February 1, 2013
The Beauty of Home Rendered Leaf Lard
I have been on a constant hunt for leaf lard for 6-7 years now. The internets reported that this hard to obtain lard, gently rendered from the fat deposits surrounding the kidneys of a pig, made sublimely flaky pastry without imparting a noticeable meaty taste. At the time I first started looking, I turned up Flying Pigs Farm, which would sell me leaf fat but not rendered lard via mail order. They did however sell rendered lard at the green market in Brooklyn at Grand Army Plaza, so one time when we were visiting Becky's brother in Brooklyn we went to this market and I bought them out of the few tubs of leaf lard they had at the stand. I used this lard to make some fine pie crust (25-30% lard, remainder high quality butter), and have always wanted more.
Back then I was a little reluctant to get into rendering lard, and wished I could find a place to just buy it. No such source was forthcoming though. These days of course I'm more open to exploring such silly activities as lard rendering. Our ex-housemate Leeann once brought us a pack of leaf fat from the farm she was working on, which sat in our deep freeze for a long time until we finally rendered it last summer.
We have a meat CSA, and can ostensibly special order leaf fat, but the several times I've tried to do so they have always flaked out and forgot to bring it.
Into this sadly leaf lard free existence, enter M.F. Dulock, a boutique butcher shop operating in a tiny store front in Somerville which opened a few months ago. They have one little display case in the shop. Imagine my elation when dropping in with the family one day to check the place out, to see adorably arranged rolls of leaf fat in the display case. Boo-ya!! I bought about 500g to try out.
I read up on rendering leaf lard on this excellent blog page detailing the subject. First thing was to strip the fat off the membrane.
Next, I chopped it up and put it in a cast iron pot. Oven got heated to 120C (250F), about 60ml of water was added, and the pot went in to the oven.
After ~30 minutes. Definitely some lard coming out, mixed with water that has yet to evaporate.
After about 3hrs. I probably should have taken it out sooner, but I was busy taking my kids to ice skating.
Pressing the golden nectar from the remnant fatty chunks.
We got something like 300ml of lard. You can see it is yellower than other people's pictures I have seen on the internet. Probably came from over doing it on the time in the oven. Still, the pies I made last summer with similarly golden leaf lard were fantastic and didn't taste like meat whatsoever. I'm expecting this amount of lard will make 6-8 pies worth of pastry.
The fat was allowed to cool a little while on the counter, then poured into two small jars.
After they cooled completely (and thus became solid and opaque white in color), they went into the freezer until it is their time to shine.