Friday, October 16, 2009

Making Tallow

I use tallow to make soap. It can also be used to make candles. Beef fat is called tallow, pork fat is called lard - prepared in exactly the same way. Tallow is harder than any other common fat and will make a harder soap. Shortening can be used to make vegan soap but the soap won't be as hard as that made with beef fat.

I picked up some beef fat scraps from a butcher nearby and have put them into a pot to render. Rendering is cooking the fat scraps until all the fat has been liquefied, straining it and letting it cool and harden. This separates the fat from other impurities. The fat rises to the top and can be taken off in one hard chunk after it cools. The fat will simmer slowly in this pot for awhile, until I am satisfied that it has cooked long enough.

When it is finished I will strain it through a colander, then through a fine strainer before letting it cool outside on the front porch. If you are cooling it outside, a lid is important. Otherwise you might find little racoon prints in it or you might even find it completely gone! The smell will draw the surrounding animals. I will leave it there throughout the day and bring it in at night. The next morning it will look like this in the pot.

Now that it has cooled I can separate the fat and give the rest to the chickens. They will love it! This is the bottom layer under the pure fat. You will need to make sure none of these impurities get into the tallow.

While the fat simmers, I will go through the rest of my things and make sure I have everything I need to make soap. Tomorrow is a holiday, after all, and there will be nowhere open to buy ingredients.

This is the pure tallow. Isn't it beautiful! It looks just like lard or shortening from the store!

If you have especially smelly fat to render, the addition of a potato to the simmering pot will help to remove odors. A few teaspoons of white vinegar will also help remove odors from the fat.

It can be boiled twice if it is not clean and pure enough the first time. A tablespoon of salt added to the boil will help make it cleaner.

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