Looking for Lard: Can you find it in a Grocery Store?

 

So often my “Make Your Own” recipes send me in search of ingredients that are unfamiliar to me.  This week I wanted to purchase a pound of lard for a Homemade Birdseed Cake Recipe.

(Update:  Click here for two more updated DIY Birdseed Cake recipes with lard)

I don’t know much at all about lard because I always use butter or margarine when I bake. I was hopeful that a simple trip down the baking aisle of the grocery store would do the trick.  Such was not the case.  There was no lard to be found anywhere on the baking aisle of the Meijer store where I shop.

Next I looked in the dairy case by the butter, I looked in the other end of the dairy case by the sour cream, I even looked in the cold meat section, and then the international food section, but once again, there was no lard to be found.  So on this particular shopping trip I decided to buy Crisco instead.

 

Looking for Lard: Can you find it in a Grocery Store?

 

Is Crisco the Same Thing as Lard?
The more I thought about substituting Crisco in my recipe, the more unhappy I became.  After all, it wasn’t really the same stuff!  So I consulted the great all-knowing Google to educate myself a little more about lard and other fats that are used in cooking.  The best information I found was on a discussion forum for cooks.  Here’s the link if you would like to read more:  Discussion on interchanging fats in cooking (see answer #3)  I’ll paraphrase as follows:

Butter:   Butter is a dairy product and has the lowest melting point.  It’s made of 80% fats and the rest is water.  Butter is best used for its flavor.  Because of its low melting point it burns more easily when using it to saute foods in a fry pan.

Margarine: Margarine is a vegetable product and was designed to be a cheap alternative to butter.  It has about the same fat content, but it’s melting point is much higher.  This is why you don’t get the same “melt in your mouth” quality as you get with baked goods made with butter, and it’s best use is for spreading on things. It’s a good alternative for vegetarians or for people who want to save money.

Lard:  Lard is pork fat (tallow is beef fat).  It has a much higher melting point and is good for making flakey baked goods and for deep frying.  Lard does have a slight flavor, but it’s not a sweet flavor like butter.

Crisco:  Crisco is a hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Crisco is a little more dense than margarine and has no flavor.  The introduction of Crisco is what made the use of lard in household cooking disappear.  It was sold as a convenient alternative that would not go rancid.  It also greatly increased the shelf life of ready-made foods.

So each of these fats have slightly different origins and properties.  Many times they can be interchanged in baking but the texture and the flavor of the end product will be different, and it often comes down to the preference of the cook.

Lard

So Do Grocery Stores Still Sell Lard?
Once I realized that lard was from pork fat (I really did not know that!) I decided to try a little harder to find some, assuming the birds needed an animal fat with their seed, not some Crisco.  I again consulted the all-knowing Google and discovered that Hispanic grocery stores carry lard and it is usually sold under the name “Manteca”.  I have a grocery store near me with a large Hispanic section so off I went to check it out.  Sure enough!  There was Manteca on the shelf, and when I turned it around they had kindly labeled it in English too as “Lard”.  It was sold in a 2.5 lb tub for $5.19.

Lard is also called Manteca

I have seen other blog postings on the internet where lard has been used and the blogger has helpfully taken a picture of the ingredients.  Other folks have apparently found lard in a one pound square block.

Is Lard Actually Healthy?
For many years now Lard has had a reputation as a bad fat that increases your cholesterol.  Recently, however, scientists and the health community are taking another look.  Lard is a more natural product than Crisco, which is an oil that has had its molecules changed.   For generations lard and butter were the only fats used in cooking.  In fact, William Proctor (who was a candle maker) and James Gamble (who was a soap maker) went into business in the early 1900’s to sell cottonseed oil as an alternative to butter and lard.  They teamed up with a German chemist who discovered how to hydrogenate the oil into a solid.  They realized it looked like lard and began to market their “Crisco” as an alternative.

And while lard is getting another look as a “good” fat, the general feeling is that it’s best to render your own lard if you want a product with a lower level of saturated fats.

Let’s Make Our Own Lard!
So now we have come full circle in the Make Your Own Zone!  We should all be making our own lard!  Oh I wish I was up to that challenge but I think I’ll save that for another day. Shame on me.  For the curious and ambitious, however, here are a few links to show the way:

How to Render Lard

Making Fat – How To Render Lard

Make Your Own Lard

I guess if I was stymied by a recipe that started off with Lard as an ingredient, I would have the same problem with these recipes that start off with with things like “get yourself 2 lbs of pork fat” .  Oh my!   I would guess you need to be on good terms with your local butcher to accomplish that.  It also appears that rendering your own lard is a smelly process.  If any readers have tried this, or plan on trying it, I would love to hear about it!

