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Animal Fats | February 15, 2024

A Baker’s Dozen and Then Some: 20 or So Essays from Coast Packing’s 2023 Lard Lovers Contest

A Baker’s Dozen and Then Some: 20 or So Essays from Coast Packing’s 2023 Lard Lovers Contest

Elaine Barbee: [Bourbon Banana Muffins with a Toffee Crumble] “Using lard was a no-brainer in my mom’s family. They had a farm and they used what they had and what they harvested. Simple ingredients led to amazing food. Every summer I spent a couple weeks at my grandparents’ farm. There was always a can of lard in the kitchen. It was used to cook and bake with. Growing up with great cooks to roll model after has always influenced how I cook and the ingredients I use. There is always lard in my kitchen.”

Emily Falke: [Green Pozole with Pickled Red Onions & Roasted Pepitas] “This authentic Mexican earthy and aromatic rib-sticking fiesta stew is loaded with textures of succulent pork, hominy, pungent oregano, crunchy raw radish & cabbage and piercing pickled onions, lime and poblano peppers. Lard makes the meat more tender and enhances flavor of meat and vegetables. It is a perfect one-dish party that simmers almost unattended, nothing’s very complicated.

“Growing up in Southern California, authentic Mexican cuisine as well as readily available ingredients for cooking were at a premium. Our family made pozole for special gatherings where we learned lessons of community and celebration. The distinct aroma of lard at its smoke point permeated the air filling the house with rich memories that will forever be on my mind. Lard rendered from pork fat has a rich distinctive flavor brings out a wonderful rich flavor in the pork, roasted vegetables, and roasted pepita seeds in this dish. It also has a high smoke point and is preferred fat for roasting. Lard is delicious, digestible and the perfect flavor component in many Mexican dishes.”

Sheri Lee: [Air Fried Wontons]  “My grandpa was a baker by trade and had a passion for cooking that has been passed on to me. Some of my earliest memories were with him in the kitchen, baking all sorts of different pastries. He loved teaching me everything he knew about baking or cooking and was truly a master baker (he could tell if something was off based on touch or texture). The one thing that he always cooked with is lard. He said that the only way to achieve the best and flakiest crusts were to use lard and it’s been a staple in my kitchen ever since. Even though he’s no longer here, I still use his guidance and knowledge in my cooking today. I love experimenting with different recipes or trying new things and everything I make just reminds me of 

Sandra Dombek: [Charcuterie Board Between Bread] “It has always been our family tradition to have lots of big meals together. When I was growing up my grandparents would always have a box of lard sitting on the kitchen worktop. Lard is a cherished ingredient that was used and still is used for so many of our recipes. My grandmother would always create a stuffed bread recipe to use up the leftovers from our gatherings. The smell of my Charcuterie Board Between Bread conjures up treasured memories for our family.”

Jacqueline W. Riekena: [Rhu-Berry Holiday Stuffing] “ During the holidays, I love to bake with originality, not always knowing the outcome of each dish. This year, I decided to take a traditional stuffing and add a twist by using home grown rhubarb and fresh cranberries. By adding diced rhubarb to the mixture, this brings a taste of summer and distinct taste that is delightfully airy and compliments the fresh cranberries. Both fruits covered in sugar and seasonings marries the savory flavors together for a unique flavor that you will always remember. Served this Rhubarb Cranberry (Rhu -Berry) colorful stuffing for the first time on Thanksgiving Day. While there was only one turkey at the dinner table, the stuffing stole the show as it was very berry down to the last bite.”

Yoshiharu Sogi: [Pork Meatballs and Scrambled Eggs Sliders Party] “My parents were born and raised in Kagoshima in Japan, where it is well known as “Kurobuta Pork Grown”. Kagoshima Kurobuta Pork (Berkshire pork) is fed by sweet potatoes, meat is flavorful and fat melts in the palate immediately. Pork meat and fat was the prime ingredient for my family and my mother’s home cooking, especially fatty cut pork such as pork belly that was always a star because my mother said pork fat is important for kids growing. My mother’s specialty was Roasted Pork Belly for New Year’s celebration, I always looked forward to her New Year’s Day dish. I am currently over half a century but really healthy because I eat pork, fatty cuts or feet lots. Delicious fatty pork dish is like “MOTHER’S LOVE” for me.”

