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Nov 6, 2008 09:47 AM

Looking for Lard, in all the wrong places...

I'm pondering making tamales for the first time this Xmas although the prospect is daunting. I've been told the key is good quality, fresh lard. Where do you tamale-makers or die-hard pie crust makers get your lard?

I'm in Arlington and I might get drummed out of the neighborhood association and/or the PTA for even considering eating it... but I'm willing to face the consequences.

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  1. The best lard I have had in 3 years came off the pork I purchased from Bill Jones.He is the proprietor of " BABES IN THE WOODS ".His farm is about 90 minutes from you.He also comes to the Clarendon farm market on ????? Wednesday ,
    right at metro.I do not know what "by products" he can help with.I saved every scrap of what I had for additional uses.Did some rendering of my own.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lcool

      Babe in the Woods is also at the Saturday morning Old Town Alexandria market. You could also try Let's Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray. I believe Steve carries suet for proper pastry.

      1. re: monavano

        Suet - really? can we get a confirmation?

        nothing like it.

        1. re: hill food

          Give Steve at LMOTA a call...he's a Brit and he said he would carry it for customers who are used to making pastry with suet.

    2. "Gourmet lard"? Naaah ... any grocery with a decent hispanic-food section will have "manteca" (that's Spanish for 'lard'), and if I recall right you can most often find it right on the shelf at room temperature.

      Many Shoppers will have a good hispanic food section.

      11 Replies
      1. re: wayne keyser

        I've heard that properly rendered lard (not the usual hydrogenated find) is lower in bad cholesterol than margarine. but that's the clue. properly.

        1. re: hill food

          There is some science to support that "natural" is better safer fat.

        2. re: wayne keyser

          You are correct about the grocery stores having lard.However to call it good or better is a
          stretch ,or for mince pies a travesty.The last time I purchesed it in a pinch it "smelled" ,
          over processed ,some what burned and just plain "old".Information has it that this is the normal state of affairs for "shelf" lard.
          Bill Jones of BABES is also a BRIT,knows what "suet" AKA leaf lard from around the kidneys is . It is not even similar in smell or taste to "shelf" lard.
          All of the meat we eat is selected on the "hoof".Raised by my family or a source we have
          researched ,met and gotten to know.The resulting differences include saving ALL fat ,by-
          products etc, bird and mammal.When fresh these things are nearly odorless when compared to the "smelly" reputation that procedes them.

          1. re: lcool

            "leaf lard"

            that was the term I was trying to remember.

            fat and animal fat in particular should be used carefully of course, but IIRC leaf lard is no worse than butter as far as saturation.

            god we're all gonna end up getting angioplasty at this rate.

            1. re: lcool

              I've heard "kidney suet." Is that redundant? Is suet, by definition, the fat surrounding the kidneys, and from no other place on the animal? ("Surrounding" may be taken loosely, I suppose, depending on the butcher)

              1. re: MikeR

                HILL FOOD and MikeR ,
                Around the kidney of cattle and hogs is "leaf lard" AKA suet.However to refer to the other "fat" as leaf lard is incorrect.Leaf lard is anatomy specific,when you butcher the distinction is clear.There is much wonderful suet elsewhere on cattle and hogs,devine for "lard",a rendered product,but...not what you want for mince meat or plum pudding.You need a dry,snow white product for these.The rendering is done in the "recipe",not a separate step.
                And no kidney suet is not redundent,surrounding is well defined in the animal.
                The anatomy in question is quite a "package",as would be the thymus or heart.
                Your butcher needs to remove the package intact,not make a mess of it.
                hope this helps,I don't worry much about the health scare industry here at all,
                seasonal moderation and lucky family genetics are my friend.

                1. re: lcool

                  I always thought that anything labeled lard was a pork product and suet was from either cows or sheep, before the type distinctions of leaf, etc.

                  am I wrong?

