Friday, June 23, 2023



By Mary Davis


Lard? Or shortening?

What’s the difference?

A whole lot and not much.

To understand Crisco, I needed to understand what lard was. I heard this term growing up but never quite knew the exact definition. All I only knew it was shortening but not shortening. I honestly didn’t care enough to look it up as a child. What child would?

Anyway, lard was made from animal fat, generally pork. Families could make this themselves on their farms, and it was the popular cooking product for decades. By the late 19th century after the fall pig slaughter, meat processing companies began making lard on an industrial scale.

People didn’t seem to mind that everything they cooked with it—even cakes and pies—had a hint of a pork taste. I guess if that was what you were used to, you wouldn’t know the difference. Pork cookies, anyone?

The robust cotton industry produced piles and heaps and mountains of useless cottonseeds, which were mostly left to rot. Because these seeds were highly abundant and significantly cheaper than animal fat lard, cottonseed oil was created. However, the early attempts to mill them made an oil that was both smelly and a dark color, and oh so unappealing.

Enter David Wesson who pioneered bleaching and deodorizing techniques in the industry in the late 19th century, which caused cottonseed oil to be both clear and neutralized the stench. Companies began selling this new cottonseed oil by itself or mixed with animal fat to create shortening, which they then sold in pails to resemble lard. Because lard was what people were used to, they would know how to use it.

Crisco was a different kind of fat. Instead of mixing an animal fat with liquid oil to make it solid, Crisco was the first solid shortening made entirely from plant oil, using a process called hydrogenation. French chemist Paul Sabatier first developed the hydrogenation process, which others, including Proctor & Gamble, advanced further. This came to be known as “the Crisco process.”

Cottonseed oil had a bad rap because people associated it with clothing, soap, dyes, roofing tar, and explosives, but not food. With that list of atrocious uses, I don’t know that I would want to cook with it. Exploding food doesn’t sound appealing.

So in 1911 when Crisco launched, Proctor and Gamble went a different route than other companies who highlighted that their product came from cottonseeds. P&G chose to avoid mentioning the main—and only—ingredient to focus on trusting a reliable brand and not worrying about what was in it. No laws at the time prevented this lack of disclosure.

This marketing ploy worked wonders for them and was so successful that other companies followed suit. In the first five years, sales skyrocketed with sixty million cans sold annually in the U. S. That’s three cans a year per family.

One of many such ads.

Unlike lard, butter, and olive oil, Crisco had a neutral taste, could last for years on the shelf, and had a high smoke temperature for frying. The perfect fat. (If there is such a thing.) To help sales even more, P&G gave away cookbooks that called for Crisco in every recipe.

To stay away from any connection to cottonseeds, the phrase “crystallized cottonseed oil” was modified into Crisco. So, we went from lard made from animal fat, to a lard/vegetable oil mixture, to Crisco—an all-vegetable solid shortening. Though no longer made from cottonseed oil, it is still made with vegetable oils.

Back to my original question—what’s the difference between lard and shortening?

Pork flavored desserts!

THE LADY’S MISSION (Quilting Circle 5)

2023 SELAH Award Finalist

Will Cordelia abandon her calling for love? Cordelia Armstrong wants nothing more than to escape the social norms for her station in society. Unless she can skillfully maneuver her father into giving up control of her trust fund, she might have to concede defeat—as well as her freedom—and marry. Every time Lamar Kesner finds a fascinating lady, her heart belongs to another. When a vapid socialite is offered up as a prospective bride, he contemplates flying off in his hot air balloon instead. Is Lamar the one to finally break the determination of Cordelia’s parents to marry her off? Or will this charming bachelor fly away with her heart?

Available for order on Amazon.

MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE LADY’S MISSION. Her other novels include MRS. WITHERSPOON GOES TO WAR, THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (Quilting Circle 3) is a Selah Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; THE WIDOW’S PLIGHT, THE DAUGHTER'S PREDICAMENT, “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection , Prodigal Daughters Amish series, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband of thirty-eight years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:

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  1. Great post, Mary! My mom used Crisco for everything. She was raised on a farm and knew all about lard. In fact, she wasn't much of a pork eater. I wonder if that's why.

  2. Thank you for posting today. I knew what Crisco was, my mom used it, and I have too. Nothing but lard makes a good doughnut, according to my husband.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post, Mary! How informative it is. I remember my aunt and uncle talking about "rendering lard" back in the day. I do buy Crisco. But, I've had shortening go rancid setting on the shelf. I keep it in the refrigerator to prevent that happening.