Love and the Lard Bucket

Love and the Lard Bucket

There used to be an old home remedy where you would massage an infants head with sweet oil (olive oil) in order to encourage the hair to grow. It doesn’t work. There is nothing in olive oil to stimulate hair growth. In fact, all you are liable to accomplish is upsetting your infant – and greasing up their head like a huge Idaho potato.

Be that as it may….

My aunt came into the world kicking and screaming (like all infants)…. and bald. The kicking and screaming eventually abated – but the baldness remained. And by the age of 2, the hair still had not arrived. Clara and the other family members knitted and crocheted little sock hats for her little shiny head, but the follicles just weren’t cooperating.

This distressed my mother greatly – the thought of her sister growing up – going through life bald as an egg – with a wardrobe full of knitted and crocheted caps to cover her shiny, pink dome. And when she was about six, she overheard a couple of women in Marietta talking about the head oiling phenomena and they swore by it.

“Why, it grew hair – almost overnight!”

Could this be? Could it really be so simple?

My grandmother came into the kitchen to find both her girls sitting on the floor, a 5-gallon bucket of lard between them, my mother’s hands caked with grease and my aunt’s head slathered with lard… her hot little head melting the greasy miracle cure into glistening rivers and intermittent stray globules of fat flowing into her ears and eyes.

I can’t say if it was a failure or success…. but my aunt’s hair started to grow later that year.

The South has always has a love affair with lard. (hence, the 5-gallon bucket in the kitchen). Nothing fries better, makes greens and beans taste better, or bakes better than pristine, white pig fat. Ask any baker and they will tell you, nothing makes a flaky, crisp pie crust like lard.

Go ahead…. I’ll wait a minute for the gasps and shrieks of horror to stop…….

Why then, if for all the goodness that lard adds to cooking, have we stopped using such a versatile, low cost, natural ingredient? For that – you can thank Uncle Sam.

For you see – it isn’t that lard is all that unhealthy for you. The war effort needed fat to grease the machine.. ummm…  make bombs. And, while the vegetable growers had produced a hard shortening that they felt would work in that case – it just didn’t have the same oomph as animal fat. So the answer was to pry they coveted lard buckets out of the hands of the citizens and substitute it with the inferior vegetable shortening.
They did that with an orchestrated smear campaign.

“Animal fat produces slow, inferior children”
“Eating lard leads to increased heart disease and stroke.”
“Lard clogs the arteries and you will die.”

Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Italy – a country that still boasts a very low heart disease – cooked exclusively with lard and butter. You heard me right… LARD.. not olive oil. Olive oil was produced strictly as an export item. Until tourism picked up in Italy, lard was the lubricant of choice. Olive oil only became part of the cooking world because the tourists expected it. And what about those south sea islands where animal fat is the only grease available…   zero heart disease.

Truth be told, there is no correlation between animal fat, cholesterol, and heart disease.

Fat Saturated Mono- Poly- Trans-fat
(1 Tbsp) unsaturated unsaturated
Safflower Oil 0.8 10.2 2 0
Canola Oil 0.9 8.2 4.1 0
Flaxseed Oil 1.3 2.5 10.2 0
Sunflower Oil 1.4 2.7 8.9 0
Margarine (stick) 1.6 4.2 2.4 3
Corn Oil 1.7 3.3 8 0
Olive Oil 1.8 10 1.2 0
Sesame Oil 1.9 5.4 5.6 0
Soybean Oil 2 3.2 7.8 0
Margarine (tub) 2 5.2 3.8 0.5
Peanut Oil 2.3 6.2 4.3 0
Cottonseed Oil 3.5 2.4 7 0
Vegetable Shortening 3.2 5.7 3.3 1.7
Chicken Fat 3.8 5.7 2.6 0
Lard (pork fat) 5 5.8 1.4 0
Beef Tallow 6.4 5.4 0.5 0
Palm Oil 6.7 5 1.2 0
Butter 7.2 3.3 0.5 0
Cocoa Butter 8.1 4.5 0.4 0
Palm Kernel Oil 11.1 1.6 0.2 0
Coconut Oil 11.8 0.8 0.2 0

Oddly, the only studies that have been funded were sponsored and championed by… you guessed it.. the Vegetable / Plant Oil producers.

Just one last thing – I thought with all the bad things out there about animal fats, I’d give you all a little of the good in fat…

