It’s no secret that lard—rendered fresh pork fat—makes the best pie crust. And not only does it result in tender and impossibly flaky pastry, it also makes the most supple and easy-to-roll out dough ever (hence why Pillsbury uses it in its refrigerated pie crusts).
But lard also makes a fantastic sugar cookie. I revisited a super-easy recipe that appeared in Gourmet magazine in April, 1993. This time though, instead of using the processed lard available at the supermarket, I used freshly rendered leaf lard—from the fat surrounding the kidneys—from locally raised pigs, a product you can now readily find at farmers’ markets. Not only is it available in New York City, but I was just in northern New Hampshire and found it at two different stands at the local farmers’ market.
I beg to differ, however, with the headnote to the recipe, which calls attention to the sandy nature of using lard. When I tried my hand at these cookies I discovered that the lard made a delightfully crisp cookie with the just the right amount of interior chewiness to keep it from shattering (no sandy texture in sight!). And, rest assured, there’s no hint of pig in the flavor; that’s something you want in your ribs, but not in your cookies.
And to all those who think lard is unhealthy: Remember that lard was used and adored long before partially-hydrogenated vegetable shortening first came along with its trans-fats dangers, of which we weren’t yet aware. Lard has a good amount of vitamin D and it’s high in monounsaturated fat, just like olive oil. With so many benefits, don’t be surprised if you end up with a case of LOL: Love of Lard!