There was a time, not so long ago, when lard was viewed with the suspicion usually accorded street drugs. If the only lard you’ve met comes in a green-and-white box, your suspicion is justified, because that lard has been bleached, deodorized, and had just about every industrial process thrown at it, and it’s nasty.
But small-batch, traditionally rendered lard is another fat altogether. It’s less saturated than butter, and it ranges in flavor from neutral (leaf lard, which is used in pastry making) to faintly porky. Back lard, as its name suggests, comes from the backs of hogs, and it’s dense, white, and suited to a wide range of purposes. The butchers at our West 7th store have been rendering it, and if you haven’t used some yet, you should give it a try—nothing makes autumn’s greens tastier!
Kale, mustard, collard, and dandelion greens are some of autumn’s vegetable stars. On CSAs and other farms in the Twin Cities’ outlying areas, frost comes earlier than it does here in Saint Paul, and lightly frost-kissed greens become sweeter than the summer vegetables. You can make an entire meal of them stir-fried in lard. Lard becomes solid at room temperature, so you’ll want to eat this dish as soon as it emerges, glossy and fragrant, from the pan.
You can keep lard in the freezer in a glass jar for months. Nothing gives greens quite the lift that fine lard does.
Greens with Lard and Sausage
Makes 4 big servings.
¼ pound of smoked sausage, crumbled or sliced into small chunks
3 tablespoons of lard
1 large bunch of autumn kale
several handfuls of other autumn greens (dandelion, mustard, collard)
1–2 cloves of garlic
red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of a half lemon or 1–2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1. Heat a cast-iron skillet or a wok on MEDIUM until thoroughly hot, then add the sausage, allow it to sit for about a minute without stirring;then stir until the pieces are browned and crispy. Remove from pan; drain away any fat.
2. Slice kale leaves away from their heavy spines and cross-cut into ribbons about 2” wide. Make sure the leaves are thoroughly dry.
3. Slice scallions in half lengthwise, then into 3” pieces crosswise. Smash or chop garlic.
4. Add back lard to heated skillet or wok; it will melt almost instantly. Add scallions and garlic, and cook until they start to smell good and soften a bit.
5. Add greens, a handful at a time, stirring each handful until greens brighten and change color. At that point, you can introduce another handful. If you add too many greens at once, the pan’s temperature will drop and the vegetables will steam rather than sear.
6. Once the greens have all cooked, add pepper flakes and return sausage to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Add lemon juice or vinegar, a bit at a time, tasting the while.
8. Rush your big panful of autumn greens to the table and wolf it down!