Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My First Pie: A Lard Story

You guys know I don't bake, right? Baking and I don't play well together. Because baking requires adherence to, you know, rules. I don't do rules.

So how does a self-professed non-baker find herself ass-deep in pie dough one fine weekend?

Lard. That's right, folks. Nothing motivates a girl to bake like a hermetically sealed, Fed-Exed parcel of homemade lard.

My wonderful friend Phoo-d wrote this post recently about her adventures in rendering lard from local pigs. Imagine my delight when, while futzing around on Facebook, I got the following IM: "Hey, any interest in some homemade hog fat?"

The thrill, my friends. The thrill.

A few days later, this arrived on my doorstep. I was seriously blissed out.

By the time hubs hit the door at 6 o'clock, I'd worked myself into a froth. "Honey!! Lookee what I got!" I crowed, waving the package around. "This is the coolest thing I've ever gotten in the mail. Ev-er!" I might have even done a celebratory version of the Yummy Dance.

He raised a suspicious eyebrow. "What. Is. That?"

"Homemade hog fat, Dude! I got lard in the mail! Isn't that awesome?" By this time, the girls had gotten wind of my enthusiasm and were now bouncing off the walls with me, singing "hog fat/hog fat/we got some hog fat..."

He reached for a bottle of wine and poured himself a sturdy glass. "Only you," he said, shaking his head and retreating down to the man-cave.

Hmph. Some people don't know awesomeness when they see it. I was stoked.

But then came the realization that homemade lard=baking. I emailed my friend Phoo-d in a bit of panic.

"I've never made pie crust before. Help! This has 'fuck-up' written all over it."

Luckily, Phoo-d has a clear head and walked me through the process. "It's honestly not that hard," she said.


I stacked the deck a little. I consulted Cook's Illustrated and found their Best Recipe for pie dough. I also invited Mama over; she spent many a long North Dakota winter wrestling pastry dough. She knows what she's doing. With Cook's Illustrated, Mama, and Phoo-d's generous offer of "call me if you get into trouble," I was ready.

The hardest part was figuring out what kind of pie to make. Shameful admission: I don't really like pie. My husband doesn't really like pie either, except for pecan. I was not going to waste my pie-making efforts on an audience who doesn't really appreciate pie.

Luckily, there just so happens to be someone in my life who loves pie.

Daddy's favorite pie is cherry. Alas, it's totally not cherry season. But apples? We've got them in spades, so apple it was.

Mama and I donned our aprons, rolled up our sleeves and dove into the world of pastry dough. I think we did just fine.

We did so fine, in fact, that we also made quiche. I don't do pie, but I love me some quiche. This made a light and satisfying dinner when paired with a glass of wine and a crisp green salad. And yes, my man does eat quiche.

American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies
from Cook's Illustrated
makes dough for one double-crust 9-inch pie

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting dough and work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
8 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if dough does not hold together.

Divide dough into two balls and flatten each into 4-inch wide disks. Dust disks lightly with flour, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

Apple Pie
from Cook's Illustrated
makes 1 pie

1 recipe American Pie Dough for Fruit Pies
2 pounds Granny Smith apples (4 medium)
2 pounds McIntosh apples (4 medium)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest from one medium lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Prepare and shape dough into two disks as directed. Refrigerate until needed.

Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 425.

Roll one dough disk on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex regular or deep-dish pan. Unfold dough.

Gently press dough into sides of pan, leaving portion that overhangs lip of pie plate in place. Refrigerate while preparing fruit.

Peel, core and cut apples into 1/2-to-1/4-inch slices and toss with 3/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and spices. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into chilled pie shell and mound slightly in center.

Roll out second dough disk and place over filling. Trim top and bottom edges to to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so the folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits on dough top. If dough is very soft, place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Brush egg white over top of crust and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until juices bubble and pie is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to almost room temperature, at least 4 hours.

