Food & Drink

Lard has a bad reputation, but right kind beats butter

Q. Where can I find leaf lard for pie crusts? I have no trouble finding supermarket lard, but it always seems to be full of preservatives.

Lard has an undeservedly awful reputation in our fat-conscious society. Yes, animal fats are saturated. No, you probably should not eat them every day. That said, it's entirely possible that butter is worse for you than lard – butter averages 62 percent saturated fat, versus lard's 40 percent.

An average slice of pie crust made with butter contains two and a half grams of saturated fat. A similar pie crust made with lard would contain only two grams of saturated fat. The pie crust made with lard would also have a superior texture, crispier and flakier than the butter crust.

Supermarket lard is typically treated with BHT, an antioxidant chemical. This chemical prevents the oxidation of fats, and makes the lard shelf-stable. It also yields a sour off flavor, and is further found in embalming fluid – not exactly a confidence-inspiring use. The health jury is still out on BHT, but it's banned from infant foods in the United States, and banned for food use completely in a number of other countries. And it just doesn't taste good.

Leaf lard – the highest-quality lard – is available from Grateful Growers in Denver, N.C. Their products can be found at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and the Matthews Farmer's Market. Call ahead to place an order, and be sure to specify whether you want the leaf lard rendered. If you decide to buy lard that hasn't been rendered, you'll have to render it, strain it and chill it before you can use it for frying or pie crusts, but it's less than half the price – $2 per pound, as opposed to $4.50. Phone: 828-234-5182.