I’ve spoken with the lovely Kate McDermott before about her wondrous pies. Kate makes The World’s Best Pie, as I discovered last summer. She swears by leaf lard, and I’ve been altogether too lazy to track down a source of it in Vancouver.
Leaf lard is the fat from around a pig’s kidneys, and is highly prized for its clean flavour and magically flaky pie properties. I finally found a source for it in Vancouver, and bought mine from Gelderman Farms at the Main Street farmers market. Give them a call or drop them an email, let them know how much you want, and they’ll have it for you at their next market date.
I bought three pounds of frozen leaf lard from them and rendered half of it in my crockpot. I used Cheeseslave’s handy how-to, and it worked like a charm. However, whereas most instructions call for the rendered lard to be strained into mason jars, I poured mine into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Once it solidified (overnight, in the fridge) it lifted out of the loaf pan easily. I now have a brick of white fat hanging out in the back of my fridge, wrapped in parchment and stored in a ziptop bag.
Word to the wise: while most instructions say that rendering fat produces a rather, erm, distinctive smell, I don’t think it’s unpleasant. However, it definitely smelled porky in my apartment for about six hours. I happened to be making peanut butter ice cream at the same time, and it got me thinking about peanut butter and bacon sandwiches…but that’s another post for another time.
Of course, all the fun of leaf lard is in making pie with it. I’ve worked with store-bought lard before and just find it off-putting. It’s strange-tasting, greasy and slick—and while it does produce a pretty flaky crust, there’s something missing.
So I made pie. And it is the best pie that I’ve made so far. I went a bit overboard with the sugar for the filling, but I’m so distracted at the exquisite flakiness of the crust, the crisp sound that it makes when you plunge your fork into it, and the delicate, buttery sweetness of it that I don’t even care about the filling.
Now that, my friends, is good pie. And I’m wholly convinced about the leaf lard thing.