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i'm curious about replacing shortening in recipes for baked goods with lard. i'm not into crisco and find plain old butter not to be the best substitute in many cases. i have a tub of mexican-style lard (manteca) that i purchased at a mexican market in queens, which i use for certain mexican dishes, beans, etc. however, it smells very smoky and bacony, and is kind of brownish, so i suspect it is just rendered bacon fat. i'm a bit hesitant to put this in my pie crusts, etc., as i don't want them to taste like bacon! so i'm wondering what true lard looks and smells like, and if it would be possible to render it myself? is there a difference between "manteca" and "lard"?

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  1. If you want to try baking with lard (I use it for pie crusts and they come out fabulously flaky and flavorful), you should use leaf lard - lard rendered from the area around the kidneys. It's got a little bit of a smell, but is basically white and definitely not smoky or bacony. I'd use manteca for Mexican cooking . . . beans come to mind immediately.

    You can render it yourself, but it's work (I know people on the board do it, so maybe someone will reply here). I always get mine from a specialty market that regularly renders it. Keeps for-eva in the freezer.

    1. Manteca is spanish for lard, but it should not be brown and smoky tasting. If you can find pork fat, even if it's just scraps rather than back or belly fat, you can make lard. There are several methods but the main thing is not to cook at too high a temperature, which may be what happened with the lard you bought. You might try another store first. Color is a good guide. Lard for baking won't be pure white like Crisco, but pretty close.

      1. Home made lard is easy. As mentioned, the trick is to render very slowly, on the lowest heat possible. Most supermarket meat counters will sell you trimmings, especially if you ask in advance (some of them sell it to rendering plants, others put it right out with the meats, at reduced prices). It does make, hands down, THE best pie crusts. Good for some frying, too. Certainly healthier than stuff like Crisco, but obviously, you don't want to overdo it either. But for some dishes, it's indispensable.

        1. First of all, your username is hilarious.

          Manteca/lard has no smoky flavor. It's halfway between the scent of fresh pork and nothing. Your stuff would be awesome for frying starch, but I'd stay away from using it in a sweet pastry context.

          The Armour stuff in the white/green/red box is very predictable and neutral. When I can't get to my excellent Mexican butcher shop, it's what I use.

          1. The Armour brand Manteca/Lard in the green & white box that I buy regularly at the local megamart does not have any bacon/smoky flavor at all. Save that box for savory dishes, not baking, and get another block; it's only a couple bucks. Best thing for pie crusts and fluffy arepas/gorditas.

            2 Replies
            1. re: KiltedCook

              Note that Armour's is hydrogenated and has a chemically aftertaste.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie beat me to it. Beware of animal fat that can be kept unrefrigerated for months or years. Lard is rendered pig fat, end of recipe. Those bricks are crisco made from lard instead of vegetable oil. Hydrogenated lard does make excellent pie crust, so if you use it in small amounts it may be no big deal. But it is less healthy than pure lard, and possibly even butter.

            2. Here's an excellent description with pictures of how to render lard

              If you can find the fat from just inside the ribs, it's whiter than the back fat.

              1. Don't discount smokey, porky bacon fat in a pie crust. I've made a couple of fruit pies (apple and cherry, as I recall) this way, and they were really good.

                One of my favorite ingredients in general is smoked plums, which I've only found in farmer's markets in Poland. I think many Poles consider them inferior to ordinary dried prunes, so I haven't been able to find them in my local NYC Polish markets, but smoke and fruit make a surprisingly good combination.

                1. In my area, the freshly rendered lard purchased from carnicerias ranges in color from creamy white to tannish to almost caramel color. The darker colored batches are the by-product of making carnitas. So, what you have might not be bacon fat, but browned lard rendered from simmering carnitas until they're crispy. The kind with browned bits in it is called asiento by the Oaxacans and used like a seasoning or a spread.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I've mail ordered very good quality leaf lard (already rendered - and it was pure white) from Dietrich's Country Store in Pennsylvania - 610-756-6344.

                    If you want to order, you have to call and then send a check for payment in the mail. The leaf lard is $2.50 per lb. (I just called to check on their current price), but the shipping has increased since I last ordered it.

                    Currently, for 4 lbs. of lard, the shipping to where I live in NY is $13.00. For 10 lbs. of lard, shipping is $14.00. So depending on where you live, it may be worth your while to order a lot, freeze the remainder (it keeps for at least a year in the freezer. I kept mine for closer to 1 1/2 yrs. and it was still good to use).

                    To also make it worth while with shipping costs, the young man I spoke to suggested combining the lard purchase with other items such as smoked meats, since from ordering 4 lbs. to 10 lbs. of product, the shipping barely increases.

                    Personally speaking, I used their lard to make pie crusts for Thanksgiving (75% butter, 25% lard combo). I found it easy to use and the pie crusts came out very flaky and tasty (this is coming from someone who isn't really into pie making either).

                    I also used it for fried chicken. My mom told me that when she was a kid, my grandmother used to fry chicken in lard...so I tried it out. It was hands down the best fried chicken I've ever made. And my husband was raving about it...I hadn't told him what I'd done, but when he bit into it, he asked me "what did you do to this chicken? It's fantastic." It was definitely a noticeable taste difference frying in lard vs. frying in oil.

                  2. I buy Leaf Lard from a farmer at the Greenmarket. Some butchers sell it, or they can get it for you. This is the top quality lard, that comes from around the kidneys. It has to be rendered (which is to say, melted slowly over low heat. It can then be poured into a container and kept almost indefinitely in the fridge. I keep mine in the coldest part.

                    I really do love it for biscuits and pie crust. I use it in combination with butter for tart shells, because alone, it produces too flaky a shell to stand alone, as tarts do. But the flavor is incomparable.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      ChefJune, which Greenmarket do you go to? Thanks!

                      1. re: chilindrina

                        Union Square Greenmarket. I get my lard from High Hope Hogs/Oak Grove Plantation -- they're the large green and white tent on the 17th street side not too far from the corner of Broadway and Union Square West.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Flying Pigs Farm also usually has it as well - I go on Saturdays.

                    2. I render lard at home all the time; it always comes out creamy white (after cooling down), and you get two side benefits: cracklins (to put on salad and such) and your entire house smells like roasted pork. It's super-easy, involving almost no attended time if you have a slow cooker, and it's often free.

                      Just got to the meat counter and ask for a couple of pounds of pork fat trimmings - Whole Foods gives them to me for free. Bring them home, chop them into 1" or so cubes, and put them in a slow cooker on low. That's it - let it sit for 24 hours or until all the fat is liquid. Strain out the cracklins and put the rendered lard in the fridge to cool. Works great in tamales, chiles, baked goods, etc.