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Ready for summer's pies: Woolly pig leaf lard

May 6, 2011 |  8:00 am

Yesterday I was browsing through my Twitter feed at warp speed when the words "Mangalitsa" and "lard" brought me to a screeching halt. Evan Kleiman (@evankleiman), host of KCRW's "Good Food," had tweeted or re-tweeted that McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz is now selling Mangalitsa leaf lard.

Fantastic! I’ve been lugging the same leaf lard home from Seattle’s U-District Farmers Market, where Heath Putnam Farms sells bacon and lard from Hungary’s Mangalitsa (MON-go-leet-sa), or woolly pig. The curly-headed beast is closely related to Europe’s wild boars and has a thick layer of particularly tasty fat, which, according to what I’ve read, is less saturated than that from many other breeds.

After rendering the fat, I used some in every pie crust I made all last summer. The snowy-white lard makes an ineffably flaky crust that has to be tasted to be believed. I’m just about out, so the fact that McCall’s is now selling the stuff is a wonderful thing.

Since the butcher shop is owned by a couple who are both chefs, I asked Nathan McCall and Karen Yoo how they would use the lard.  Nathan said Karen made a batch of biscuits to test the lard.  “They were excellent, easily the most moist and flaky biscuit I’ve eaten," he said. "I've also heard it makes an exceptional pie crust.”

On the savory side, he plans to try duck and pork confit, carnitas, even a quick-cured halibut confit. “I will definitely try utilizing it anywhere I would use duck fat, like beans, potatoes, braised cippolini, fries. The possibilities seem to be endless.” 

McCall’s Meat & Fish Co., 2117 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 667-0674; woolly pig leaf lard is $5 for a half-pound.

Heath Putnam Farms, (253) 833-7591; sells bacon and lard on Saturdays at Seattle’s U-District Farmers Market.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo of woolly pig courtesy of Heath Putnam Farms