07/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Cooking with Lard

I had never cooked with lard before. It just seemed gross to me. Plus, as a saturated fat it was on the list of things I didn't need to add to my already saturated diet.

However, my elderly, ill mother specifically requested that I make one of her favorite summer meals: pasties (Cornish meat pie)...with lard. How could I deny her? In fact, she told my sister she wouldn't even come over and eat them UNLESS I made them with lard.

So I went in search of lard. I emailed my favorite meat website ( to see if they sold it. They did, but wouldn't have any available till later in the week. Plus, they have what's called "leaf lard," which basically means it's fat fresh from the pig. When I got it, I would have to "render" it by cooking it down to its liquid form. And there wasn't enough time for that.

So then I went to Dietrich's Meats, a famous butcher in these parts. They had plenty of lard--in 1-pound, 2-pound, 5-pound, or 5-gallon containers! They don't feed their pigs antibiotics or hormones, and they raise them locally, so I bought some. (I also bought some ground beef, and watched in horror as the lady dug her bare hands into the ground beef, then without washing her hands touched my buffalo Lebanon baloney order, and then handled my cash, since they don't take credit. I just kept looking at her and thinking, well, she's still alive after all these years, so I guess I'll live if I eat this stuff.)

So my mother and I made the dough with lard. It was so soft! We filled the dough with ground beef, potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and...butter! My sisters came, and all my daughters were there. I ran out of white flour, so I made a few extras with King Arthur's "White Whole Wheat Flour," which is really good (and of course everything was organic).

Suffice it to say, the lard made the pasties absolutely, positively delicious--and so much better than any dough I had ever made before. It was savory, crispy, and yummiful! My mother was happy. I sent her home with some leftovers. My sister's boyfriend remarked that the lard even made whole wheat taste good.

I think lard is due for a comeback. There must be some health benefit to it. Of course, only in moderation--maybe once a summer. And maybe I'll use it to make my pie dough this holiday season. But today is a beautiful summer day, and I'm not going to think about that yet!

For more from Maria Rodale, go to

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