La Cucina Stagionale

Blog for A Posto Personal Chef Services LLC in Newport, Oregon

Archive for the tag “lard”

Eating Saturated Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

I read on the internet that butter and other saturated fats have recently been found ‘not guilty’ of causing any of the crimes they have been accused of in the past!  Woohoo!  These quotes are from an article from The Boston Globe:

Decades after Americans began switching from whole milk to skim, from butter to olive oil, and from red meat to turkey breast — all in an effort to cut saturated fat — nutrition researchers have concluded that saturated fat might not be so bad for our hearts after all. A new study that received a lot of attention last week analyzed a trove of data from 27 clinical trials and 49 population studies and found no difference in heart disease rates among those who had the least amount of saturated fat compared to those who consumed the most.

People given fish oil supplements in clinical trials were no less likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease than those who took placebos. Ditto for those who switched to olive oil — a monounsaturated fat shown to improve cholesterol levels — as well as for those who embraced polyunsaturated fats, like vegetable oil.


The research, published last Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that only trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils were linked to a moderately higher rate of heart disease, but these artificial fats have largely been taken out of the food supply and will likely be banned altogether by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“I think the evidence is really clear that the dietary guidelines shouldn’t be focusing on reducing saturated fat,” said study coauthor Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health. “There is no good evidence that low-fat dairy products are healthier than high-fat dairy.” His previous research found that those who ate butter, whole milk, and cheddar cheese had a lower diabetes risk than those who opted for skim milk and fat-free yogurt.

So, saturated fat, like eggs, are once again OK to eat (our grandmother’s knew this) and if they don’t make us fat what does?  How about excessive amounts of SUGAR! 

According to another article from The Huffington Post and Christiane Northrup, MD:

Fat is not the enemy when it comes to cardiovascular disease, weight gain, brain health, and so many other issues. It turns out that sugar — in all its many guises — is the real culprit for making you fat. What it also means is that because sugar causes inflammation throughout the body, it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease — and just about everything else!

We’ve all been sold a bill of goods about so-called healthy low-fat foods like cookies and muffins. When you begin to read labels, you’ll quickly see how much sugar is added to just about everything, especially to low-fat foods. When the fat is removed, so is the flavor. To make it more palatable, sugar, sugar substitutes, and salt are added in its place. And as you continue to read labels, I think you’ll be surprised by how much sugar is also in so-called healthy foods, like yogurt, tomato sauce, many fruit juices — even some salad dressings.

I can tell you without a doubt, it’s the sugar that so many of us struggle with, not the fat. Think about it. It’s NOT the burger with cheese and bacon that’s the issue. It’s the ketchup, the bun, and the fries. These are all carbs that instantly raise your blood sugar, because they are higher on the glycemic index than plain old table sugar. This is what I mean by sugar in all its guises.

Foods with little fat and loaded with sugar don’t leave you satiated after a meal — at least not for long. We need the fat to feel sated. Without it, we crave more sugary foods — until we learn to switch to or at least incorporate better food choices. It’s like being on a blood sugar roller coaster. Your body is subjected to the blood sugar highs and lows, and you literally NEED the sugar to feel OK when you’re in one of the lows.

So let’s not kid ourselves anymore about what’s really making us fat. Sugar is the leading culprit today in causing inflammation. Here are some specific stats from anarticle printed in February 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], which are worth sharing: [2]

  • Sugar is connected to an increased risk of heart attack and dementia, as well as other inflammatory diseases, such as insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver problems, arthritis, reduction in beneficial HDL cholesterol, increase in triglycerides, and cancer.
  • Those with the highest sugar intake had a 400 percent higher risk of heart attack than those with the lowest intake of sugar. Note the current recommendation by the American Heart Association: One’s daily intake of sugar should be only 5-7.5 percent of one’s total caloric intake.
  • It takes only one 20-ounce soda to increase your risk of heart attack by 30 percent.
  • If you consume 20 percent of your calories from sugar, your risk of heart attack doubles.

These statistics were determined after adjusting for independent risk factors for heart attack, such as smoking, high blood pressure, alcohol intake, and other factors.

If that’s not bad enough, it is sugar, not fat, that creates abdominal fat.

Did you know that the average American consumes 132 pounds of sugar a year? [3] And the rise in sugar intake in recent years has played a key role in the increase in the cellular inflammation — and the soaring obesity and diabetes rates?

I couldn’t have said it better myself!  I always tell my students in the cooking classes that I teach that whole foods, not low fat food are better for us because in order to provide the mouth feel, taste, texture or whatever is needed to replicate the whole food, ‘stuff’ is added (usually in the form of sugar) to low-fat foods that are not good for us.  I only use whole dairy products, and I am an avid user of saturated and healthy monounsaturated fats for cooking.  That means butter, ghee, lard, duck and chicken fat, beef tallow, coconut oil and olive oil.  I sparingly use sesame, peanut, sunflower and grape seed oils and I look for the ones that are organic, unrefined and expeller pressed.  Any other oil can be toxic because of the way it was processed/refined.  And canola oil is a GMO no matter if it’s organic or not, so it is never even considered.

