“…the concept that fat is the best of foods has been universal with mankind in all lands and climates.  When Christianity spread northward beyond the Mediterranean, the Biblical phrase “to live on the fat of the land” was readily understood in Greece, Italy and France; in Britain, Sweden and up among the Laps.  In English speech fat food was called rich food, which was the highest praise.  The fattest was best among men and gods, in most religions and in all countries.”  Vilhjalmur Stefansson The Fat of the Land as quoted by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions.

In thinking and talking about Mangalitsa hogs and what sets them apart, one of the biggest things is fat.  They are fat.  Their fat is good (if raised properly).  They are unlike a standard hog because of their propensity to be fat.  We get a couple different reactions when we offer people fat (cured into lardo).  Some try it and say it’s good, but a little goes a long way.  I personally like lard and lardo, but strictly in moderation.  Others refuse to try it and you can see in it their eyes: fear of fat.  It’s a fat phobia created by scientists of our day.  It’s a shame, too, because all fats are not the same and they do contribute to health and pleasure. 

Here are a few articles if you’re interested in more reading: Taking the Fear out of Eating Fat, Know your Fats, and, for a long but very informative read, The Skinny on Fats.

Fats carry flavor (that’s one reason we saute in a fat–it enhances the seasoning’s flavors).  Fats help keep meats juicy and tender in cooking.  Fats contain necessary vitamins and minerals.  Fats from grass fed animals (as opposed to strictly grain/corn fed) have a higher Omega-3 fatty acid content, higher vitamin A & D count, and a superior flavor profile.  The importance of the feed to the quality of the fat was driven home to us last winter when we had Mangalitsa lard available.  They were, of course, raised on pasture and barley grain–NO corn.  We have had lard from our own standard breeding, corn fed hogs before.  The corn fed lard went slightly rancid in the rendering process unless very carefully handled.  It was heavy and had a strong flavor.  The Mangalitsa lard had a good flavor–it was light, distinctively flavored but not overwhelming.  It didn’t hint at rancidity.  I could bake or cook with it with no worries about how it would flavor the product–it was all good.

A few more thoughts on fat from various sources as quoted by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:

Besides containing heat units in the proportion of nine o four as compared to candy, natural fat furnishes normal heat and energy as intended by nature; whereas sugars do so by upsetting the body’s chemistry.”  H. Leon Abrams  Your Body Is Your Best Doctor

“Fats have more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates, foods such as sugar, wheat, potatoes and fruits.  Conventional wisdom says that reducing fats in the diet is essential for people who want to lose weight.  That sounds logical doesn’t it?  But it’s not true.  In real life, eating fats helps you lose weight–but only if you make a deep cut in the carbohydrates you eat.  Fats have more calories, but fats satisfy your hunger four or five times as much as carbohydrates.  That’s one of several reasons why eating fats helps people lose weight.”  H.L. Newbold, MD  Type A Type B Weight Loss Book

So, heading into the colder seasons and preparing to celebrate the fat of our hogs, I’m looking forward to fat.