Hypothetically, you can make cold process soap with just about any oil or fat. This includes animal fats. The most common animal fats are lard and tallow. Lard is rendered pig fat, while tallow is rendered fat from meat other than pork such as cow, lamb or goat. Tallow and lard are excellent for soapmaking. Both contribute to the firmness of the bar and a stable lather. Lard and tallow are commonly used as palm oil substitutes. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of tallow in soapmaking, check out the Understanding Tallow for Soaping guest post.
Lard and tallow can be purchased at the store ready to use. Or, you can render your own at home. The basic idea of rendering lard and tallow involves “cooking” the fat along with water. Then, the entire mixture is placed into a container to cool. The fat will rise to the top of the container, while the water will fall to the bottom. This process helps remove any particles within the oil. The process may vary slightly depending on what form the fat is in. For example. if you got your tallow from a butcher, you most likely have chunks of fat and meat that will need to be strained. Our local sister store, Otion, rendered tallow from a local butcher in the Crock-Pot (shown below); click here to see how they did it. They used the rendered tallow to make Mahogany Tallow Soap. This is a topic we’ve touched on before here and here.
Recently, Bramble Berry hosted a salad bar for the entire team. Included in the bar was bacon, which was cooked by an employee at home. Cooking all that bacon resulted in a lot of bacon grease! Instead of throwing away the grease, we decided to reuse the grease to make soap. First, it needed a little TLC. You can see the lard below. It still had a lot of bacon bits, and was quite smelly.
This bacon grease can be used for soap, but it still has a lot of icky bacon bits inside. It needs to be cleaned up a little. =)
To clean up the lard, gently heat the bacon grease and place it into a saucepan. Then add about twice the amount of water. Don’t worry too much about the exact amount of water. Just make sure to not fill your saucepan up too high. You don’t want the pot to boil over (think: bacon grease + hot stove = danger Will Robinson; danger!) . Turn the saucepan on medium heat and allow the pot to come to a slow boil.
Allow the mixture of grease and water to gently boil for about 10-15 minutes. Don’t leave the pot unattended during this process. Eventually the mixture will turn a creamy color once the water and oil begin to mix.
Boiling the grease with water is the first step to remove all those bits and reduce the smell.
After about 10-15 minutes, turn off the stove and very carefully pour into a large container. Place the container in the fridge overnight to cool. The grease will rise to the top of the container and the water will fall to the bottom. Notice how icky and brown that water is! This was once in the grease, but the rendering process helps to clean it out.
Remove the hard grease from the top of the bowl, and repeat the process. Place the grease into a sauce pan, add water and allow to slowly boil for about 10 minutes. With each rendering, the grease will become more and more clean. How many times you render the grease will depend on personal preference. I recommend at least three times. I rendered this grease four times, and it still had a bit of a smell, but was not overbearing. Tina who works in our customer service department rendered her bacon grease eight times to obtain a very white, nearly odorless lard.
Once the grease and water have cooled, the lard will rise to the top. Notice all that icky brown water! That was once in the grease.
After rendering my bacon grease four times, I noticed there were still a few “bacon bits” in the grease. To get rid of them, I heated the grease in the microwave and strained it through a tea bag. This filtered all those little bits. Be careful when microwaving the grease. I found out the hard way that 90 seconds in the microwave was way too long, and ended up wiping down the inside of the microwave. ☹ At this point, I was happy with my grease and it was time to make some soap with it. Be on the lookout for that project later this week!
Have you ever used bacon grease to make soap? I would love to hear about your experience!