Lard was once a very common ingredient in the any American, and many European, kitchen. Traditionally raised hogs produced an abundant amount of fat and the fat was used not only for culinary products, but also many manufactured products from cosmetics to explosives. Around the turn of the 20th century, many industrial products turned to petroleum and newly developed vegetable oils for cheaper feedstocks. Even the venerable lard was replaced by vegetable oil when Proctor & Gamble developed a method of hydrogenating cottonseed oil to produce an alternative it later branded Crisco. The details of Crisco replacing lard can be heard in an excellent edition of NPR’s Planet Money named “Who Killed Lard?“, but the short version is that P&G started a slander campaign against lard as an adulterated product and sold Crisco as a pure and wholesome product. Never mind the large amounts of trans fats contained in Crisco that would later be linked to increased incidence of coronary heart disease. Thankfully, lard is making a comeback and it is easy to make at home, that is if your friendly neighborhood butcher doesn’t make it for you.
Smothered anything, and I mean anything, over rice is very traditional in South Louisiana. This recipe calls for pork roast, but can be easily adapted to use beef, either chuck or round roast, or any inexpensive cut that braises well, like beef 7-bone steak or pork round steak. We have adapted this recipe from Donald Link’s excellent cookbook Real Cajun to better reflect ingredients available during the eat local challenge and bring the yield down to 2-3 servings. Enjoy and let us know how your’s turns out!
- 2-3 pound boneless pork roast
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 1 large onions, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
- 1-2 Tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken or pork broth
- Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Season the pork very generously with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the fat and flesh of the meat. Set the roast aside for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to bring to room temperature.
- Combine the onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary in a medium mixing bowl and toss to combine. Heat the lard or vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the meat on all sides until deeply browned and crusty, 10 to 12 minutes total.
- Transfer the meat to a plate, reduce the heat to medium, and then stir in the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour to make a roux and continue to cook, stirring, until the roux turns a dark peanut butter color, about 10-20 minutes.
- Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are well coated and the mixture is thick. Whisk in the broth and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Return the pork to the Dutch oven, spoon some of the onion mixture over the meat, cover, and roast for about 3 hours, turning and basting the pork every 30 minutes or so, until the meat will break apart when pressed gently with a fork.
- At this point, you can serve the roast right out of the pan, or transfer it to a plate, then simmer the pan drippings, skimming off excess fat, until reduced by about one-third, or until it coats the back of a spoon.
- Before serving, sprinkle the roast with some additional salt, to taste. Serve the roast smothered with a generous amount of sauce over hot steamed rice.
Note from Mr. Cleaver: Pork shoulder roast is ideal for this recipe, but pork round roast or fresh picnic ham (not cured or brined ham) also works very well. We also like throwing a couple bay leaves in with our rice as it steams to make it more aromatic.
Last night at the Eat Local Challenge Kickoff Party Simone and I were talking to some of the ELC participants and a fellow named Eric, I believe, asked about locally sourced bacon. When the shop is open we intend to have house cured bacon from locally sourced hogs, but in the meantime he can cure his own. The recipe below is quoted from a blog post by Michael Ruhlman, which is well worth a read.
Home-Cured Bacon (adapted from Charcuterie)
- Order five pounds of fresh pork belly from your grocery store, the pork guy at your farmers market, or from a local butcher shop.
- Buy a box of 2-gallon zip-top bags if you don’t have a container big enough to hold the belly.
- Mix the following together in a small bowl:
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
- 2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1
- 4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
- 5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
- 2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
- 5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
- Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).
- After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
- Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).
- Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!
Notes: If you don’t have five pounds of belly, either guesstimate salt based on the above or, if you have a scale, multiply the weight of the belly in ounces or grams by .025 and that’s how many ounces or grams of salt you should use.
If for any reason you find your bacon to be too salty to eat (it happens, especially if you measure your salt by sight, which I sometimes do), simply blanch the bacon and dump the water before sautéing it.
Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony.
If you have a smoker or a grill, you can smoke the bacon (strictly speaking, it needs to have the pink salt in the cure if you’re going to smoke because, in rare instances, botulism bacteria from spores on the garlic could grow; pink salt eliminates this possibility; but I never worry about this, you’re going to cook it again in any case).
You can also, instead of roasting it or smoking, hang it to dry, in the manner of pancetta.