fat and cholesterol.