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Lum: Lard pie crusts, part 2 & 3

Su Lum
Slumming

Last week I wrote about my failed attempt to make a good pie crust with the staggeringly expensive lard from Mangalitsa curly-haired pigs that I had ordered from ChefShop.com.

My first attempt didn’t even make it into the oven; it crumbled to bits the second the rolling pin hit it.

Thanks to my readers who sent in pie-crust tips. Everybody said the lard and the water had to be ice cold, a suggestion verified by my research on the Internet as well as my memories of making pies with my grandmother. In fact, the only place I remember seeing a recipe call for lard at room temperature was the usually reliable “Joy of Cooking,” the book I had used for my first experiment.

My next-door neighbor Danielle, who is almost 10, helps my friend Hilary with her gardening extravaganzas in my yard. I’d be content with fava beans and peas, but Hilary doesn’t do anything halfway, and my postage-stamp-sized yard is a glut of flowers and creative trellises that have the sugar snaps reaching for the stars.

Danielle and I share a taste for raw rhubarb, which, eaten gently, can be quite exhilarating. Hilary and Danielle were talking about this (Hilary makes a face of disgust at the very thought of raw rhubarb), which led to plans for them to make a rhubarb pie the next day.

I, of course, was eager for them to use the Mangalitsa lard for the crust — cold this time — to observe how it turned out.

I stayed out of the way as my kitchen was demolished and every cutting board and bowl was brought into play to accommodate strawberries, rhubarb sticks and cups of flour. They were making two pies, and it was no small endeavor.

Danielle worked diligently at the chopping- and then it was time to roll out the crusts, which is where I came in to kibitz and warn them to handle the dough as little as possible and “stop patting it!”

The dough was stiff and hard to roll, even between two pieces of parchment paper. The operation was moved to the living room coffee table, lower than the kitchen counter offering better leverage. Also, there wasn’t enough of the dough, requiring a lot of patching.

The pie was very, very good.

I was planning on a few dinner guests over on Tuesday, so on Monday evening I made yet another Mangalitsa-lard pie, this one plain rhubarb, a recipe I know by heart — it went together quickly.

For the purpose of accuracy in reporting, I began my day Tuesday with a slice of rhubarb pie. Not my normal fare, but my deadline couldn’t wait until after dinner.

It was good — really good — flaky crust. It was as good as, but no better than, Hillary and Danielle’s, despite their mashing and patting — so much for that old wives’ tale.

I feel that I have succeeded in my quest to finally make a decent pie crust, but have concluded that the cost of preparation and clean-up time and the not inconsiderable amount of money invested in the ingredients aren’t really worth the results.

Pillsbury rolled frozen crusts are perfectly respectable, and I think I’ll probably stick to them when I get to the bottom of that four-pound tub of lard.

Su Lum is a longtime local with few gourmet aspirations. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at su@rof.net.


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