[Sca-cooks] lard vs. olive oil vs. butter

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Sat Nov 22 06:28:30 PST 2008

On Nov 22, 2008, at 1:52 AM, Stefan li Rous wrote:

> Bear said:
> <<< From what I've read, the local fats of southern Europe tended to  
> be lard
> rather than butter and I'm curious as to how extensively butter was  
> used in
> the Moslem cultures of the period. >>>
> Yes, we've discussed butter use in southern Europe previously. But I  
> thought the alternative was olive oil, although lard is also likely.

Olive oil and lard are both common alternatives, but there's no single  
alternative, and it depends on where and when you're speaking of.

> Butter being used less because it doesn't keep as well in warmer  
> climates.

Well, unless you clarify it, which some people did and do in warmer  
climates. Another important consideration is that _cows_ don't always  
do as well in warmer climates.

> But when was olive oil used vs. lard? Why would each be used? I  
> might at first say lard was cheaper than olive oil, but that might  
> not have been the case in the Middle Ages.

Speaking very generally, the local product is going to be cheaper.  
Other considerations are smoke point for frying (the temperature you  
can safely bring your fat to without it deteriorating and going rancid  
too quickly), moisture content (butter is used a lot in pastries  
requiring steam to provide the kind of dramatic inflation you see in  
things like puff pastry because of its water content). And, of course,  
whether or not your religious leaders have placed a temporary ban on  
one or the other.
> Like butter, lard wouldn't have been used on fish days, right? And  
> lard, typically (always?) from pigs wouldn't have been used in the  
> Moslem parts of southern Europe.

Not unless you were a Christian, and in some places conversion wasn't  
complete. But generally, yes, and then these were the people that  
brought us tail-fat, right?


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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