National Lard Day
annually on December 8th (since 2018)
Healthy Fats Coalition in 2018
National Lard Day celebrates pure lard, a long-shunned animal fat that has gained a resurgence in popularity in food culture, restaurants, and home kitchens in the first decades of the twenty-first century. Lard is rendered pig fat. Minimally processed, its proponents claim it is far superior in nutritiousness than "heavily processed, industrially produced substitutes" like artificial trans fats. National Lard Day was started by the Healthy Fats Coalition, a group made up of organizations, companies, and individuals who advocate for animal fats as a healthy and essential part of the diet.
Lard is versatile, being used in deep and shallow frying, baking, and other cooking. It adds and brings out flavors, increases crispness, thickens sauces, and makes baked goods light, flaky, and moist. It is used to make homemade sausage, paté, tamales, and carnitas, and can even be spread on toast. It is probably most used to make pastry crusts, being perfect for making empanadas and amazingly flaky pie crusts. There are two main types of lard, fresh lard, and shelf-table lard. Fresh lard, or pure lard, the healthier of the two, is refrigerated, and is the kind specifically celebrated today. Shelf-table lard is not as healthy because it may contain trans fats.
For a time, lard was just as popular as butter, if not more so, but it started being supplanted with vegetable oils in the early twentieth century. It was not until the twenty-first century that it started being reevaluated and making a comeback. Dairy-free, made up of one unprocessed ingredient and containing virtually no carbohydrates or protein, lard is a healthier option than some other fats, and has some health benefits.
Fat is essential to life—providing energy and helping the body absorb some vitamins and process carbohydrates—and lard is full of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It does contain saturated fat, which should be limited, but it has less of it than butter and coconut oil does. Perhaps of greatest importance, pure lard contains no trans fat, the unhealthy fat that historically was common in vegetable shortening. Lard is also high in vitamin D, a substance crucial for immune function and supporting the body in other ways. For its health benefits and the improvements it brings to food, lard is celebrated today with National Lard Day!
How to Observe National Lard Day
Celebrate by eating foods with lard! Find some recipes online that use lard. Pie crust and carnitas are two foods you could try your hand at. You could also pick up a cookbook such as The Artisan Lard Cookbook, Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient, or The Fat Kitchen: How to Render, Cure & Cook with Lard, Tallow and Poultry Fat. The best lard comes from the choicest part of the pig and can be purchased at butcher and meat specialty shops. You could purchase lard there or make your own. Another way to take part is to become a member of the organization that created the day, Healthy Fats Coalition.