A few weeks ago I bought about 15 pounds of untrimmed tri-tip roasts. My plan was to trim the fat off the meat and make Beef In Red Wine Sauce – which was fantastic! Now, what to do with all the fat trimmings? Render it down into tallow! I used to do this years ago, when I was learning a few homesteading skills. My purpose for rendering the tallow at that time was to use it in deep fat frying. Unfortunately, that’s when we started hearing more and more about how bad it was to fry food in animal fats, so I stopped doing it. What a shame. Of course, the trend is sliding the other way, and now it apparently isn’t so bad after all! 🙂 However, I hear that tallow also makes a wonderful soap, and since I have always wanted to learn how to make soap from scratch, my first step into soap making will be to render a nice batch of tallow!
♪♫♪♪ Here we go! ♪♫♪♫
I started out with a big bowl of fat that I had kept cold in the refrigerator, which makes it easier to work with. The first step is to cut most of the meat off the fat. You don’t have to get every single piece, but I understand that too much meat left on the fat will give your tallow just a tad bit of an odor. If you are cooking with your tallow, this isn’t such a big deal, but since I want to make soap from this tallow, it was essential that I get most of the meat off. Of course, I guess if I wanted meat scented soap…
Don’t laugh! I hear bacon scented anything is the rage now! 😉
Once the fat is clean of the last bits of meat, you can either cut it up with a knife into small chunks, or use your food processor to get smaller chunks, or do as I did and grind the fat in a meat grinder. For me, this was the easiest and quickest way. Whichever method you choose to get small pieces of fat – keep your fat cold or even frozen! If the fat gets warm, it is really hard to work with, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, the smaller your pieces of fat are, the faster it is rendered, which means the less energy you will use to render it!
As you can see, I started with 3 pounds, 5-3/4 ounces of ground beef fat. Warning: rendering tallow or lard can be a stinky enterprise! If you want a sweet smelling house, render outside! 🙂 I love canning and cooking outside, so rendering the fat outside is fun for me anyway. Place the pot over medium low heat – not too hot, but warm enough to melt the fat. You also don’t want it bubbling so rapidly that it will make a terrible mess. Trust me. Keep it down to a happy simmer. Once you start to see some fat separating, give it a good stir, then stir it about every 5 minutes or so. The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big (or small) your fat pieces were to begin with and how much fat you are rendering. What you want to see is that the pieces in the pot are starting to look crispy when you lift them out with a spoon, and the fat in the pot is an amber color. Pull the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes while you prepare your jars. I like to wash my jars out, fill them with water and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes. I then take out the very hot jars (careful), pour out the boiling hot water and dry them quickly. Not only does this sterilize the jars, but now I have hot jars to pour a hot liquid into! Never pour a hot liquid into a cold jar or, worse, cold liquid into a hot jar! Next, just pour the melted fat through a strainer into your jar or bowl. Be very careful while doing this, because we are talking about
molten lava very hot melted fat at this point! Not a time to have kids and dogs running through the kitchen! You can see that I got almost exactly one quart (four cups) of beef tallow. Since I am going to use this tallow in soapmaking, I wanted to get out as many impurities as I could. When you look at the bottom of your bowl or jar, you may see a thin layer of “sludge” at the bottom. Since I didn’t want any sludge impurities in my soap, I poured about a cup of hot water into the hot fat, stirred it a bit, then let it set. Since fat floats, and the impurities fall to the bottom due to gravity, once the fat solidifies all you have to do is lift it off the water and pour the water and impurities down the drain. Wipe off the bottom of the now creamy white solidified pure tallow with a paper towel to get the water off, pop into a freezer bag, and throw it into your freezer.
Perfect for soapmaking!
Now I need to find a good recipe to make soap. Hmmm…. I’m thinking one with goat’s milk and/or olive oil would be fun to start with! Do you have any good, easy (remember, I’m a first timer) soapmaking recipes you think I should start with?
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