Carnitas: So much lard
Terrell said: “Never buy lard in the grocery store. It’s full of chemicals.”
That advice from a dear friend kept me from lard for about 20 years. I once had a few blocks of organic lard shipped to me. They stayed in the freezer for three years because I felt they were too precious to use. Finally, I fried some chicken in it. It was good. I like lard.
So last month our cookbook club went Mexican with Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen. It was full-on immersion with 42 kinds of chiles, crema and hand-made corn tortillas. I went shopping at my local Mexican grocery store. And there, among the refried beans and enchilada sauce was…lard. Terrell may have been wrong. Mexican people cook with lard all the time, apparently from the grocery store.
So I bought four pounds of it. Four pounds! That was for one recipe for carnitas. But I was committed. Here goes.
Five pounds of pork shoulder, four pounds of lard and a few spices in a cheesecloth sack. Cook over low heat for a couple of hours. The pork version of duck confit. What could be bad?
Terrell was wrong, God rest his soul. Lard from the Mexican grocery store is just fine. The pork was unbelievably tender and deeply moist. I guess sitting in a fat bath for 120 minutes does that. I don’t even want to think about what a cholesterol fiesta this is. I made quesadillas with them and tostadas and a casserole. Five pounds of pork goes a long way.
And then came the real dilemma. What to do with the used lard. Yes, I was told, you can strain it and use it again. But what a mess that would be. And it’s not like I’m going to cook with lard every other day. So I determined to dispose of it. But how? Pouring it down the drain was not an option. Imagine it solidifying somewhere down the pipe. Plumbing disaster.
So I left the pot on the stove overnight and it solidified. Okay. Now what? I scooped it into a double lined trash bag. But I couldn’t put it in the trash at my house. Too many critters and I feared waking to a lard-slimed driveway. So I’m ashamed to say I disposed of it in a convenience store trash can.
Will I cook with lard again? Yes. Yes, I will. But not four pounds of it. Even I have limits.