Country Living Series

Friday, November 21, 2014

An experiment with pie crusts

It was my turn to bring dessert to our neighborhood potluck last Sunday. Since the hosts were expecting a full house (I think we had 16 people) I decided to make three types of pies: peach, apple, and blueberry.


But this time I decided to try something different: I used lard for the piecrusts. Even though I've been making pies for something like thirty years, I never used lard because I grew up hearing how awful and terrible lard is (health-wise). Accordingly I always used margarine in my crusts, supposedly because hydrogenated vegetable fats are "healthier" than animal fats.


But the older I get, the more I'm realizing there's a lot to be said for "natural" fats (and let's face it, lard is natural). Besides, I've always heard how pie crusts made with lard are incomparable for flakiness. So I gave it a try. (Doubtless all you expert pie-makers out there are chuckling at my naïveté.)

I pulled all the home-canned goodies from the pantry (I actually ended up using four pints of blueberries, not two).


Apple.


Blueberry.


Peach (in the works).


Rolling out the tops. Incidentally, it's worth noting the smell. I'm not used to the smell of lard and it was a little off-putting while making the crusts. I told Don I hope the smell wouldn't come through after they were baked.


I always like to brush my tops with a bit of milk.


Baked and out of the oven.


And how did they taste? Ooh la la, wonderful! The crust was beautifully flaky, just as promised. I'm a convert. I bought a larger tub of lard to use for upcoming Thanksgiving pies and now I wonder if I'll use anything else. All you expert pie-makers are right!

28 comments:

  1. When we had our pigs butchered the butcher renders the fat down, then we have our own lard.
    Pretty cool.
    Raise a couple of pigs and you will have lard for a long time.
    andy

    ReplyDelete
  2. They look yummy! My mother-in-law swore by bear fat for the best pie crusts! Every year she'd hunt her bear, then bring it home and render the lard herself. I don't think its the fat that gives pie its flavor, I think it's all the love that goes into making it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Patrice, those pies look wonderful.

    As someone who doesn't eat pork it would be very important to me to know beforehand that they contain pork fat, or I'd be in a world of hurt. My system wouldn't handle it well.

    I make my crusts with butter and coconut shortening. They come out very light and flaky.

    I also add a bit of baking powder, which adds a nice texture.

    If this weren't a bread-making day I'd have to go build a pie! You've got me goin'!

    A. McSp

    ReplyDelete
  4. You gonna share your pie crust recipe, lol?
    I rarely, bake pies, but would love to give it a go!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I heard once that the trick to a great pie like the Amish make is to use lard and pie/pastry flour, not all purpose flour. I have not used anything else since and my pie crusts are always flaky and great tasting. My mom always used lard because we raised hogs and had plenty of lard. Glad you were happy with the results of the lard. Rebekah

    ReplyDelete
  6. Be careful about your lard - some lards are hydrogenated, and you may as well be injecting trans-fats straight into your arteries with that. Check the ingredients.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true! I went to buy some lard at the store and read the ingredients; lo and behold it had hydrogenated whatever in it. No way was I buying that. Haven't found any pure lard yet.

      Delete
  7. Margarine is 1 point off from being labeled a plastic.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have made pies crusts with lard & bear fat. Lard is great as well as the bear fat. I can taste a slight bitter aftertaste with the bear fat crust, but I'm the only one that doesn't like it. The bear fat does make a supremely flaky crust though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Both my grandmothers made their pastries with lard and they were the best! I have been toying with the idea of purchasing some lard and giving a try. Just may do that.

    PS Your pies look great.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Like most things, moderation is the key. Unless you're going to eat pie every day I don't think the lard is going to hurt. And it does make wonderful flaky pie crust.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just wait till you make one with home rendered lard..... :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh yummy! Nothing like lard for a pie crust. One note of caution: read the label on store bought lard. Some companies put chemicals in the lard as "preservatives" Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
  13. We don't butcher enough pigs to keep sufficient lard on hand for our wants, and unfortunately the stuff we see in the grocery store around here is all hydrogenated. Kinda defeats the purpose.

    I did just get half a gallon of suet from the one kidney I rescued from the guts pile when we butchered a cow the other day. I wasn't tempted back then to dive under the pile to find the other kidney, but I'm regretting that decision now. Suet's not as good for pie crusts, I think, but I'm hoping to try preserving meats in the basement under a layer of the stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Patrice: the gauntlet has been dropped.

    Recipe?????

    ReplyDelete
  15. I can't chuckle because I don't know how to scratch bake pies. Your's look fantastic!
    I've read that lard makes wonderful baked goods. Glad to hear yours turned out so well.
    My hubby has started making peach pies. We use the store bought crusts like they showed on the Cook's Country TV show. I didn't use to like peach pie, but hubby has made me a convert.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I use shorting for pie, most often Crisco brand. I've used lard, and not noticed much difference.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I grew up with lefse and flatbrod - always made with lard. My folks are 85 and 86 - guess it sure shortened their lives......
    Natokadn

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dad's bread recipe uses lard for greasing the pans as well as brushing over the loaves before they go in the oven. (and of course a little in the dough!) Yum!!!

    -Don F

    ReplyDelete
  19. Grandma fried in home rendered lard her whole life and she just passed at 102 years old. You can get some plain lard from the Mexican groceries like the Vallarta markets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for providing the information on where to find the good stuff. Someday I will raise my own hogs like my grandparents did and have my own lard (but it probably won't be enough!).
      sts

      Delete
    2. Kathy, thank you for the tip.. we have a Vallarta market in the next town. Refined beans are also out of this world when lard is used.

      Delete
  20. If you ever have extra fruit and want to make something different try making your own fruit pie filling. It is so easy and tastes oh so yummy. It's great for pies, dump cakes, crisps, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  21. We raise our own pigs on local non gmo feed annd table/garden scraps and then render down the lard ourselves. I use lard and butter together to give it a depth of flavor and that buttery flavor to it. DELISH. I use a basic pie crust recipe 1& 1/2 C flour (pastry if you've got it, if not AP works too), 1/4C lard, 1/4 butter, 1/2tsp salt, and ice cold water. That's it. sift together salt and flour, then using your fingers (that's the trick) break up the fats. I smear them into tiny pieces. Then stir in the water until you get a dough. Do NOT over stir either. You don't want to over work the dough. Let it rest 5 minutes, roll it out and there you have it. Easy and yummy.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Patrice, have you ever thought of rendering your own lard? I got 75 pounds from the butcher this year and got about 20 quarts. I use hald butter and half lard for my pie crusts and they turn out delicious every time! So happy to see you are a lard convert :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. The lard from the store has an off-putting smell because they add in hydrogenated oils to make it shelf stable. Unfortunately. We just used some of our home rendered lard (we get half a pig each year) to make fried chicken and fried pickles in the last few days. Yum. :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I have used olive oil for my crusts and they are always nice and flaky. I have never made a crust with lard in all the years we have been married so can't compare but we like the oil ones.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Patrice - I am happy to hear of your successful experiment with lard. (I'm just having a difficult time imagining margarine in your kitchen though!) I agree with those who say the best is the stuff you can render in your own kitchen, I remember helping my mom do so. A smelly job but so worth it. Cindy

    ReplyDelete