Made my own lard

People have almost certainly been cooking with lard since the domestication of pigs close to 10,000 years ago. Along with butter and olive oil, lard must be one of the oldest “processed foods” around.

When I was writing my post on whether or not saturated fats would kill us all, I discovered that “grocery store” lard is often bleached (bad) and often partially hydrogenated (terrible). So it occurred to me that I probably ought to try to get some less-processed lard.

I asked at a local butcher, but they said they didn’t sell lard. Then I asked at the University of Illinois Meat Lab, which said that they didn’t make lard, but that they could set aside some pig fat for me, if I wanted.

Due to the room being a bit noisy, I hadn’t quite heard what they said, and had thought that I would be getting lard. But no: I got a couple of pounds of vacuum-packed frozen pig fat.

But that was okay. I read a couple of web pages on how to make lard, and went ahead and rendered it myself.

They had given me nice clean fat—just a modest amount of blood and connective tissue remained attached. I let it mostly thaw, cut it up into quarter-inch cubes, put it in a heavy pot with just a little water, got it just hot enough to simmer, and let it just barely simmer for a couple of hours so that the fat melted away from the connective tissue. Then I ladled it all through some cheese cloth and a colander (which kept the “cracklings,” i.e. lightly fried connective tissue, and let the melted lard drain through). I poured the melted lard into a mason jar, let it cool, and popped it into the fridge.

Now I have a couple of cups of snowy white lard that I can be sure has neither been bleached nor hydrogenated. (See photo at top. For color reference: Yes, the mason jar is purple. Long story.)

I don’t use much lard—mostly I just use it to touch up the seasoning on my cast-iron cookware, very occasionally to cook something where I don’t want a butter or olive flavor—so I expect this will last me a year or more. It was easy enough to do that I don’t think I’ll hesitate to render my own lard again when I run out.

As long as I was rendering fat I went ahead and re-rendered some beef tallow that I’d skimmed off the top of the sauce for a pot roast that I made a couple of weeks ago. I just melted it, cooked it long enough to boil off the watery bits, and then poured it through a strainer to get the bits of rosemary leaves and mushrooms that had clung to it when I skimmed it.

It’s kind of odd tallow, because it still has plenty of rosemary and mushroom flavor, and is red because of the tomato paste in the pot roast sauce, but it makes a fine fat for sauteing veggies, cooking omelettes, etc.

Low-carb double-gratitude 2017-04-24

Since going low-carb a year ago, omelettes have been a breakfast mainstay. To provide some variety (besides mixing up the fillings—a lot of onion, peppers of various colors and hotnesses, sometimes a little smoked meat), I’ve taken to adding various spices: most often paprika, turmeric, and black pepper.

Yesterday the turmeric wasn’t in its spot in the spice rack, but I saw a spice jar out on the counter and had already added some to my omelette before realized that it was not turmeric, but rather nutmeg.

So, my gratitude for yesterday was that an omelette with nutmeg turns out to be delicious. (Who would have thought?)

My gratitude for today is that, having gotten my carb consumption back down after letting it creep up while we had visitors and then again after Jackie’s big walk, I’ve once again got my allergy symptoms under control, and have my weight (which had crept up as well) back down to exactly where I want it.

No Admittance Except on Party Business

I considered putting a note to that effect on the door, but I was afraid there would be people who wouldn’t get the joke. (The downside of having such a diverse group of friends—no matter how pervasive something is in our culture, Jackie and I will know a few people for whom it is utterly outside their experience.)

Party preparations are nearly complete.

I got the study tidy! (Those of you who have seen it in the past month would be astounded.) I need to do a photo shoot of my writing space, now that it is so wonderfully open and inviting, but I have not yet had the time to get good pictures.

This morning I made candy and baked cookies for the party. (The candy is what I call Platonic Candy, because it is candy reduced to its platonic essence: sugar, fat, a little flavoring. The cookies are Ginger Sparkles.)

This afternoon, while I’m at Esperanto, Jackie will prepare her contributions to the party comestibles.

In the evening we’ll do our final cleaning up.

Sunday we’ll be able to laze about lazily all morning, until people start showing up for the party.

Yesterday’s weather report was kind of alarming, predicting that several inches of snow were possible. Today’s forecast is better, with less snow expected. Hopefully the weather won’t keep too many people home from our party.

Made candy

easy karo candyToday would have been a good day to stay in, but I was obliged to teach my taiji class (and four or five students actually braved the weather to show up, so I was glad I’d made it in).

The weather that needed braving was an hour or two of pretty heavy snow, followed by freezing rain.

On paths that had been cleared, the result was about an eighth of an inch of ice. But since the freezing rain followed hard on the snow, most paths had not been cleared. The result was a thick layer of crunchy crystalline mush—not runny like slush, but otherwise kind of similar.

The weird consistency of the stuff reminded me of a failed effort at fudge or frosting—like a thick paste full of huge crystals, instead of tiny ones.

By the time I’d finished driving home in the stuff, I had an irresistible urge to make candy.

I’d have made fudge, but Jackie was doubtful about us having chocolate on hand, but we did have karo syrup and confectioner’s sugar—which, together with butter and vanilla, is all it takes to make Easy Karo Candy.

So, that’s what I made.

My mom used to make me Easy Karo Candy when I was a kid, so it brought back memories. (Even though it was pretty different, because we had dark Karo syrup instead of the light stuff, so it was kind of like Easy Karo Caramel Candy.)

I felt moved to post this because long ago I learned something from making Easy Karo Candy: I learned what candy is. This stuff is basically platonic candy. It contains fat, sugar, and a little flavoring. What makes it candy is the process—cooking it and then stirring in a bunch of confectioner’s sugar—which prompts the formation of the tiny sugar crystals that give things like fudge their distinctive texture. Basically any (non-hard) candy is the same stuff, just with a different flavoring. (A realization that prepared me for the realization that salad dressing is very similar: fat, vinegar, and a little flavoring.)

As a very picky eater, it was cool to figure this out. I vastly broadened the salad dressings I was willing to try, once I realized that they were really all the same. (I tend still to be pretty picky as far as candies go: Fancy candies are all sneaky, with non-candy stuff hidden in a candy layer. But that’s okay. I don’t see any great need to broaden the range of candies I eat.)

Scones with clotted cream

Back in 1992, Jackie and I took a trip to England and Wales. We spent a week in London, a week in St. David’s (hiking on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path), and then a couple more days back in London visiting an old friend who took us out to dinner, to a play, and then to Bath to see the Roman ruins and other such stuff.

In Bath we had afternoon tea in the Pump Room with scones and clotted cream.

I was rather dubious of clotted cream (because of the name) but turned out to like it very much. (No surprise: There are an infinite number of yummy blends of fat and sugar.)

Upon returning, I kept my eye out for clotted cream, figuring that I could make my own scones, but I never saw any.

Just recently, I mentioned to Jackie that I wouldn’t mind getting some clotted cream to put on scones, and she suggested that Devonshire cream would be a lot like clotted cream. Turns out that Devonshire cream is what clotted cream is called in the US. Further, it turns out that our local grocery store has some! (We don’t yet know if it’s a standard item, or if they just got it in stock for the royal wedding or something.)

With Devonshire cream in hand, today I baked scones. I just grabbed a recipe off the internet that looked promising and followed the directions. (Almost: I replaced half the all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.)

They turned out great. As good as any scones I’ve ever had.