A few weeks ago I gave a lecture at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts Pastry program about chocolate. The lecture is 3 hours long and held in the evening so I decided to make the students a big batch of chipotle chocolate pulled pork. When I picked up my ingredients from the school's purchasing department my pork shoulder had the skin still on. I love it when ingredients end up having bonus ingredients built in.
After getting my pork together, simmering in a pot of chili chocolate loveliness I turned to the skin. Following the directions set forth by my fellow SeriousEats contributor Chichi I put the skin in salt and let it sit for a week.
After the skin was removed from the salt I gently cooked it in pork fat until it was tender, about 2 hours. According to Chichi at this point my skin can stay submerged in the fat forever. And this is how it sits in my fridge surrounded by lovely white fat. When I'm ready I will turn my oven up high and roast the skin until it is deep brown and crisp. Then salt it and eat it.
A very big thank you to the CSCA purchasing department for getting fantastic ingredients with a lovely bonus attached.
After an hour or so in the fridge I took my pastry and rolled it out. It was perfect, not a tear to be seen. There were none of the usual issues that I've confronted in pastries with a butter based crust. The lard pastry was supple, and tender and a total joy to work with. This has changed my whole outlook on pie pastry.
To demonstrate that lard crusts are versatile I've made two different filled pastry's - savory and sweet. The sweet being a apple, raisin and cinnamon turnover and the second being an tuna, green olive and raisin empanada.
I divided the pastry into 2 pieces and rolled them out seperately. The dough was easy to recombine once cut, making it easy to use all the dough.
I got a total of twenty pieces out of this batch of pastry -18 really nicely cut pieces and two that I rolled together at then end.
Both of my fillings were totally cooked at the beginning. So I didn't have to worry about the interior reaching a certain temperature. Next I filled my rounds with filling and sealed with an eggwash.
Once done the whole batch went into the oven at 400 degrees. The apple turnovers have cinnamon sugar on top, and the empanadas have sea salt and cracked black pepper.
I think it's my oven, but these babies took around 30 minutes to reach my desired brown colour.
Once they were finally done the pastry was both tender and flaky and worked deliciously with both the apple and the tuna filling.
My favorite was the tuna but Ross favored the apple. Neither tasted like pork.
Lard is absolutely the way to go with pie crusts (savory and sweet) and I can safely say I'm never going back the the high maintenance butter version.
After my recent adventure rendering my own lard I decided that before I used my lovingly homemade lard I would try out a few recipes using an industrial stand-in.
When I asked Ross whether he wanted apple turnovers of steak and kidney pie, after much meditation he went with the turnovers. Which is great because pork and apples are a great combo. For my pastry recipe I used one from the Boston Globe that I found online.
Pie crusts are a complex thing, they have few ingredients but can be very difficult to make. Most pie crusts use butter, making them very temperamental and at least in my case often tough from over working. Lard is supposedly much more forgiving.
After combing the salt and flour I cut the lard into the mixture using a pastry cutter (which is more often used by Ross to make mashed potatoes). You want the lard to evenly coat the flour.
Next simply add the mixture of vinegar and ice water and combine using either a spatula or your hands. Then pour onto a board and knead to bring the dough together.
At this point make your dough into a ball and put it in the fridge for at least an hour to rest.
Just because this dough is made out of lard (aka pork fat) doesn't mean that it's a strictly a savory crust. In fact with my dough I'm going to make two different things, sweet and savory.
I'm thinking my lovely lard dough is going to end up as some tuna and raisin empanadas, and few apple turnovers.
The fat has been curing for a month. It's slightly hard, and smells like, well, fat.
Cured back fat.
I don't have any walnuts, nor do I have and nice fresh bread so I have not tasted it yet. I've put it in a ziploc bag, with it's non-wet salt and dried spices and placed it back in the fridge.
I'm more than willing to entertain advice about how exactly I should consume this lovely fat. I've heard that sometimes lardo replaces pancetta or guanciale in carbonara, so that's on my list. And of course grilled on bread, and wrapped around walnuts. But this is a rather large piece of fat, so any creative suggestions forways of using it are very much welcome.
Just a quick post to introduce the back fat that's been curing in my fridge for the past few weeks. Once again full credit due to Fergus Henderson, only this recipe is inspired by a recipe from his second book, Beyond Nose to Tail Eating.
Basically the recipe has you cover a nice piece of fresh pork fat with salt and put it in the fridge. I also decided to add few dried spices (whole allspice, juniper and peppercorns).
Uncovered fat with salt and spices.
I've decided to let it sit for a month before uncovering it. Fergus Henderson recommends serving it thinly sliced and wrapped around walnuts. I'm excited to try it broiled on some nice crusty bread.
Covered fat with salt and spices.
Should be done in a few weeks when the weather is starting to transition from pleasantly crisp to dreary and cold. A nice slab of fat is just the thing to keep away the winter hum-dums.
Recently I picked up a pound and a half of beautiful white pork fat. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it but it looked to good to pass up. After looking around on the internet I decided to render the fat and use if to make confit, or maybe a pastry, sometime in the future. From what I can tell as long as I keep my rendered pork fat (aka lard) in the fridge it would last three months, and if I froze it it would keep for a year.
I took my fat, which had some little bits of meat attached and chopped it into small pieces.
My chopped fat as well as a few spoonfuls of water were added to my dutch oven and placed over low heat. I expected this whole process to take an hour and a half, maybe two. This turned out to be a total underestimate.
Just added to the pot.
Because I had never done this before I was nervous about leaving a pot of fat unattended on my stove. I was held hostage by pig fat for more then six hours. Once it seemed like all the fat was rendered I drained the contents of my dutch oven through a strainer lined with cheese cloth.
I ended up with two distinct products. A lovely yellow lard, as well as little bits of crisp, fatty, piggy deliciousness also known as crackling. Why I hadn't thought there would be such a lovely by product is astounding. But I ended up having almost as much crackling as lard. The cracklings got laid out on a sheet and sprinkled with salt, yum.
Salting the cracklings.
After six hours of watching fat melt I'm happy so say I have half a jar of beautiful fat, and a tray of deliciously sinful cracklings. If I attempt this again I will be sure to use a lot more pig fat to make my hours of fat watching seem more worth it.
For the six hours it took to get this half a jar, I really hope that my lovingly rendered lard makes the best damn pie I've ever had.