Asparagus, Sun-Dried Tomato and Fontina Cheese Quiche
adapted from Mark Bittman
makes 1 quiche

1 disk American Pie Crust for Fruit Pies, without added sugar in the recipe
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups grated Fontina cheese
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup blanched asparagus tips
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 425. Prick the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Line crust with tin foil and weight down with rice or dried beans. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the weight and foil; turn the oven down to 325.

Combine eggs, cheese, liquid, seasonings and vegetables and beat until well blended.

Place the baked crust on a baking sheet. Pour the egg mixture into the crust, right to the top. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the mixture is set but is still moist; it should still jiggle just a little in the middle. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. Those looks amazing I love pie but have never tried making my own crust. Looks like you did great!

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  4. if you didn't use up all of the lard to make the pie crust, you could always fry up some chicken in it.

  5. By this time, the girls had gotten wind of my enthusiasm and were now bouncing off the walls with me, singing "hog fat/hog fat/we got some hog fat..."

    As I read this to the Girlfriend, she pushed her eyebrows together in concentration. "Dude. Some people in this world are weirder than we are!"

    Ahem. I am inclined to agree.


    ...but the pie/quiche looks seriously yummy.

  6. Pie AND quiche?? I want to come to your house for dinner!

  7. *pours sturdy glass of wine*

    Hog fat, hog fat!

  8. Good work girlie! Getting your ma on board was a good idea - mum's are so wise with these things! And now you'll probably be able to do it on your own having been filled with confidence of this success?! :) xxx Did your dad enjoy the pie?!

  9. I'm very impressed...I'm not sure I'd know what to do with lard. Fry some stuff maybe? Your quiche looked delectable.

  10. I absolutely love that there's pretty ribbon around the jar of hog fat :)

  11. Mmmm, that quiche looks heavenly!

  12. Thinking of you doing a "yummy dance" makes me smile.

    Lard is one of the greatest ingredients. How else do dishes, like apple pie, taste so heavenly?

    As for your husband, did he try your apple pie? I'm sure if he tasted it he would have understood your love affair with lard.

  13. Now this is actually something I know how to do. But I use the Southern Living recipe and I cut the fat into the flour by hand, but only because I don't have one of those fancy dough things.

    I think your pie and quiche are beautiful.

  14. I would have been absolutely estatic to have received hog fat in the mail. I can totally imagine your delight.
    I can't bake to save my life! It has something to do with following rules too. :-)
    I love pie and I love quiche. Your quiche looks heavenly. No doubt that hog fat really makes a difference.

    Once again, I smiled all the way through your post.

  15. My grandma cooked exclusively with lard. You need to fry up a pan of flourbread -- it's the finest thing there is.

  16. Hooray! You knocked it out of the park! I would have loved to taste the quiche and the pie, they look perfect. =)

  17. They look gorgeous, Kitch, but as good as they look, I would have to stay away: lard in pie crust is the curse of the vegetarian (especially a vegetarian keeping a kosher kitchen for her husband's sake).

    How I moped this summer when I brought a perfect Amish raspberry pie home from the Farmer's Market last summer only to discover that there was lard in the crust. Sadness.

  18. Beautimous pies...gonna be trying these out!

  19. Wow! Three recipes in one post - you're on a roll! But I have to admit, while I love pie, I've never made my own crust. My sister brings her Cuisinart every time she visits because (horror of horrors!) I buy refrigerated pie dough and she refuses. And then, she makes her own crust (delicious) but won't give me the recipe until I get my own food processor. I'm doomed!

  20. I know, I know... lard makes the best pie crusts. I just can't go there.


  21. I am not a pie baking person. I do get excited about lard, though. Especially home-made lard!! Your pie looks marvelous and your quiche! I want to come right over.

  22. OMG, I saw that post and thought "what would my husband think if I tried to render my own fat?!"

    Your pie looks fantastic! Okay, while I'll let it slide that your Dad is a Cubs fan, glad he's a Bears fan!

    I'd take the quiche over the apple pie any day of the week!

  23. Congrats on your lard acquisition AND the pie baking. Lard makes absolutely, positively the BEST crust. My grandmother used it all the time. I use part criso, part butter and that makes a great crust too....but lard is the fat of choice.

