Rethinking pig

Back in the spring, we thought about getting a pig. Two pigs, actually.

Cape Feed and Supply, our local farm store, had a half-dozen piglets living in a little pig house next to their parking lot, eighty bucks each. We were this close.

The deciding issue was fencing. Pigs are very smart. In the five months we’d have them, they’d get very big. And, although we’d try to provide a spacious and stimulating environment, they’d probably be very bored. Smart, big, and bored is hell on fences.

Yesterday, though, I found myself reconsidering, because I made a pie.

Although we didn’t raise our own pig, we bought one from a local farmer and split it with our neighbor. When I filled out the cut sheet for the slaughterhouse, I told them that I wanted every last crumb of that pig. The head, the feet, the organs, and, of course, the fat. A couple months back, I finally got around to rendering that fat. Yesterday, I made pie crust.

I’ve been making pie crust out of vegetable shortening all my life. And I’ve been doing it pretty well – ask anyone who’s eaten pie at my house. But, as of today, the Crisco is chicken feed. A lard-and-butter pie crust is worlds apart.

It doesn’t look quite as good. It gets puffy, and the clean edges of the crimp get lost, but I’ve never been one to sacrifice taste for looks. The flake! The flavor! The crisp edges!

You already knew this, I suspect. And I knew it too, at least in theory. But I’d never had a supply of lard in my refrigerator before. From here on in, I’ll never be without one. Even if it means really good fences.

11 people are having a conversation about “Rethinking pig

  1. I made a tomato galette recently using lard in the crust for the first time, and I would have to agree with you. It’s also a wonder in biscuits, and for frying up potatoes. I’d read in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions that lard is okay for you, so I ran out and bought a bunch of it, only to find out later that the commercial kind has the wrong kind of additives in it to extend its shelf life which are not good for you. So your home made stuff is evidently the way to go, which I will take up when we finally get around to ordering a porker. First I have to get a freezer to hold the rest of the hog though…

  2. beachnitpicker says:

    On the farm where I spent my childhood summers we raised a pig every year. He was called by name (a different one each year, of course–my great-uncle ran through the alphabet, generally using Biblical names), treated with respect and didn’t seem bored or discontented. When I let him out of the pen he would happily follow me into the pine grove behind the chicken yard, where he would root around for hours while I read. Two pigs though, I suspect, have a different relationship to their human caretakers. They conspire against them. With one pig you get the Stockholm syndrome.

  3. I am assured that pigs are easy to fence with pig net (special wire) fastened to sturdy posts, and a couple strands of electric fence. Pigs are very respectful of electric fences. Well, this is what my husband tells me as he too is desperate to keep a couple of pigs again.

    I think it’s when you get breeding stock that the fencing becomes a bigger issues – boars can be insistent when they smell a sow in oestrus. But a pair of weiners would be manageable. They are quite social so maybe a pair would be kinder, I don’t know.

    I bet you’ll be making pie for Thanksgiving! The crust looks great. Lard is definitely the secret ingredient. I also read if you substitute juice for the water (eg apple juice if it’s an apple pie) it really enhances the flavour.

  4. I don’t know about Tamar, but if I hand-raised two pigs from piglets I’d probably only end up with two very large pets– don’t think I’d be able to even send them to a slaughterhouse, let alone slaughter them myself.

    But anonymous pigs… in pie crust? I’m all over it! (It’s true– Tamar makes a mean pecan pie!)

  5. I would love to try lard in my pie crust. Do you know where to find lard without additives? Does such a beast exist?

    Wellfleet has been having issues with a family that is raising pigs, so if you decide to raise one, you might want to talk to the health department in order to avoid whatever the problem was.

  6. Paula — We had to take the freezer step also, and have found it to be well worth it. With our half-pig, our garden overflow, and the endless miscellania, it’s come in very handy.

    BNP — I’d be afraid that one pig would be lonely and tend to act out. But Stockholm Syndrome sheds a new light …

    Jen — You always make everything sound easy. Just a few sturdy posts and some wire, and you’re good to go.

    Lisa — Yeah, I wouldn’t look forward to the slaughtering part, but I’d be committed.

    Alexandra — I’m not sure where to get lard. I’d try a butcher, I think. As for keeping pigs, I think the problem with the family in Wellfleet was that the neighbors thought they didn’t have enough land, and were too close to other houses, to have pigs without disturbing other people. There goest the neighborhood! Since we have two acres, and only one close neighbor (who’s very friendly, and interested in what we’re doing), I think we could get away with it.

  7. Tamar- my aunt swears by frying her crepes in lard…it’s been years since I had them, but they were heavenly as I recall.

  8. I’m sorry, but lard? In this day and age? Do you know how many southerners have died of stroke and heart disease due to LARD? Sorry, but fat is unhealthy, even if that pie tastes delish.

  9. Cara — Lard’s gotten something of a bad rap. The kind you render yourself is actually better for you than some other kinds of fats. For starters, only about a third of the fat in it is saturated. It’s also rich in oleic acid (that’s one of the compounds in olive oil), which seems to be good for cognitive function and blood pressure. My particular lard probably also has omega-3 fats. (Of the two fats in my crust, butter is the worse offender.)

    Commercial lard is a different proposition, as it has generally been hydrogenated, and current nutrition science has hydrogenated fats as the worst kind.

    Fat, the macronutrient, isn’t unhealthy per se. Some fats (saturated, primarily) seem to be, whereas others (monounsaturated, omega-3) definitely aren’t. This obviously doesn’t mean you should eat pie crust instead of vegetables, but the occasional slice probably won’t do much harm.

  10. That’s a lot of meat and prep. Sure you’re not better off continuing to split one with the friend? Plus there’s the emotional attatchment. Pigs are pretty smart. Some say their personality is very similar to a dog’s. A former co-worker of mine did something similar with a couple of cows one year, and her kids were devastated to learn that “George” was now in the casserole.

Converstion is closed.