Lard is rendered pig fat. Humans have used hogs for food and cooking since prehistoric times. The fat from the pig was employed from these very early days as a cooking medium and ingredient. Uses and recipes evolved according to the needs and tastes of various cultures. How was lard discovered? Like most early foods, probably by accident. Presumably, when early cooks finished cooking hog pieces, they noticed the thick fat (lard) that had congealed after cooling.
Leaf lard, considered the finest grade of lard, surrounds the kidneys of the hog. Commercial leaf lard surfaced in the l880s. Like other shortenings, leaf lard was used for frying and baking. Its “flavorless” quality made it especially appealing because, like the vegetable shortening Crisco (its competitor in later years), lard barely changed the flavor of the finished dish.