Local Heart, Global Soul

November 30, 2012

Ingredient Search: Shortening

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In my quest to recreate a “proper” Kiwi-style meat pie in the Netherlands , I’ve come up against a few obstacles.

One of them was obtaining metal baking forms to get the classic pie shape. After searching high and low in the Netherlands (understandably) without success because there is no meat pie culture here,  I put it these baking forms my shopping list for our next trip to New Zealand and subsequently bought some in Christchurch New Zealand.

The other thing I was having trouble finding was shortening… a.k.a. lard.

Incorporating a small amount of shortening/lard into your shortcrust  pastry is what gives a flaky crisp bite to the crust rather than a soggy weak doughy mush… but finding shortening was turning out to be more of the hassle than I first thought.

First I asked in the supermarket… big mistake. I was directed to a block of  “bakboter ” which I know is a sort of cooking butter that I know my aunts like to fry meat in. I really didn’t think sounded right for my pastry at all but the lady pulled over a colleague and they both  insisted that this is what shortening was in the Netherlands.  I took some home and made pastry with it on more than one occasion… the pastry survived and was edible but it was light-years away from my Kiwi meat pies in taste.

Knowing that my pastry still wasn’t right my next step was to contact a butcher… and confirmed that what I needed wasn’t bakboter, but  “reuzel” (translates literally as pig or beef fat, lard, shortening).

I now have reuzel sourced from several butchers… if you want to get hold of some, be warned that some butchers no longer stock it because demand is so low these days.

Some would order it for me, one butcher said he only stocks a packet or two at a time and we got the last packet.  Another butcher had two packets and we took both. In all instances the reuzel  was frozen, so be prepared to buy it when you can get  back home in time to get it  into your freezer before it thaws.

One packet cost about Euro 2,50 for 250 grams, the other two at roughly the same weight (pictured in blocks) was a bit cheaper.

Ok, it’s fat, but shortening is also fat (just with a more politically correct name) and yes I have made several test-runs of pastry with shortening in it. The taste was a lot like the classic Kiwi meat pie that I’ve been missing from home.

Bearing in mind that making the pies is labour intensive and is nowhere on any health-food list,  I won’t be making them very often, but when I do I want them to taste like the real thing  and not some lacklustre  imposter, so I figure that the use of a little bit of shortening can be excused now and again.

So if you want to make  savoury pie with a crisp and flaky shortcrust pastry,  get friendly with your local butcher and find yourself some reuzel .

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My recipe called or half shortening and half margarine…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

3 Comments »

  1. Funny that you should mention lard which was a topic of recent conversation among friends who cook. None of us know where to buy it but we all remembered our grandmothers pie crusts which had lard as a main ingredient.

    Comment by Lulu — November 30, 2012 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Here in much of the U.S., lard is still easy enough to find (maybe not surprisingly!), usually in the “international foods” aisle, although I don’t know too many people who use it anymore. The ”bakboter” you describe must be the equivalent of our vegetable shortening. My mom used to render her own lard from remnants and strained grease –which sounds absolutely disgusting now that I’m a vegetarian adult, but made everything so delicious when I was a kid! — but I’ve never seen it sold as chunks of fat.

    It’s strange that even something as simple as lard might become obsolete, in favor of “easier” things.

    Comment by Luddy's Lens — December 1, 2012 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  3. Like Luddy said, you can find lard in the U.S. relatively easily in “foreign” groceries, e.g. Mexican markets. My mom buys lard for when she makes tamales but I think she usually uses vegetable shortening in her pie crusts.

    Comment by Carrie — December 4, 2012 @ 11:50 pm | Reply


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