Leaf Lard Crust… and a So Long Summer Blueberry Pie
Looking for recipes for a lard pie crust, I realize just how special it is that now, in Chattanooga, there is a shop where anyone can go to buy lard… in particular, leaf lard. Leaf lard is from the visceral fat deposit around the kidneys of a pig and has the least amount of pork flavor of any type of lard. This is why it is ideal for making sweet pastries and pie crusts. In my pie crust research over the past few years, so many cookbooks and online recipes said something along the lines of, “The best pie crust is made with leaf lard, but since it is impossible to find… here’s what you do instead.” Fortunately with the re-appreciation of small farms and quality food on the rise, recipe writers won’t have to say that as much anymore. Main Street Meats has lard and leaf lard in their case all the time, and it is cheap! And it keeps for a long long time in your refrigerator! There are many ways to use it, and this flaky, delicious, easy pie crust is just one! (Yes, I said easy… and I meant it.)
For this pie making post, I teamed up with Diane Johnson of Cloudcrest Farm. I picked the blueberries from her blueberry patch, walked them up the hill and into her kitchen, and together we made a pie with leaf lard from Main Street Meats. Summer is almost over and there isn’t much time left to get fresh berries, but this crust is so easy and can be used for any kind of pie or quiche.
Here’s why we say this pie crust is easy… because the lard is just the right consistency to make the pie crust turn out flaky and it just does it naturally. No fussing with freezing butter and trying to cut it up without letting it melt… no worrying about minute details and living in fear that one little slip up could ruin your pie. Leaf lard and pie crust were made for each other. And they just work well together.
Leaf Lard Pie Crust (for a Double Crust Pie)
3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Leaf Lard
2 Pinches Salt
8 T Ice Water
Wax or Parchment Paper or Plastic Wrap
Milk (optional for brushing top crust)
Blueberry Pie Filling
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
4 Cups Fresh (or Frozen) Blueberries
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 T Lemon Juice
Pinch or 2 Lemon Zest (optional)
3 T Corn Starch
3-4 T Butter (for buttering the pie dish and the rest cut into small pieces)
In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and the salt. Add the Lard and using a Pastry Blender, mix until the lard and the flour mixture combine to the consistency of gritty pea-sized or a bit smaller pieces. Using a glass full of ice water, measure out 1 T water at a time, adding it to the flour and lard mixture and stirring with a spoon or your hands. Do this, up to 8 T water, until the dough sticks together to form a ball. It should be sticky and not dried out, but hold its shape easily. Split the dough ball into two equal halves, forming each one into a ball. Wrap the dough balls in parchment or wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so. This is the point at which you can always freeze the dough as well. Or if you are making a single crust pie, throw one in the fridge and one in the freezer for next time. This recipe will make plenty of dough- we ended up trimming off quite a bit, so if you want to make a deep dish pie, go for it!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the blueberries, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and corn starch. Toss gently to avoid breaking the blueberries. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before putting into the crust. After it’s in the crust, top with the butter.
When ready, preheat oven to 450F. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/8-1/4″ thick. (We just get the thickness about right and then use the pie dish to measure the dough to see if it is the right size.) Butter a pie dish and place the dough into the dish, crimping the outside edges with your fingers or a fork. Poke some holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Put your filling in, top with the butter, and then repeat the rolling out process for the top crust. We made a very simple lattice top by cutting 1 inch strips out of our dough and weaving them together for the top crust. We also like to brush our top crust with milk but this it not necessary. Then we sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon on top, also optional. Place in the middle of the preheated oven at 450F for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350F and bake for 35-45 minutes- until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Allow the pie to cool before cutting if you want to avoid a runny pie.