 1)   Fat Soluble Vitamins
This includes true vitamin A or retinol, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E as well as all their naturally occurring cofactors needed to provide maximum benefit.  Butter is America’s best source of these important nutrients.  In fact, vitamin A is more easily absorbed and utilized from butter and lard than from other sources.
2)   Anti-stiffness
Called The Wulzen Factor, this compound is present in raw animal fat.  A researcher discovered that this substance protects humans and animals from calcification of the joints – degenerative arthritis.  It also protects against hardening of the arteries, cataracts and calcification of the pineal gland.
3)   Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Butter from pasture fed cows also contains a form of rearranged CLA, which has strong anticancer properties.  It also encourages the buildup of muscle and prevents weight gain.  CLA disappears when cows are fed even small amounts of grain and processed food.
4)    Glycosphinogolipids
This type of fat protects against gastrointestinal infections, especially in the very young and the elderly.  For this reason, children who drink skimmed milk have diarrhea at rates three to five times greater than children who drink whole milk.
5)   Short- and Medium-Chained Fatty Acids
Butter contains about 12-15% short- and medium chain fatty acids.  This type of saturated fat does not need to be emulsified by bile salts but is absorbed directly from the small intestine to the liver, where it is converted to quick energy.  These fatty acids also have antimicrobial, antitumor and immune system supporting properties, especially 12 carbon lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid not found in other animal fats.  Highly protective lauric acid should be called a conditionally essential fatty acid because it is made only by the mammary gland and not in the liver like other saturated fats.  We must obtain it from one of two dietary sources – small amount of butterfat or large amounts of coconut oil.  Four carbon butyric acid is practically unique to butter.  It has antifungal properties as well as antitumor effects.
6)   Omega-6 and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
These occur in butter in small but nearly equal amounts.  This excellent balance between linoleic and linolenic acid prevents the kind of problems associated with overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Depending on how your lard pigs were fed, they also contain hight levels of omega 3 and 6.
7)   Lecithin
Lecithin is a natural component of butter and lard that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolization of cholesterol and other fat constitutes.
8)   Cholesterol
Cholesterol is also needed to produce a variety of steroids that protect against cancer, heart disease and mental illness.
9) Trace Minerals
Many trace minerals are incorporated into the fat globule membrane of butterfat, including manganese, zinc, chromium and iodine.  In mountainous areas far from the sea, iodine in butter protects against goiter.  Butter is extremely rich in selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties, containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ.
*Sourced from Skinny on Fats, By Sally Fallon

Pie Crust

1 Cup Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Lard
2 Tablespoons Water

2 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
2/3 Cup Lard
1/4 Cup Water

  • Mix flour and salt in a bowl.
  • Cut in lard with pastry blender until it makes small pea sized balls
  • Sprinkle with water a little at a time.
  • Mix with fork until flour is moist.
  • Press into a ball and turn out onto a floured board.
  • If making a two crust pie divide in half.
    Roll out with rolling pin. (Try not to use too much extra flour because it makes the crust tough)
  • Roll out to desired size. (Usually about 1 inch bigger around than the tin)
  • Fold pastry in half and move up to pan.
  • Unfold and put pastry into pan. (Try not to stretch the pastry because this causes shrinking in baking.) 
  • Sprinkle the top crust with a little sugar to evenly brown.

Egg Noodles
Serves 6
12 Egg Yolks
4 Cups Plain Flour
2 Tablespoons Lard
3/4 Cup Cream
1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Large mixing Bowl
1 Pastry Cutter
1 Rolling Pin
1 Large Saucepan
1 Sharp Knife or Pizza Cutter
1 Ruler

  • In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with 3 2/3 cups of the flour.
  • Add the lard, cream, salt, and baking powder.
  • Mix well and turn out onto a floured surface (use the rest of the flour)
  • Roll roll out the dough as thin as you need. (1/8″ works well)
  • With a ruler, mark off 3/4″ and roll the pizza cutter down the edge of the ruler – continue until you have marked and cut all the dough.
  • Allow your cut noodles to dry in place for a few hours
  • Boil over medium high heat in salted water until just done. (About 4 to 7 minutes – depending on the thickness of your noodle)

Makes 24
27 Dried Corn Husks, soaked 1 hour in hot water (OR use foil)
2/3 Cup Lard
1 Can Shoepeg Corn (with Liquid)
2 Cups Masa Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
8 oz. Chihuahua Cheese – Cut into 1″ cubes (about 2 cups)
1 Can Chopped Green Chilies
1 Cup Chicken Stock
2 Boneless Chicken Breast
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Large Mixing Bowl
1 Large Sauce Pan
1 Stand Mixer
1 Steamer

  • On medium heat, place the chilies, cumin, pepper and stock and bring to a boil
  • Dice the chicken into 1″ cubes
  • Reduce the heat, add the chicken and simmer 30 minutes
    In medium mixing bowl, beat lard until fluffy.
  • Beat in corn, masa mix, baking powder and salt to make a soft, moist dough.
  • Beat until dough is soft and fluffy, set aside.
    Drain husks and pat dry.
  • Tear 3 husks lengthwise in 1/4-inch strips.
  • Place 1 husk on work surface.
  • Place 1 tablespoon rounded spoon of dough in center and spread slightly.
  • Add 1 cheese cube and 1 tablespoon of chicken mixture, and then 1 teaspoon dough.
  • Fold one of the long sides of the corn husk over the filling.
  • Fold other side over.
  • Fold pointed end toward center.
  • Fold straight end over pointed end.
  • Tie with husk strip.
  • Repeat until all 24 are done.
  • In steamer, steam tamales until firm (about 30 to 40 minutes)

Serve with Salsa Verde, Avocado slices and Sour Cream

2 thoughts on “Love and the Lard Bucket

  1. Toby,Check out The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis. Many uses of lard, plus instructions on how to render it yourself.Do you have a recommendation/source for butter from grass-fed cows?Love this post! XXX CC

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