Just discovered this forum via a search engine's results for my question about lard. The information I found was good, but I'm still not certain of the answer to MY question, since there are a couple of things that make it a bit different.
First, I am an American, but I live in Central America, so the answer to my question must be based upon "just the facts" - ignoring what may be THOUGHT of as "notmal" in America.
Second, I am talking about butcher shops (carnicerías) that are VERY basic and not at all like American supermarkets.
Third, this is the TROPICS and the temperature MAY get as low as 64F, at times, but tends to be 86F most days of the year.
With all of that said, my question is what I should expect to find when I encounter straight-up, natural, not hydrogenated, etc. lard in such an environment.
What I HAVE found are unrefrigerated bags that the butchers SAY contain manteca de cerdo (lard), but that are mostly a golden oil with varying amounts of white solids (less than the amount of liquid) floating in it.
Although I have never used lard, I had always pictured it as a solid, such as butter would be. In my researching this, however, I have read that lard is usually solid at room temperature but that processors fully or partially hydrogenate it (removing many of its benefits) to make it "more stable." Of course, "room temperature" is usually considered to be about 72F, but that doesn't account for rooms in Central America. On the other hand, II have also read that lard melts at 30C and that just happens to be the same as 86F, which IS the typical temperature around here.
Can any of you (maybe especially those who have done their own rendering) tell me what I SHOULD expect to find, considering all that I have written above? Is this golden liquid with occasional white chunks really the same lard as one would use for pastry? Would I, perhaps, have to chill it before, for example, making a pie crust, or could it be used directly in its liquid form?
Are there any other questions I should be asking you guys about this, but have neglected to ask, due to my unfamiliarity?
What makes a lard crust so flaky is the chunks of fat, which only melt once put into the hot oven.
These air pockets, formed by the melting lard, is what gives it its flakiness.
In warm weather, I have actually frozen the lard the night before.
I then run it over a coarse cheese grater before mixing it with the flower.
You want the lard to still be solid when the pie goes into the oven.
Otherwise, you end up with an oily, but not flaky crust.
Natural lard is less saturated than butter, and will be softer than butter at the same temperature. I can imagine that natural lard would be a golden liquid if the temps are in the 80's. Your nose will know--if it's good stuff it should smell delicious!
The reason they hydrogenate lard is that then it is less likely to go rancid. Natural lard can go rancid in warm temps. It won't smell good at that point.
Lard from around the kidneys is hard (almost waxy) at room temp, and lard from the rest of the pig is much softer, maybe even liquid at tropical room temps. The Wikipedia page on Lard has some estimated melting points for different lard types which confirm this: leaf fat (kidneys) melts at 43-48 C (109-118 F), while backfat melts at 30-40 C (86-104 F).
In some countries you can't really trust that things ARE what they say they are - why not buy the fat and render it yourself? Then you'll be sure, no doubts, that it's lard. If you worry it may be rancid/old (if it's not refrigerated) maybe find out where they sell pigs/kill pigs and see if you can buy it directly off the hog.
The lard can be liquid at room temp, especially if they're free-range and not grain fed. That lard is healthier but harder to use for cooking, depending on what you use it for. Pigs in Appalachia fed on acorns and chestnuts have liquid fat and they used to feed them corn before butchering because nobody liked the fat so soft.
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
Lard was the only shortening that we used in my home until I married and had my own home. We butchered our own pigs and made our lard. Like you said our temperatures are not as warm as yours but our lard was always in solid form. What you are seeing in the yellow color, I believe your lard is already a little rancid from the heat. I say this because anytime we have melted our lard it never had a yellow color to it; it was more clear. Any good quality butcher shop with these climate conditions would store the lard in a cooler. I would not buy it like this.