Jenny Dorsey: [Mama Liu’s Savory Suzhou-Style Mooncakes]  “This recipe reignited my mother’s love for cooking and reunited us as mother and daughter. She’s a first-generation scientist who immigrated to the U.S. and was unable to pursue her love for baking/cooking. After I became a professional chef, our relationship continued to be strained for years. It was not until we began to share recipes and cook together that we could reconnect and bond through difficult times. My mother’s family is from Shanghai, and this mooncake recipe is a savory version more often found in that area (originating from Suzhou, a nearby city in the same province, Jiangsu). Here, lard is the irreplaceable ingredient in making the pastry shell flaky and oh-so umami-rich! One of the best parts of this mooncake is that its savoriness is tempered with a little bit of sweetness in the filling (a hallmark of Shanghai cuisine) that makes them pretty irresistible for family gatherings.”

Lisa Keys: [Mascarpone Swirl Pumpkin Spice Tart] “Lard has been used in cooking for centuries. I use lard in frying, baking, and flavoring dishes due to its ability to add richness and mild flavor that enhances the other ingredients. Every season I challenge myself to try something new. This fall my grandkids and I headed out to a farm and purchased a long neck pumpkin. I roasted it and used the flesh to create this tart with them. Sharing a baking experience with them is sometimes messy, but always filled with laughter. Lard makes the best crust and at room temperature its creamy texture makes it easy for even the littlest grandkids to work the dough.”

Kristin Bowers: [Cardamom Sugar Yeast Donuts] “Baking with lard is our Christmas morning tradition. After all of us open our stockings, we start to prepare our special Christmas breakfast of fresh donuts. It’s the only time each year we opt for homemade donuts, so it’s a treasured, much-anticipated tradition. Everyone in the family (and there’s 5 of us!) joins the assembly line: my husband and I will prepare and fry the dough; our 3 kids will dip (and sometimes double-dip) them before putting them on our red and green serving tray. They are so delicious; we can never resist sneaking a bite or two in the assembly process! It’s one of my favorite memories and I know it’ll always be a tradition we look back on with nostalgia, love, and gratefulness.”

Renata Stanko: [Lard fried Kimchi Potato Cakes with Coleslaw and Sour Cream] “What are you making grandma? This was my first question when I was a child and entered my grandma’s kitchen. A large iron pot was on the stove filled with pieces of fresh pork fat. After some time, the pieces rendered into pork cracklings and were swimming in the liquid lard. Grandma let me eat some of the cracklings sprinkled with salt. The best part came later when she would fry grated potatoes in a hot frying pan with some lard in it. Those were the best hash browns, and I ate them many times as a child.”

Miriam Szkup: [Japanese Curry Chicken Pie cooked in Leaf Lard with Leaf Lard Pie Crust]  “Animal fat mean so much to me. My father grew up on a farm in Poland, where he raised all sorts of livestock. Because everything for his family was financially instable most of the time, all parts of every animal were used. So, when he moved to the United States, he still continued to save every part of the animal when I was growing up, which meant saving the animal fats to cook with. I grew up eating lard and bacon sandwiches, eating foods cooked in saved chicken fat, you name it. As an adult now, I appreciate what my father taught us through his culinary views of saving everything including the fats of all animals. Plus, food tastes way better when cooked with lard.”

Emily Wentz: [Maple Browned Cinnamon Rolls] “Animal fats are amazing in breads and pastries and bring back to our tables a more traditional, natural way of life. Straying away from processed, man-made cooking fats and back to how it used to be. Traditional, natural foods, in absolutely delicious ways!”