 

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Comments

    Feel free to comment or share your bright idea!

  1. says

    Hi Beverly! Saw you'd stopped by my blog and thought I'd take a look. Any blog called “Make Your Own Zone” is exactly the type of blog I like to read!

    You are right… lard has this horrible reputation but you know something? It is really one of the best fats available, in my opinion. It's a fantastic oil for making soap, works really well as a moisturizer, and makes delicious pie crusts and tortillas. I try to keep it on hand all the time. I mean yeah, pork fat, it's got a bad rap but it is largely undeserved.

    Anyway I gotta run but thanks for stopping by! I'll be reading the rest of your blog later tonight… :)

  2. says

    Ok, I don't have a story about rendering lard, but my husband tells a story about his grandmother deciding to patriotically make soap during the rationing era of WWII. She began with pig fat scrounged from her favorite butcher. By the time Dick's father got home from work the entire neighborhood was gathering to “do something about her!” The stench was unbearable and clung to the laundry the neighbors had hanging out. It seeped into the houses and stunk up the draperies, clothing and upholstery…irreplaceable in wartime.
    Grandma had forgotten the most important thing…the last time she made soap she lived way out on the farm.

  3. says

    Great lard story Judy! I've never rendered lard myself either but from what I've heard it is indeed a stinky process and those who live with some empty space around them are probably in a better place to tackle that job than us city dwellers :)

  4. says

    I just stumbled across your blog from Pinterest and love it. I think this post is priceless. I don't know much about lard either and certainly did not know the difference between lard and tallow, so thank you for that! I do know that my grandmother swore up and down that once lard disappeared from the grocery stores, she could no longer make a decent pie crust. She did not like Crisco … at. all.

  5. says

    I just stumbled across your blog from Pinterest and love it. I think this post is priceless. I don't know much about lard either and certainly did not know the difference between lard and tallow, so thank you for that! I do know that my grandmother swore up and down that once lard disappeared from the grocery stores, she could no longer make a decent pie crust. She did not like Crisco … at. all.

  6. Anonymous says

    we fry done pork fat to make cracklings and keep the oil from that, which when hardens is lard. we love the crackling and I use the lard to cook with.

  7. says

    we fry done pork fat to make cracklings and keep the oil from that, which when hardens is lard. we love the crackling and I use the lard to cook with.

  8. Brian says

    I am researching on lard and was delighted to find your helpful breakdown on these fats. My only concern is that hydrogenated (or partially) fats are unequivocally unhealthy. therefore I don’t consider them a valid food option for my family. I urge you to look into for yourself and family the health issues associated with processed fats.

  9. Tamara says

    I live in Arizona where there is a very large Hispanic population. When I started learning how to cook authentic Mexican food I was hesitant to use lard. Apparently I am not the only person with a terrible image of lard. I learned how to cook Mexican food from a feisty 80-something year old Mexican lady and she told me in no uncertain terms that I could NOT substitute shortening for lard in her recipes! So now, while I still don’t use a lot of lard, there are certain recipes where nothing else will do.

    In browsing through your posts here, I noticed that you weren’t totally enthralled with your attempt at making homemade tortillas. I would suggest that you try making your recipe using lard instead of oil. The flavor of these tortillas, is far superior to store bought tortillas. They are still pretty time consuming to make, but it’s worth the effort!

    • BeverlyBeverly says

      Very interesting Tamara! I think that you’re correct that lard would probably make the big difference in a good homemade tortilla.

  10. Linda Bender says

    My Mom always used lard in cooking. Her mother did also and she lived to 90. An apple pie once in a while won’t kill anyone. Just think of the process used to make Crisco. Very bad.

  11. says

    The only bad thing is most of the lard you find in stores is also hydrogenated. For it to be “healthy” it has to be non-hydrogenated. There are some butcher shops that will sell it but I’m finding you have better luck looking online. But to top that, rendering your own is the way to go.

  12. SPGleman says

    If you live in bear country to not render (melt) the fat in your crock pot by an open kitchen window to reduce the odor. It makes a good product but you will probably have bear prints on your outside kitchen wall that night. At least.