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How to differentiate between unrendered leaf and regular lard?

I was in a new-to-me butcher shop yesterday and asked on a whim if they carried leaf lard. The gentleman helping me replied that they did, so I bought a couple of pounds. He cut it off of a larger piece, which made me wonder if it was actually leaf lard or just a chunk of fat from another part of the animal. I've never butchered a pig or seen it done, so I've no idea what leaf lard should look like, and this being a new-to-me store, I don't know if they're trustworthy or if the counter guys really know what they're doing.

Anyway, what I got is fairly white, with only a few small bits of meat/sinew in it. It crumbled a bit when I cut it up and seems to be rendering quite easily. For those of you who have experience with rendering lard, what do you think? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Hi! I have wondered this, as well, so I'll chime in so that I can follow the conversation.

    1. Leaf lard is next to kidney, and it is fairly white with minimal blood vessels or meat in it. It almost always comes in one big chunk. Based on your description, I think you have obtained the leaf lard.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Great, thank you! I just finished rendering it and the rendered product is nice and white, and not porky-tasting at all. I got about a pound of rendered lard from 1.5 lbs of raw.

      2. What is your concern, beyond making sure you get what you pay for? Have you had bad experiences with 'other' fat. Only saying as I have rendered both and don't find leaf lard to be a better product plus it usually comes at a premium price.

        6 Replies
        1. re: andrewtree

          That is a valid point. My first rendering lard was not from leaf lard, but some left-over fat. For cooking, it is not a problem at all because the meaty/porky taste can be a good thing. For baking, I have see some delicate baked good may or may not work. I went to Philadelphia Fette Su, a barbecue place. There, I had their bacon brownies. You can bet that using leaf lard won't help at all. In fact, they said that they used bacon fat -- as meaty as it can get.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            A bacon brownie sounds lethal! But back to the question,

            I've read and heard the 'porkiness' argument, not sure I could discern if the rendering had been done at a suitably low temperature. I use oven 250 and more recently a slow cooker. And if I didn't want 'porky' I would probably use butter!

            1. re: andrewtree

              <And if I didn't want 'porky' I would probably use butter!>

              Yes, but then you get milkiness. :) Just kidding.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                butter can make pretty good crust but i have never had it flakey like from shortening or i imagine leaf lard.
                crisco has not totally eliminated transfat (rules are .5 gram per serving is 0) and i believe still partially hydrogenates oil.

          2. re: andrewtree

            My concern was simply getting what I paid for (not that it was expensive - less than $3 a pound) and also that the rendered product be relatively neutral in flavor. I love pork flavor, but if I'm going to make a lard crust to go with a fruit pie I would prefer a more neutral flavor. In general, I do use butter for pastry, but lard lends a wonderful texture to pastries and I want to be able to use it as well, without too much pork flavor.

            1. re: biondanonima

              I've had batches of pretty porky lard from the butcher, but they all seemed to mellow out after baking in pastry. My main concern, like you, would be to get what I am paying for. Unrendered leaf lard is easy to distinguish from raw fat back or caul fat, but once it's been processed, it's hard to tell $18/lb leaf lard from $5/lb Armour.

          3. We raise our own pastured pigs and render both leaf lard and back fat into lard. Leaf lard should be called leaf fat, because, really, it's not lard until after it has been rendered.

            The main difference before rendering is that leaf lard (fat) comes from inside of the body cavity in chunks from around the kidneys, and the back fat comes from just under the skin along the whole back of the animal. It can be easily sliced off in smooth, large slabs. The leaf fat cools very quickly into white crumbly fat, while back fat cools slower and is smoother, rather than "crystally".

            In my opinion, both create lard that does not have a porky flavour as long as the pig was processed properly. But, the leaf fat creates a super white and hard lard (higher melting point), perfect for pie pastry. The back fat produces fat that I love using for cooking whether frying or sauteing.

            I think it sounds like you received unrendered leaf lard. Enjoy!