    Good choice to make a quiche as well. Why not? You've got LARD honey!

  24. You and I must be related! I don't cook cause I can't seem to follow the directions. I cook to a different beat. My sportsman does not like this so he does all the cooking.

  25. Tears of laughter are rolling down my face. Who knew lard could be so entertaining. Now I realize why people rave about your blog. Oh, and thanks for the recipe. I'm like Jane, I buy my crusts, but make the rest from scratch. Does that count? That's as domestic as I care to be with pies!

  26. You're my hero.

    And you had me at "ass-deep in pie dough."

  27. You lucky! none of my facebook friends ever offer me anything cool like rendered pig fat I can't believe you got your hands on some of Phoo-d's work that is soo cool.

    Your excitement hat me in stitches Kris and I have had similar conversations.

  28. I'm seriously impressed! Bill would love you forever if you fed him anything piggy - pie especially. So you'll be all set for making an authentic English Christmas pudding made with beef suet, which seemed to put all my readers right off. I'm not sure I believe 'light' and 'quiche' rightly fit in the same sentence, but salad quiche and wine sounds like my idea of heaven. Can we come live with you?

  29. Congrats! I love pie - and these are beautiful. I prefer the Crisco route over LARD, but that might actually be the secret of my Grandma's recipe. Gotta try that next time.

  30. Your dad has the foody bliss face that says "I ate the whole pie, mmmmmmmm." I could eat pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Awesome!

  31. I KNEW you'd hit a homerun, girlie. You and hogfat are a match made in heaven.

    Wait, that didn't come out quite right.

    I'm coming over for dinner. And yes, I'll take some quiche with my wine. Thanks. Ta-ta.

  32. I've made my own pastry for years, but I feel like such a pansy poser having only used butter and/or shortening. You, my friend, are the real deal. Congrats on your many pastried dishes!

  33. First of all, the pies look AMAZING. I am jealous because I suck the big one when it comes to making crust. Not to burst your bubble, but did you know you could buy lard at the grocery store? Not that I didn't love the picture you painted of the girls jumping up and down and singing the hog fat song. But you can buy it local without going through the internet...or at least you can here in Kansas. Maybe it's a Kansas thing. Anyway...great job!

  34. I'm afraid of pies. Very very afraid. I'll eat the hell outta one but that's it.

  35. It all looks yummy.
    I love baking, but I suck at cutting in butter or lard. It takes me like twenty minutes or more. Stupid cutting in.

  36. Did you just use the words "light and satisfying" and "hog lard" in the same post, TKW? I just wanna check, okay? Cause hog lard sounds like maybe we're going to have to go back to the Shrink My Ass Month thingy.

    Love the picture of your dad. Very funny. Of course he's wearing a Bears jersey!

  37. I've heard that pie crusts and cookies made with lard turn out wonderfully. I will have to try this sometime. I hope you share with us the experience of rendering your won lard.

  38. The recipes sound awesome and your pie and quiche look delicious. However, I want to know about the homemade hog lard! Did it make a difference??? More flavorful??

  39. Yum. Now what else will you do with the lard? It doesn't go bad, right?

  40. Totally understand the Yummy Dance...

    As a Cuban, I learned how to make white rice with lard. My mother would buy it in the store and make EVERYTHING with it. How I am still alive is anyone's guess.

    Love me some pie and quiche, though. And those do look heavenly...

  41. J. Harker--"Some people in the world are even weirder than we are..." Ahem. I resemble that remark.

    And true, the quiche wasn't "light" in calories, but it was in texture. You guys wouldn't BELIEVE the difference the lard made. The crust was so flaky that it shattered if you even tapped it with a fork. Bliss! Mama deemed it the best crust she'd ever eaten.

