A new leaf

Illustration By Mark Stivers

For years I’ve been hearing about leaf lard as the gold standard for flaky pie crust. My old edition of Joy of Cooking even calls for it. But the only lard I see in shops is a stack of those hydrogenated, highly processed bricks, and butchers look at me funny when I ask. Leaf fat surrounds the kidneys of pigs, so every pig has some, presumably. Thus, I asked my friendly local hog farmer, John Bledsoe, who brought many pounds of the fat to the farmers’ market for me one day. Once it was home, I cut it into little pieces, put it in a pot, and rendered it—a task that was, I’m not going to lie to you, rather smelly and icky. But I ended up with nearly 3 quarts of lard in my freezer and made a truly delicious pie crust for a chicken pot pie the other day. Was it that much better than a Crisco-and-butter crust (my usual)? I’m not sure. But I’m glad I got a chance to try.