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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homemade Soap (rendering fat)

When making your own soap, it's always important to follow a few basic steps. The first is being sure you start with quality ingredients. I personally used beef tallow, (fat gathered from around the kidneys.) I have gotten terrific tallow and "meaty" tallow before, so when shopping, be picky if you can. Tallow is a flaky, compact fat that's white in color, although will sometimes contain blood or tissue from the beef. The less red that it contains, the cleaner and purer the fat. Most of the time, I get mine from a local butcher. It takes 6 - 7 lbs. of fat. To start, I will dice the fat into pieces about a half inch square. Yes, it takes alot of time and your hands will get incredibly greasy, but i don't have chapped hands for a week! It's better to dice it small, though not too small, 1/2 inch works for me.

I then will get out my cast iron pot( a stainless steel pot will work) and pile it all in. I block the pot up on bricks and build a small fire underneath, cover the pot to keep the ash out. This is one of the places where you must be patient. Do not build the fire high, a low-medium fire is best in my experience. You run the chance of scorching the fat if the heat is too high, and all the work can be lost as the fat takes on the burned smell. Nasty smelling fat can mean nasty smelling soap! Stir the fat around every few minutes from side to side and top to bottom. You'll start to see the fat turning to a clear/golden liquid. This is a good sign! So far so good! Last time I processed tallow, it took about an hour for all the fat to melt down. I know I could do it faster, but I tend to be on the safe side than lose all my work.

I let the fat cool a bit, then I take a ladle / strainer and scoop the leftover pieces into a metal bowl. I use metal simply because I do it while the fat is still hot and it would melt plastic and could break glass. Once I get all the fat pieces out of the liquid, I scoop the leftover fat into a pan and use my potato masher to squeeze the liquid fat from it into the stockpot. Be careful not to squeeze too hard, otherwise you will end up with small pieces of fat you will have to fish out later. Now that you have squeezed all the fat from the pieces, you can discard those if you wish (There are some soapers that will add water to the leftovers, boil it and then cool it down in the fridge. You can then scoop the remaining fat from the top, drain and add to the fat for making soap. I never went that far, But, I may do just that when TSHTF and I have to waste nothing).

The last thing I do to end the rendering, is take several layers of cheesecloth, and filter the fat. I have used coffee filters, paper towels and old rags. I like cheesecloth, but old rags work very well. They are just difficult to clean up so if you use an old t-shirt, use one you can throw away. Now, you have your fat for soapmaking! Whew! The next step is the actual process of soap making. That will be in my next post titled “Basic soapmaking.”


1 comment:

  1. A great walk through towards making homemade organic soap. But you didn't really mention how dangerous the process is, I'd advise serious caution to people trying to do this at home. It's a great exercise but people should know that molten fat is very dangerous. If it gets on your skin, or worse in your eyes, you have a serious problem. Having said that I'm looking forward to the next installment.