January 12, 2014 § 2 Comments
I rendered leaf lard today.
Many of you will know what I’m talking about but just as many, if not more won’t have a clue. We know where duck fat comes from, but leaf lard is not made from leaves. Here’s an explanation:
Leaf lard is pork fat. It comes from the “soft” fat around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It has a very neutral flavor, not at all pork-like or meaty. My mother always used lard for cooking, and duck fat was the prized fat above all others.
Now I know many of you are probably thinking fat is bad for you, avoid it at all costs. It leads to heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. But the exact opposite is true. Our bodies need saturated fat, plain and simple. Our brain needs it for proper functioning and cognition. Our liver needs it to protect us from the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. Our lungs are coated with a substance made up of saturated fat. And we need it for calcium absorption. So using these fats in your cooking is a good way to get it. You can sometimes get leaf lard from a butcher and duck is easy to come by.
Lard and duck fat are excellent fats for frying as they have a high smoking point. Things like fried chicken or doughnuts are best fried in these. You can add a tablespoon or two of either when baking pies or pastries for flaky crusts. Potatoes fried in duck fat with sea salt is a meal in itself. You can also make a warm vinaigrette with duck fat, substituting it for some of the oil. And like my grandfather did, spread duck fat on a piece of dark rye bread and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. He had this for breakfast every day, sometimes with a slice of raw bacon on it!
Back to the rendering- I had a large portion of leaf lard that I got from Sleeping Dog Farm a while back and decided to render it. Quite easy to do really. Just grind or cut the lard into small chunks then put in a large pot and into the oven at 300 degrees, stirring once in a while. The fat will slowly release from the meat after about an hour. Just strain it through a piece of cheesecloth then store the fat in jars. Be careful that the fat doesn’t get too hot and burn or the lard won’t be clear. But even if it’s not it’s still terrific. The taste won’t be as neutral but still ok. You’ll end up with crackling which some people eat on salads and such but to be honest my family wasn’t too excited about them. So I’ll feed them to my chickens tomorrow.
The fat rising to the top.
What remains is the crackling.
To get duck fat, simply roast a whole duck. You’ll want to pierce the fatty parts with a needle so the fat can drain out, then simply scoop it up as the duck roasts and put into a jar.
Both these fats will keep about a month in the fridge or you can freeze them. Give them a try, traditional foods are the best!
April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme….
and Cilantro, and Dill, and Basil, and Mint, and….
Nothing gets me madder than going to the fridge for fresh herbs and finding mushy, slimy remnants of greenness that were once herbs. Well, there are actually quite a few things that get me madder but nothing that needs to be said here!
I use herbs in almost every dish, desserts too. Basil and strawberries. Mint and pears. Thyme and pretty much everything. I like using fresh herbs, and this method will keep them that way for weeks if you don’t use them up by then.
Find a cup, mug, or glass jar, (something pretty to look at is nice too), large enough to hold the herbs and add fresh water. Fill it about half way.
Then get a plastic bag, like the kind you brought them home in, and put over the top of your herbs. You want to create a moist, greenhouse like environment for them. Don’t close up too tightly, they have to breathe too.
If you’re adverse to plastic, I think you could probably try cheesecloth or those reusable bags they sell now. I haven’t tried that yet so let me know how that works if you do try it.
Then put it into the refrigerator. Oh and don’t rinse the herbs until you’re ready to use them. And change the water every few days too.
Of course you could freeze some of these as well, though they’ll be a bit limp when defrosted. Strip the leaves off and lay them on a cookie sheet and put in freezer, then once frozen, into a zip lock bag they go. Another way is to freeze in ice cube trays. Strip the leaves, chop if you like, fill an ice cube tray halfway and top with water. Freeze. When frozen, top with a bit more water as the herbs will have floated to the top. Refreeze, then pop out, and into the baggie.
I like to dry my herbs too. I have huge amounts of thyme, oregano and marjoram from my garden and I just tie them in a bundle and hang them in a dry place, usually my kitchen.
A food dehydrator works well for some herbs like parsley and tarragon. I have one but find hanging them so much easier, not to mention nice to look at all winter long.