Lard refers to the fat of a pig that has been rendered. Lard is commonly used in baking and cooking, in fact, it is considered as a popular ingredient for many recipes. Because of the bad reputation lard has acquired over the decades (it is considered as an unhealthy food item) it has become quite hard to get in some countries and other alternatives like butter or vegetable shortening is being used instead.
Lard can sometimes be sourced from Hispanic groceries or stores. When looking for lard in these stores, lard is usually labeled Manteca, which is the Spanish word for lard. Although there is a bit of confusion sometimes because some people from Latin America use the word Manteca in referring to butter or a butter / margarine mix. If lard is hard to find in commercial establishments, it can be made at home.
Lard is classified into different grades. The best kind of lard is leaf lard, which is made from the fat that is located around the kidneys. Another type of high grade lard is back lard. Lard that is rendered from the other parts of a pig are not as good as the two previous types of lard.
In order to make lard, one can employ either a wet or dry process of rendering fat. In making wet lard, fat is either steamed or boiled, the that that is rendered will float to the top and it can then be simply skimmed off the surface. In dry rendering,a large pan is used and water is not part of the process.