Lard is rendered and clarified pork fat, the quality of which depends on the area the fat came from and the method of rendering. The very best is leaf lard, which comes from the fat around the animal's kidneys. Unprocessed lard has quite a strong flavor and a soft texture. Lard can be processed in many ways including filtering, bleaching, hydrogenation and emulsification. In general, processed lard is firmer (about the consistency of vegetable shortning), has a milder, more nutlike flavor and a longer shelf life. Lard is richer than many other fats and therefore makes extremely tender, flaky biscuits and pastries. It's a flavorful fat for frying and is widely used throughout South America and many European countries. When substituting lard for butter in baking, reduce the amount by 20 to 25 percent. All lard should be tightly wrapped to prevent absorption of other flavors. It may be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, depending on how it has been processed. Always check the label for storage directions.

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