What is Lard?
Quite simply, lard is fat from pigs. I source my lard from farms that raise their pigs on pasture and in the forest. These pigs are free to root, wallow, socialize and just be pigs. Pictured here are Ossabaw Island Pigs from Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, one of my lard suppliers. This is one of the many hardy heritage breeds that thrive in an outdoor environment.
Pigs create two different kinds of fat. The more common one is "backfat". As the name suggests, this is the layer of fat just under the skin, mostly on the back. This fat is fairly soft with a bit of "porky" or "bacony" flavor and smell. It has a high heat tolerance, is high in monounsaturated fat and is ideal for cooking savory dishes! Not ideal for soap, though!
For soap we look to the second kind of fat, "leaf lard". This visceral or internal fat is a large slab inside the ribcage, near the kidneys. When rendered this fat is snowy white and almost odorless. It is also firmer than backfat. This fat is ideal for soap, pie crusts, baking or any application where you don't want a porky smell or flavor!
I choose to make soaps and salves with lard for both sustainability and skin care reasons. As demand for ethical meat products grows, more small farmers are raising pigs on pasture and in woodlands to meet that demand. But the demand for leaf lard rarely keeps pace with the demand for pork chops and bacon! By turning lard into soap I am putting money back into my local community and helping farmers make money from what is often a waste product.
As for your skin, since outdoor pigs spend plenty of time in the sun, eating a varied diet, their fat is full of vitamins D and A and is much higher in omega 3s than confinement raised pigs. All this means that it is excellent to put on your skin!