Donna Pochoday-Stelmach: [Pistachio Cake with Apricot Jam & Lemon, Honey Mascarpone Buttercream & Pomegranates]  “My Ukrainian ancestors love to eat “salo,” a Ukrainian version of lard, and use it in much of the cooking and culinary dishes. It gave richness, fat and flavor to their meals, especially at times when variety, availability of products is sparse. It is often added while cooking or serving other savory dishes. Sometimes the pork belly salo was eaten alone as an appetizer, as a thin slice rimmed with coarse pepper and salt, on a piece of dark hearty bread, and accompanied by a shot of strong alcohol. Lard is also a choice of fat used in baking Ukrainian “French” style puff cookies, Napoleon cakes and other layered dough sweets, for a crispy delicious result that everyone remembers their grandmothers, babtsias, and moms making for special occasions. Thus, my ethnic culinary traditions are very entwined with this ingredient.”

Chera Little: [Patatas Bravas & Chorizo-Shrimp Masa Pizza with Garlic Aioli] “We’re lard lovers! I love this time of the year! It’s tamale time! Lots of work for all those little bundles of goodness! So why not deviate and make something just as tasty but much easier, like a masa pizza! Easy, fast, and delicious! Using what we had on hand made it even easier, potatoes, pork chorizo, and shrimp! Whether it’s family pizza time, date night or the football game, masa pizzas made with lard will be the star of the show!”

Emily Falke: [Roasted Pistachio Apple Matcha Tea Cake] “I grew up with a family of tea drinkers and we often had teatime in the late afternoons where my mother made a variety of tea cakes. Matcha Tea is a great favorite of mine and its beautiful green color adds beauty and dimension to many dishes. My mother always cooked with lard not only in her pie crusts but as a savory element in a variety of dishes. This recipe uses lard as a healthier alternative fat and gives that savory element reminiscent of teatime experiences a long time ago.”

Crystal Schlueter: [Sparkling Cider Apple Crisp-Pies] “Animal fats have always been a part of our holiday celebrations. Both of my grandmothers were extraordinary bakers and they loved baking for friends and family. My maternal grandmother made the best apple crisp I have ever tasted, and I believe the lard she used in the crumble is why it tasted so rich and delicious. My paternal grandmother made spice cookies with a creamy filling. They contained lard, which gave them a decadent flavor and soft texture. The recipe I am sharing today is a fusion of both of those sweet holiday memories.”

Darlene Buerger: [Southwest Green Chili Chicken Pockets] “My grandmother lived on a dairy farm, and I will always remember her kitchen. It was small with a drawer that tilted out for flour and a crock sitting on the counter filled with lard. My mother told me how when she was growing up, she would take a piece of grandma’s bread, put lard on it and eat it for lunch. It was one of her favorite memories.”

Kadija Bridgewater: [Sweet and Spiced Cornish Hens] “Cooking and baking with lard is great! It is perfect for any savory or sweet dish. It kept moisture in my Cornish hens, so they were delicious and juicy, and helped them brown nicely in the oven. It is such a versatile ingredient, I love that I can use it for frying, baking, sauteing and so much more.”

Maribeth Hanson: [Maple Cranberry Ham Cookies with Cream Cheese Maple Frosting]“My memory with lard was when we were still young, growing up poor in the Philippines, we used to eat rice with solidified rendered pork fat with salt as a “viand”, that was our comfort food and survival food before. In terms of cooking with lard, I always use it when making “piyaya”, a sweet Filipino native delicacy made of flour, fat and muscovado sugar. Lard provides greater leavening and a flakier texture in piyaya.”

Michelle Landry: [Quick and Easy Mini Chicken Pot Pies] “I spent time in the kitchen with my aunt making Tourtiere Pies, a family tradition that went back 70+ years before she passed. My aunt would only use lard. She said it made a flakier, tastier, better crust, and she was right! I only make Tourtiere pies for special occasions because it’s quite the production and takes a lot of time. If I’m going to make those, I make at least six pies, so I can freeze a few for later and have a few left over to give away to my parents and siblings. What I love about making the mini Chicken Pot Pies is not only are they the perfect serving size, I am a crust person. I LOVE a good crust. There’s nothing your fork cutting through a crisp, flaky crust and the way it feels in your mouth when you bite into it…along with the pot pie filling. What’s also fantastic is they are relatively quick to make…and as leftovers they are even better the next day.”