                  1. re: hill food

                    You are making all lard a rendered product,it's not always so.Therefore
                    Wrong no,however the historic distinctions are the result of "geography" .
                    Until very recently only one "animal" was butchered in house.Pork one place,beef and veal another,sheep another and so on.These practices are largely unchanged in many places.(Italy & France) Habits much like the tomato is a vegetable.NOT,is fruit,sit with our neighbors in Italy no problem.They learned at some point when you eat the ovaries of a plant it's fruit,tomatoes,grapes,cucumbers and melons.It all stuck,instead of a some filing system in the store being the correct answer.So a bit of your question is a modern,?urban difference as the result of so much distance from the ?source to you.When I order from the farmer or killer US,France or Italy I am asked anatomy and species.They don't assume,if I wasn't clear.I went to the pig killer so there would be no confusion about how I wanted the bellies and caul handled.I have cold cured the fat,now its being pressed for "lardo",no rendering for Italian lard.Oh is it wonderful with Vin Santo and fruit.The gift plan for my chef friends this year.

                  2. re: lcool

                    Thank you all for this very interesting discussion. Ecofriendly farms at the Courthouse market on Saturday a.m. sometimes has lard, depending on the butchering schedule. As to it's source within the pig, you would have to ask. I have used it for pie crust with excellent results.

                    Yes, the stuff off the shelf from groceries is pretty awful. The texture is not at all silky as it should be, and it smells rancid.

                    Every day, my grandfather ate 6 eggs, butter, lard in cooked items, and cream so thick that it wouldn't pour and had to be spooned. He died of a stroke--at over 90.

              2. re: wayne keyser

                Manteca and many other lards are NOT good for pastry, if that's what you're after. If you are seeking lard for pies and other pastry, leaf lard -- the fat from around the pig's kidneys -- is what you need. And Wagshall's in NW DC has lovely leaf lard. Until recently, I was a lard skeptic, and turned my nose up immediately, like many other folks. But I'm a convert now; i make butter-and-leaf-lard pie crusts, and they are heavenly. Catherine Gewertz, CurvyMama Pies,

              3. My girlfriend, who is an amazing cook, gets leaf lard from Truck Patch Farms. I know they are at several area farmer's markets. There's a list on their web site here:

                5 Replies
                1. re: JonParker

                  where else to get leaf lard?? i have been asking around the dupont farmers market with no luck :( but im not hot to go on a wild goose chase, im really looking for a sure thing for my pie baking. there's always duck fat.

                  1. re: homesmax

                    Truck Patch almost always has it, but you could call them a day ahead of time to make sure.

                    1. re: JonParker

                      Jon, can you describe approximately where at the JFX farmer's market Truck Patch is located?

                    2. re: homesmax

                      Wagshall's! Wagshall's! absolutely amazing. I use it in my pies now, combined with butter. Catherine, CurvyMama Pies,

                  2. But the real question for the OP is: are you sure you want to do Tamales?

                    they can be a bitch and a half. we did them one year in PHX for Thanksgiving and started the night before. they turned out great, but as we didn't really know what we were doing, had a few missteps. I'd suggest a small trial run ahead of time to really get the hang of it - they're not terribly complicated, but can be more time consuming than you might anticipate, still definitely worth the effort IMHO. (and I gained great respect for the women selling homemade ones on the streets in some cities)

                    1. I have used the lard off of the bottom shelf from the local mexican grocery store, and from the regular grocery store. If you aren't going to use the fresh lard described earlier, I'd suggest you buy from the mexican grocery vs the regular grocery. The lard is much fresher, in my opinion, probably because it gets turned over more frequently in the mexican store.

                      We make tamales a couple of times each year. My tips are: make your fillings a day ahead. They can be kind of involved and time consuming, so get them out of the way ahead of time. I usually save the broth from the braised pork for the masa. I always make the dough up, and start soaking the husks, a couple of hours before my helpers arrive. Then all I do is set up my assembly line of dough, filling and cold beer. Four of us can make a hundred or more in about 3 hours. I usually make some sweet tamales too, just maybe 20 out of my 100+ - they freeze really well and make a nice snack.

                      Good luck - making tamales is really fun!