Do you wanna know what makes a homemade pie crispy? If yes, then keep reading. The answer is the lard. Lard, the secret to crispness.
One of things that can make my palates to ignite, I mean in a good way, is Greek homemade pies. I really love a good pie filled with leek, feta cheese and smoked paprika or a sweet pumpkin pie. So my love for good pies led me once again to the kitchen, since I live far from the experts (ie my mom and my grandmother).
The easy dough recipe is a recipe that always leads me to a delicious pie, whatever the filling. I have done it many times, it is failproof. You can find my recipe for easy pie dough here.
But every time I eat a pie baked by my mom, it is beyond delicious. But why this keep happening? I will tell you why. Because my mom chooses to add lard. The lard makes the phyllo of the pie super crispy, your palates will definitely ignite with every single bite.
What is lard
But what is lard? Lard is the pure fat coming from pork that has been cooked for many hours on low temp and transformed into liquid. Nowadays it is an ingredient that people do not prefer, some may even feel disgusted, while in the past it was a sign of wealth.
When my mom was a kid, every family, especially in the countryside, used to be self-sufficient. They used to have hens, cows, farmland, veggie gardens and of course hogs.
Back then it was inconceivable to slaughter an animal and not to fully exploit it. They used to make soups with their legs, homemade broths with the bones, and of course lard from the pork fat.
In fact, if a family had a lot of lard it was a sign of wealth, the larder the richer. You see, if a family had food enough for making a hog fat, they sure had food and money for themselves too.
Use and storage
As I mentioned above, lard is the secret ingredient for a flaky pie or a crispy fried chicken. Lard is an ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes, mainly because of the its high smoking point.
Every fat has its own smoking point, that is, the temperature at which it doesn’t get burned. The lard has a high smoking point, around 190 °C, it is more resistant than the butter (175 °C).
You can use lard when making fried potatoes or a veal steak, you will get amazed by the color of your fired potatoes. Add it to the dough of a pie for a flaky pie. You can also use lard for making dumplings, I even used it for making the dough for my bao buns.
But beware, don’t use too much since lard has the aroma of the pork. You can always use it in combination with other types of fat, such as butter or olive oil.
Its storage won’t cause you a problem. You can keep it in clean jars in your fridge for up to 6 months. Although I am sure that if you make some, you will consume it very quickly.
What you should know before make lard
There are two things to keep in mind when making lard. The first thing has to do with the origin of the hog and the second is the temperature.
- Origin of the hog: A body tends to gather every possible harmful substance (ie, additives, by-products of junk ingredients, etc) in the areas where fat exists. So you have to get your pork fat from local farms, avoid commercial hogs.
- Temperature: Attention should be paid in the temperature. I recommend to cut the fat into small pieces when it is still cold, it would be easier. While, when melting the fat you should use a very low temperature. For example, my stovetop has a maximum of 14, I set it to 2. Avoid boiling the fat or allowing it to burn or stick to the edges. All of those things will impart a piggy flavor and a yellow lard.
How to make lard
- Leaf lard or fatback, diced as finely as you can
- Cut the fat into small pieces when it is still cold. If the fat gets to a room temperature it will be less easy for you to cut it, as it will be softer.
- Place the fat pieces in a large pot and set on low. Remember that the key for a clean and less smelly lard is to keep the temperature very low.
- Allow the fat to melt for several hours, stirring frequently.
- Strain the liquid fat through a cheesecloth and store in glass jars.
- After completely cooling storage your lard in the fridge.
So, this is my secret ingredient to many recipes, from flaky pies to crispy fried chicken. If you try to make it, you won’t regret it. It will your favorite ingredient.
Just remember to buy fat from a pasture-raised pigs, avoid commercial hogs. Keep the temperature low, melt it, strain it, enjoy it!
P.S.: Wanna spoil your palates? Use the pieces of the hog left in the pot for making a sandwich. Add some pickled cabbage, mustard and some pepper flakes.