When I am not working on lawnmowers and other small engines in the winter, I like to make and sell natural container candles from my home. One of the most interesting experiences I have had lately is the one I had at Twin Springs Bison Farm in Lineboro, MD. I offered them some soy candles for consignment, and they asked if I could make tallow candles out of bison suet -- the thick, almost soaplike fat that they harvest from the kidney area of the bison that they raise naturally on their farm.
I decided to give it a try. What I found out was that tallow container candlemaking is much easier than dipping or molding tallow candles, and that the process I had read about on Mother Earth News (from a 1991 article) was slightly more complicated than need be.
Using the bison fat was easy enough. The process is as follows:
1. Obtain wicks and mason jars or other decorative jars from a craft store or Wal-mart. Use cotton wicks in order to avoid any heavy metals such as zinc that may be in cheaper wicks.
2. Obtain some bison suet, and cut it into pieces about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.
3. Boil the suet in enough water to completely cover the fat and with about one tablespoon of salt to one pound of suet until it begins to get soft and yellow -- generally about 1/2 hour or so.
4. Take the soft yellow suet out of the boiling water and liquefy it in a blender.
5. Pour off the liquefied suet into a separate pot with a small amount of water and salt and boil for a few more moments, then skim off anything that floats to the top.
6. Pour this mixture into a large container and allow it to cool. The pure white, Ivory soap-like tallow will be on top, roughly 2-3 inches thick, and underneath will be a mess of other junk. Scrape this assorted meat and water off the bottom of the tallow and store the tallow in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
7. When you are ready to make the candles, affix the wick to the bottom of your container with a bit of hot glue. Cut the tallow into small chunks and melt it in a pot or double boiler. Pour it into the glass container, and voila -- when it cools you will have an all natural, mild candle that burns with very little odor and will burn for a very long time. An 8 ounce test candle I made burned for about 12 hours.
The tallow candles Twin Springs sells come in a variety of scents and colors, and are the perfect small gift for someone this holiday season. The candles are also for sale in Monkton, MD at Gunpowder Bison Trading Company, their sister store.
If you are interested in the bison tallow candles, or in purchasing high quality bison suet for your own uses, you can contact Twin Springs Market at the following URL: http://twinspringsmarket.com/home. You may also contact Gunpowder Trading Bison Shop in Monkton, MD: http://www.gunpowderbison.com/