Praise the Lard

True confession.  I’ve made a lot of pie dough and pastry in my time, but I’ve never used lard.  I’ve always considered it to be shortening’s big, bad cousin. Being an animal fat, it’s associated (in a bad way) with obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. That being said, proponents swear that lard makes the flakiest pastry possible and the few samples I’ve tasted in the past made me agree.  I thought it time to learn a little about lard.

It turns out that pure lard is healthier than most of us think.  It contains no trans fat and is 60% monosaturated fat. It contains more saturated fat than olive oil but less than butter.  Really? Yes, really. It’s not perfect; fat is still fat. And lard today isn’t pure the way it once was, now containing hydrogenated fats and other non-naturally occurring ingredients. But in moderation, like anything else, it’s okay to indulge in a little lard-based pastry now and again.

To that end, when I started the annual tourtiere bake-off last week, I decided to use Tenderflake lard for my pastry instead of the usual shortening or shortening/butter combo.  The lard looked like shortening, cut in and mixed like shortening, but then something different happened. Once the dough came together, it felt soft and, well, tender. It rolled out and shaped more smoothly than any pastry I’d made before and it was so easy to work with.  That was enough to sell me on using lard for pastry but this, this was the final push.


Layers and layers of flaky goodness, slightly crisp on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth good on the inside.  Makes you want to go and bake a pie, doesn’t it?

I’ve been using this tourtiere recipe for years now and haven’t a clue where I originally found it or how much I might have changed it. Here you go, Jennifer. Ready, set, BAKE!

Tourtiere (8 servings)

1 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 lb. ground pork

(feel free to change meat mix to 1/2 lb. each ground beef, ground pork, and ground veal)

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Pastry for 1  9″ or 10″double pie crust

Combine ground beef, ground pork, onion, and water in a large saucepan, mixing well. Bring to boil, then cook, covered, over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Halfway through cooking time, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover pot and bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium high, and cook partially uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes; drain. When meat mixture is cooked, add in spices and stir thoroughly.  Add potatoes and mash meat/potato mixture with a potato masher until well-combined and smooth. Line 9″ or 10″ pie plate with 1 pie crust and brush water onto edge. Spoon filling into pie crust and smooth, topping with second pie crust, and pressing along edge of pie dish to seal. Trim and flute crust any way you’d like and brush top and edges with egg wash (one egg beaten with a couple of teaspoons cold water). Bake in preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350° and continue baking for 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Tourtiere may be cooled slightly and served hot, or served at room temperature.  Either way, put some chili sauce on the table to go with it.

I find that this recipe freezes well. Cool completely then chill until cold. Wrap pie, plate included (you may want to bake pies for the freezer in aluminum pie pans) with cling film and overwrap in foil.  Place in large freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a 300° oven until warmed through.

8 responses to “Praise the Lard

  1. I have Anne’s tourtiere before, and didn’t think it needed any improvement! Anything she bakes is delicious, but I must admit to being relieved to finally have a proper recipe so I can bake one for Christmas this year. Leo’s son, Michael, the two adult grandkids, and my sister are coming, and I don’t want to have to buy one again – homemade is always best! Many thanks, and a Cheery Christmas to you!

    • Thanks, Phyllis! When you make it you’ll quickly notice that there’s really nothing to tourtiere but time. And if you’re short on time, Tenderflake frozen pie crusts are a decent substitute for homemade. Merry Christmas!

  2. Sounds delicious, I just might try making a tourtière this year. Can you post your pastry recipe too? I’ve never had much luck with flaky pastry, maybe yours will be the breakthrough I need!😉

    • I doubt you’ll have any trouble with tourtiere, Karin. My pie crust recipe is pretty basic. For a double crust, add a pinch of salt to 2 cups of flour and stir. Cut in 2/3 c. cold shortening or lard, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture with 2-3 tablespoons of ice water and stir to combine, adding more ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to hold together. Press together, then separate into 2 balls and wrap in cling film, pressing dough into a thick disc. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
      I often add a touch of extra flavour to the dough by adding herbs or spices to the flour with the salt – a bit of cinnamon or perhaps dried thyme for tourtiere, some grated lemon zest for lemon meringue pie, etc. Anything that ties into the flavour of the pie filling would work well.

  3. This is the very same recipe used by Little’Wee’s” mom back in the late 1898 in Quebec. It was handed down to grandma then to me. This is the recipe I would make when you came home during Xmas. so its quite possible that I shared it with you. So glad you are still using it. Love. Mom.

  4. Lorna Fraser Lewington

    My mom made the pastry ever, and the best cookies, using lard. Yesterday I made ginger cookies, and cringed when I saw the recipe called for lard. However, I sent out the hubby to buy some lard….I am not the baker my mom was known for being, but those cookies taste mighty fine. My one and only time making a tourtière, was not so successful. I substituted butter for the lard that the recipe listed. Thanks for sharing your recipe, Anne! Looks delicious! Like life, everything in moderation works.

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