Render Fat to Make Handmade Soap


Making Handmade Soap

Our family prides itself on being frugal. We buy whole portions of grass-fed and pastured meat every year from our local family farm here in Minnesota. We don’t just get the choice bits either, we get almost the entire animal. That includes bones, organs, heads, tails and feet. It also includes the fat; tallow from the beef and lard from the hogs. I use the lard in cooking, particularly for deep frying and pastries, and both the lard and the tallow are great for candles, balms and soap.

While making soap is not technically cooking, it was traditionally in the arsenal of old fashioned women’s home arts. Soap is a natural extension of preservation, making use of what you have to the fullest extent possible for use in the future. Making soap is also a sustainable endeavor, using a local product like animal fat instead of buying soap made with exotic oils shipped half way around the world. It takes fewer resources and you have the benefit of knowing exactly what’s in your soap product.

I had several pounds of beef and pork fat in my freezer, conveniently ground for me by my butcher. After rendering each fat, straining stray meat particles and then “washing” it in water to remove meaty flavors, the fat is ready to be turned into soap. This can be done well ahead of time, with the fat being stored in the freezer for further use.

Below is a guide to how to render fats and make handmade soap, in an easy to use, volume-based recipe. This is a beginner’s guide to soap making. As you become more advanced you will want to switch to a weight-based system so you can accurately scale and change your ingredients, using whatever oils you have on hand. Each fat type requires different amounts of water and lye, so please do not substitute! Pure lye can be purchased in small quantities at your local hardware store in the plumbing section. Weight-based calculators like this one from Bramble Berry are very easy to use. Or use a more advanced one like SoapCalc.

A note on lye: Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a dangerous, corrosive chemical that must be used with extreme caution. Traditional soap making uses washed hardwood ashes to produce lye (I have to try this some time). Modern soap making uses a refined version of lye. Either way, lye burns if it touches certain organic materials, water and some metals. If it touches your skin, it will burn you. If it hits your eyes, it will blind you. Take precautions! When making soap use long rubber gloves, safety glasses, a long sleeved shirt, heavy pants, closed toed shoes and an apron. Keep a spray bottle with vinegar near by in case any lye solution splashes on surfaces or on you. Vinegar will stop the reaction. Call 911 immediately if ingested.

5/2/2016 4:17:56 PM

What is the function of tallow versus lard? I have lots of lard and would like just use this. Furthermore, the lard is from guinea hogs and has a lower melting point than more common hogs. Any thoughts/suggestion on using this?

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