Adventures in Pork Belly

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Grilled, pastured pork belly with garden greens

Sunday dinner brought a first at-home pork belly effort by our resident grill meister, (not me), and, dern, that was good!… I had had visions of pork belly on my mind since my novice exposure to it a few years ago at a lovely restaurant, FIG, in Asheville, NC, where I celebrated completing yoga teacher training. When the pork belly was placed before me that first time, I remember being so taken aback by the thick layer of visible fat that I texted a photo query to my brother, the charcuterie and pig anatomy expert in the family. He educated me on the flavor offerings of that layer of fat, and my tastebuds educated me further. Hello pork belly!

The past few days have brought our pig-centricity into the spotlight for sure: rendering lard, preparing & enjoying pork chops, pork sausage, bacon and pork belly. Additionally my hypothyroidism is treated with a porcine-derived medication, and someone I know and love has a pig heart valve.

I want to reflect on a way to honor the pig and express my deep appreciation for contributing to my wellness. I believe one way to honor the pig is to support farmers who optimize their animals’ living conditions.

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Lard is the New Black

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So, all those vegetable oils we’ve been sold for the last 30 years are now out, and saturated fats — butter, lard and coconut oil, to name a few — are in.

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Chopping up 5 lbs of pastured leaf pork fat from a local farmers market

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into the slow cooker for a few hours on low

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to render into pork lard

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straining the rendered lard into jars

I’ve been reading and listening to the science from the experts and incorporating their wisdom into the nutritional side of healing from my autoimmune condition via the autoimmune protocol (AIP) of the paleo approach. I haven’t used corn, canola or vegetable oils for eight months.

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5 lbs of pork fat rendered into 2 1/2 qts of lard

When we cook with fat, we reach for lard, beef tallow or coconut oil. Olive oil and avocado oil are healthy but not always suggested for cooking. Read more on healthy fats here.