The closer we stay to the natural state of a food item, then the better it is for us.  Too much processing and refining strips away vital nutrients we need for our health and man made replacements are really no comparison to the real thing.  Sure, I occasionally eat fast or processed food, but I don’t make a habit of it, and who doesn’t love a Marie Callender’s pot pie?  Smile   I can honestly say, however, that 95% of my pantry contains only whole foods while the remaining 5% is refined or processed.  I am certainly not going to grind my own grains for flour, or mill my own rice, or make my own baking soda or powder, but I am conscientious of what I buy and I make sure it is as additive free as possible (with exception to the occasion frozen pot pie—I just avoid reading the ingredients label).  We don’t need all of that excess ‘stuff’ in our food and the only way to keep from ingesting it is to make our own.   So, yes, I do make my own pot pie and many other dishes that can be found in the frozen food section.  It takes a little longer, but is so worth it in the end.  And now I don’t have to feel bad about eating saturated fats as I now know, and so do you, it’s not fat that makes one fat!  Buon Appetito!


cucina bene; mangia bene (for the preservation of fat)

So I just bought a pork belly from a local butcher and a hunk of fatback from a local farmer.   I’ve been making my own pancetta since my return from Italy in 2010 and am planning to make more with the belly.  Pancetta is really easy to make: just cure the belly (I use half at a time) with salt, sugar, herbs and spices for a week in the fridge; then roll it, tie it and hang it somewhere so it can cure for 2 plus weeks.  I use a bathroom shower for the curing as it’s nice and dark and has plenty of air circulation.  Don’t worry, I have another shower so I can sacrifice this one for the cause.  I check the pancetta every other day to make sure there is no green mold growing on it.  While no mold is desirable, white mold is tolerated while green must be contained.  White mold means flavor and green mold means ROT!  I dip a cotton swab in white vinegar and apply it to the afflicted area when I do find it as the acid in the vinegar chases the mold away.  Anyway, after two weeks in the shower, the pancetta is ready and it is delicious!  You can find the recipe I use here:

This is what the last one looked like:


Here it is in the shower:


Before I make another pancetta, I am going to try to make lardo.  Lardo is cured fatback which is sliced very thin and put on warm bread or pizza.  It is made anywhere in Italy pork is eaten, but it is most famous in two places: Toscana (Colonnata), where they use marble or alabaster boxes to cure the lardo, and Valle d’Aosta (Arnad).  Both are still produced today in very limited quantities and are D.O.P. products.  D.O.P. or Denominazione di Origine Protetta is one of several categories in a legal framework developed to protect and guarantee many traditional Italian agricultural products. D.O.P. helps to avoid confusion between products, protect producers, and guarantees the product’s integrity. Essentially, it is a type of labeling for agricultural products whose characteristics and nature are highly linked to a specific, defined geographic area where that product is produced, processed.

I was lucky enough to try lardo on several occasions while in Italy during my time in culinary school and I can tell you that it is incredible and why I’ve decided to try to make it myself.  I already make a spreadable lardo (lardo battuto) from rendered lard that has chopped rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic in it.  It can be used in place of butter and is also very delicious.

My piece of fatback is 4 lbs. and has some meat still attached to it, so I will have to trim it up a bit.  I just ordered a glass container for curing so I should be able to get started next week.  In Italy, it can take up to 6 months to cure lardo, but I’ll probably go about 2 months for my first batch to see how it tastes.  The longer you leave it in the brine, the saltier it gets so it’s best to undercure the first time around.  I want that ‘melt in the mouth’ texture and can’t wait for Bruce to make a pizza with it.

lardo pizza

Many countries besides Italy preserve pork fat.  When an animal was slaughtered in the past, it was used in its entirety including the fat.  Over time, these practices have diminished, but there has been a resurgence of late to bring back the ‘old ways’ (think of the nose-to-tail term) and making lardo is one of them.  I would much rather consume a fat that is free of GMO’s, preservatives, hydrogen, or anything that isn’t natural. I’ll be back with another post once I get curing.  In the meantime, try making lardo battuto……you’ll be so happy you did.  Buon appetito!


Lardo Battuto:


1 cup rendered lard (preferably from a drug free pig)

1-2 tsp. chopped garlic

1-2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary and sage

Sea salt and black pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients together and serve with warm bread, on crackers, or on pizza crust.  Try frying an egg or potatoes in it.  Add a spoonful to bean soup or to mashed potatoes.  The possibilities are endless.

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