Clarified Pork or Beef Fat for Pastries
Have you ever wondered how a very-pork-and-beef-fat laden household, with no access to Crisco or vegetable oils, made dessert pastries? Butter would have been primarily used, but that was only if a pioneer had a cow AND it wasn't dry. What happened the rest of the time? Did they just go without?
Given the fact that references to pies are made throughout the Little House series, as well as other pioneer literature, AND those references are made throughout the year, including winter, when butter would have been scarce, I knew that the pioneers had to have a trick up their sleeve. I just couldn't imagine they would have used the smoky, savory, rich tasting pork or beef fat as is for a sweet dessert! After much digging, I made a discovery! They clarified their fat!!
Much like the process people use to separate milk solids from the fat in butter, clarifying meat fats helps to remove the smoky, salty flavorful bits and produce a cleaner, and markedly more neutral tasting, fat for non-savory uses. Here is how to do it:
Bring equal parts fat and water to the boil in a heavy bottomed pot or pan
Boil for two minutes
Transfer carefully to a bowl that can withstand boiling temperatures
Let stand until cool enough to move to the refrigerator
Let stand in the fridge overnight
Remove the clarified fat, which will be floating on top, and either discard the waste liquid at the bottom or use it to flavor soups or stews
Use fat in pastry or anywhere you need a less intrusive fat