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Not white enough

(post, Sarah Gilbert)

I've recently become enamored with lard, and was thrilled to see Sweet Briar Farms was bringing leaf lard to the market. Leaf lard is, really, just a huge hunk of pork fat, that you must cook down -- or render -- until it's the kind of lard you can use for cooking and baking. Having appreciated the lard I saved from a huge fresh ham I cooked around New Year's, I bought a package on a whim and, after much delaying, finally cooked it down.

It was magical, really; I started without looking at the internet's-full of instructions and stuck it in a covered crock in the oven at 250 degrees and just let it cook, and cook, and cook. While it was cooking, I learned I should have chopped it roughly into cubes first. Ahh well. It worked fine, and soon I had a jar full of almost a pint of lard.

Today the Sweet Briar booth was staffed by two women from the farm, and when I asked for lard I realized she had the rendered kind, too, in lovely tins. It looked even more beautiful, snowy white and creamy, than mine. I said I preferred the leaf lard for the fun of rendering it on my own -- and because it was cheaper -- and the older woman, obviously the chief renderer, was glowing with the lard love. She mixed it with herbs and put it on her bread like butter, she said. She loved it. So much so that she had been working to sell it in stores, too.

One problem, however, had presented itself. She doesn't use a chemical whitener to get the lard really white. And the USDA, I am not making this up, requires a chemical whitener. 

"The USDA mandates food color?" I asked in shock. 

"Yes, they also say I can't sell my bacon without nitrates," she added. "It has to be pink."

She's appealed to the USDA to get an exception on the use of chemicals in her lard. If she doesn't win, she won't sell it in markets, because really: she doesn't believe in chemicals. And she's not compromising.

While she has a customer for life in me, you can bet I won't be looking to the USDA for wisdom anytime soon.