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"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food" Michael Pollan.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Trip to Boston

It being school vacation week, Cara [my beloved daughter] and I spent a day in Boston walking the Freedom Trail. We had a great time and I came back amazed that, even though I didn’t expect to find it- Scotch- Irish and Scottish History peeked itself into the tour. Back in 1775, the British Occupying Forces in Boston exhibited a special contempt for Presbyterians by turning their churches into horse stables and storing manure within-probably an insult of the byre house form that was traditionally prevalent in Scotland [and continues here in Maine and in New Hampshire as the unique connected Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn buildings that dot the landscape in rural areas that were settled by the Scotch-Irish.] We were surprised when we found early graves marked ‘Irish’ that displayed the RED HAND-one was of a Jackson family. We were also really impressed by the Irish Famine or Great Hunger Monument. The statues and markers were quite moving and there was an Irish tenor singing-it was a truly beautiful experience. It left me feeling all the more dedicated to erecting a similar statue of a Scotch-Irish family somewhere near the site where the first Scotch-Irish settlers in Maine spent that first cold winter!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


The Scotch-Irish became great pork lovers after they got to America!Lard was once a stable cooking ingredient-and should be again-for if the pig is reared properly the lard will be a powerhouse of vitamin D!

Your great-grandmother would have told you that homemade lard is the best and cheapest cooking fat. It has a mild flavor and a high smoke point. It's well suited for sauteing and frying foods, and it makes the best pie crusts. Rendering lard is the process by which fat tissue is turned into pure fat. I buy lard when it is available at my farmer's market, which is probably the best place to buy lard. I look for pigs that have are "free range", "field-raised" or "pasture-raised", they have been exposed to the sunlight which makes their lard rich in vitamin D. The "organic" label by itself simply means they have been fed organic feed; the pigs will often not have had access to the outdoors. I recommend avoiding conventional (non-organic) pork at all costs, because it's profoundly inhumane and highly polluting. The lard that you can buy at the supermarket is from these factory farmed animals.

If you don't have access to good quality local lard, you can render your own from quality pork fat-there are a few sources online-the Local Harvest website is a good place to start. Look for "leaf lard", which is the fat surrounding the kidneys. It has the highest smoke point and the lowest omega-6 content. It's also practically pure fat.

Caution:This does stink up the house a-bit!No wonder that it was done outside over an open fire back in the day!

Ingredients and Equipment:

* Lard
* Cheesecloth
* Baking dish
* Jars

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

2. Cut off any pieces of meat clinging to the fat.

3. Cut fat into small (~1-inch) cubes.

4. Place them into a non-reactive baking dish and put then into the oven.

5. Over the next 2-3 hours, periodically mash the fat with a potato ricer or the back of a large spoon. The fat will gradually separate as a clear liquid.

6. When you are satisfied that you've separated out most of the fat, remove the baking dish from the oven and allow it to stand until it's cool enough to be safe, but warm enough to still be liquid.

7. Pour through a cheesecloth into jars.

8. If you plan on using the lard for crusts, cool it as quickly as possible by placing the jars in cold water so it will harden quickly.

Finished lard has a long shelf life but I keep mine handy in my fridge door.