Lard is nothing more than pig fat. It’s considered lard in both its rendered state and its unrendered state. Rendering simply means to “cook the fat out of”. Basically, what the rendering process does is dry out the material and separates the fat from the protein. The rendered fat can then be used for frying or other applications.
Many people start to panic when they see the word lard being used in a recipe. That’s due mostly to decades of conditioning from so-called scientific studies; many of which are simply done to further one particular agenda or another. Remember when eggs where the worst thing you could possibly eat? In reality, they are actually quite good for you with the yolk containing a ton of great vitamins and minerals.
But I’ll leave it at that. If you want to learn more about how natural foods like butter and lard became villainized by certain large corporations and replaced with the unhealthy alternitives we have today, I would recommend heading over to The Daring Gourmet and check out their post entitled: How To Render Lard (and why you should use it).
Now health-wise, it can’t really compete with olive oil. However, it does contain a lot more vitamin D than butter (butter and lard are the only two fats that contain vitamin D), and it only contains around 40% saturated fat. Butter on the other hand has something like 60% saturated fat. So if nothing else, just eat it in moderation. That seems to work for the rest of the world.
So moving on. Lard can be obtained from basically any part of the pig that has a high proportion of adipose tissue. Otherwise simply known as ‘fat’. That means, there are certain parts of the pig that will provide more lard than others. You’ll have much better luck rendering fat from the belly of the pig, as opposed to other parts.
There are different grades of lard as well. Leaf lard, the highest grade available, comes from the “flare” visceral fat deposit that surrounds the kidneys as well as being located inside the loin. Leaf lard contains little pork flavor and is an ideal choice for use in baked goods where it can help produce moist flaky pie crusts.
Many people keep a container full of lard to which they can add to whenever they cook pork. Bacon is a common way of obtaining lard. In this way, they always have lard on hand whenever they need it. Put a lid on it and keep it in the refrigerator where it will store for months.
The term lard can also be used as an insult. Typically it’s preceded with the word ‘fat’ making it a redundant insult. A good example of using ‘lard’ as an insult comes from the movie Napoleon Dynamite when Napoleon, being obviously annoyed at something, says to his pet llama, “Tina, you fat lard, come get some dinner!”