    As for how I'm going to use the rest of my precious hog fat? You will just have to wait! :)

  42. Be sure to save a piece of pie for the poor FedEx guy who had to drive around all day with a hermetically sealed package of pig lard in his truck. =>

  43. Not sure how I feel about fresh hog fat.... But, that pie sure looks delicious!

  44. Did it taste better with fresh hog fat? Oh my those look good. And a picture of my surrogate daddy...the joy!!! I knew we were meant for each other...my favorite pie is cherry too. :)

  45. It's so interesting that you cook, but don't bake. My husband is the cook around here, and I'm the baker. Any time I want cookies, brownies, cake, and he tries to help, he screws it up. Cooking is about instincts, and baking, as you said, is about rules. I guess I'm a rules girl, cause I sure can't cook very well. (Though I'm trying, and one day, I'm planning to get good at it.)

  46. Wow. I once got ants in the mail that escaped the packaging and took over the kitchen, but never lard.

    I need some new friends.

    (And if you ever, EVER feel the need to ship out an apple pie (my favorite dessert in the whole, wide world), I would do three Yummy Dances and a Herky.)

  47. Hello old friend. I knew we were a good match. I LOVE to bake. Together we could make a splendid meal and dessert. Can you send me a piece of that yummy quiche. I, like ck, will do a herky for all.

  48. I love absolutely everything about this post. Lard is terrifying to me, and pie crust even more so! Looks like you showed it who's boss, though.

  49. Fuck up? Not even close! That is one awesome looking pie my dear!
    I would be equally excited to get me some fat in the mail too!!!

  50. Please quit making me laugh so loudly! My husband has to get up early for work! :D

    Great pie...and quiche!

  51. OK, I love that you have "hog fat" as a category for your posts! LOL!!!

    I hope you have some of that quiche leftover, cuz I'm on my way...

  52. The hog fat song is awesome, and feels like it should have been in an old Ren & Stimpy cartoon (they did make a fake beef tallow commercial if I recall--why not lard too?). The results look utterly fabulous here, and I'm so glad you had pie lovers nearby who could enjoy the fruits of your labors. ;-)

  53. I have ALWAYS wondered what lard looks like. We never had any on hand when I was a kid -- thank you for the photos! Now I at least know what color it is: amazingly snowy white. Crisco, you've got nothin' on this stuff.

  54. First time stopping by! I've seen your name on all sorts of my favourite blogs and I decided it was high time :-) So glad I did because I LOVE pie and I LOVE quiche. Did you know that pie crust is harder to roll when you are pregnant? It was for me and apparently it has to do with the acidity of our fingers. Who knows, probably a on old wive's tale, but a fun quirk I thought I'd share.

    At any rate, I wish I'd come to dinner. Since I didn't, I'll make sure to come back to your blog. I'm looking forward to more.

  55. MMM piiiiiieeeeee!!!!

    And Hog fat in the mail is a little weird...but it makes for one of the best reads of the day.

  56. SO,so,sooo impressed! Your pie and quiche look fantastic lady! Your daddy's Bear jersey caught my husbands eye and he thought that excellent indeed-- well done for one pie lover

  57. Wow. I guess you don't get to say you can't bake anymore.

    I have always been a crisco girl. But, maybe you can hook me up with your LARD connection? Its legal and all, right???

  58. Pie is my #1 favorite thing in the whole wide world, and I ALWAYS use Cook's Illustrated recipes. Their pie dough always comes out perfectly flaky.

  59. Oh how I would love to get me some lard in the mail! That is fantastic! and the silver package it came in makes it seem like some top secret NASA experiment!
    Now that I think about it, I think I'd rather get the pie in the mail instead of the lard... so send some over!

  60. Dude, if I'd known that mailing you lard was the way to get you to do a herky, I'd have sent some long ago...

  61. Today, I am finally cleaning up my google reader. It's chock full of feeds I've been too busy to read. This story made me laugh. I saw Phoo-D's post on making lard. No way could I do that! I'm married to a mid-western dude who is putty in my hands if I made pie. Not any pie. Berry pie. I have to make one, today, since he fixed my broken oven. Too funny, how you did it. It looks great. BTW, you didn't see America's Test Kitchen (also Cook's Illustrated's company) vodka pie crust recipe?! It works great!

  62. OMG, you made pie dough with lard. You are my hero. When I grow up, I want to be you. And mad props to Phoo-D for having the courage to render her own lard.