Grit magazine has been gathering and sharing “rural American Know How”— expertise about gardens, tools, animals, and food for 130 years. From chicken coops and southern style cakes to what to do with all that rhubarb and tips for vermicomposting, Grit is common sense home knowledge.
That knowledge includes recipes from its readers, which means these dishes have real grandmothers behind them. The book begins with some no-nonsense grandma-style straight talking. “Pig fat has been used for centuries in processes ranging from lubrication, lighting, cooking, soap-making, and just plain eating.”
The phrase “processes ranging from lubrication” may not be the friendliest way to start a book that focuses on a demonized fat, but give the editors credit, they didn’t take the easy way out and start with gauzy memories of flaky pie crusts and light-as-air biscuits.
They go quickly through the ritual explanations of trans fats, omega-3 and omega-6, less saturated fat than butter, and the natural and historical arguments that may convince you to give lard a try. They do point out that not all lard is created equal—try to get the least processed from heritage breeders for the most healthfulness and best flavor. And consider rendering your own. I’ve done it, and the editors explain how in six simple steps, that require no special equipment. My one suggestion—don’t do it in August—too hot.
If the ease, health, and flavor don’t convince you, the recipes will. Applesauce Circle Doughnuts, Old Fashioned Vinegar Rolls, Hot Cross Buns—the breads alone are worth the trip to the kitchen.
Thrifty recipes like Rhubarb Pudding Cake, Zookies (made with zucchini) and Chocolate Kraut Cake are meant to make use of garden bounty or a clever use of pantry stocks.
Chapters continue with vegetables, main dishes, and then full devotion to baking—where lard really shines—in chapters on cookies and brownies, pies, cakes, and desserts. Not surprisingly, the recipes have an old-fashioned cast. Some, like Salmon Croquettes or Liver Patties, you may give a pass, but there are plenty of gems like Homemade Potato Chips, Mincemeat Drop Cookies, Potato Paprikash, that have grandmother’s tasty fingerprints all over them.
In this era of DIY, of home brewing and pickling everything, lard deserves a second look.