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prepping fat for soap making

Pardon the weird stock footage, cleaning fat for soap making is just not that pretty and it’s messy so I didn’t get around to taking any pictures.

This past weekend, Rob and I cleaned out the freezers.  I’m a horrible freezer hoarder.  I freeze things I know we will never eat because I just can’t bring myself to throw them away.

One thing I “hoard” is fat.  I pour drippings into glass jars and put them in the freezer as well as bits of fat I cut off of our meat.  Now I don’t consider this really hoarding because we turn this into soap.  I had a ton so it’s become time to make soap.

I will tell you that if you leave drippings unclean, they can go back.  You can still use them for soap.  They stick while you are working with the fat but the smell goes away during the soap making process.  That’s where we are now – trying to clean stinky fat.

So there are two things going on here – 1. taking solid fat and turning it into liquid fat and 2. removing particles from rendered fat.  Rendering is the process where chunks of fat are turned into a usable fat.   It’s as simple as frying bacon and draining off the fat.

So to turn my solid bits into a fat I can use, I chopped them up and dropped them in my crockpot.  I like to use water when rendering my fat, it reduces the oops factor.  It does take longer but I found it has little smell so there’s a trade off.  It took two times to get all the fat off.  The first time, I let the fat sit in the crockpot on low for about 24 hours, drained off the liquid and then returned it to the crockpot.  Then I let it go for about another 24 hours and then threw away my solids.  For straining, I just used a small holed colander.

Now to clean the drippings I had saved, I dumped them all into a large pot about half filled with water.  I heated that on the stove until all melty and then stuck the whole thing outside.  It’s a little warmer outside than I would prefer for this. Just above freezing is perfect because the fat gets good and hard but not so cold that the water freezes.  So my fat isn’t getting as hard as I would like.

But once solid (and hopefully frozen), just pop the fat out of the water.  It floats so it will sit like a disk on top.  Then you can scrape the bits of meat and what not off the top and bottom.

Since my fat is really soft, I removed it from the water and set it aside.  I changed the water and cleaned anything off the sides of the pot.  I added more water and remelted the fat.  This time I used a metal tea strainer to catch any bits it can.  It’s possible that the combination of fat in the drippings will keep it from getting good and hard.  In that case, I will check it tonight and if I can’t lift it as a disk, then I will remelt it and run it through either cheesecloth or a coffee filter.  This will have to be done with fairly warm fat or it will clog up the works.

Something to note, not all solid fats are the same.  Animal fats are typically harder than vegetable fats but it’s not always true.  The softer the fat, the softer your soap will be.  This is not a problem, just something to be aware of.  The softer the fat, the longer it will take for your soap to cure.  We cut up the bars and let them sit out in the open in our cupboard.  Our soap is stored away from the bathrooms and kitchen so the humidity is as low as possible.  Over time, the soap gets fairly hard.  You want hard soap because it lasts longer.  Softer bars of soap disintegrate in the water.

Give yourself a couple of days to clean your fat.  It mostly sits around waiting for you but you want to not be in a hurry.  You want the fat to be as clean as possible.  What this means is that there are no bits of food and other detritus.  Off smells or colors won’t effect your end result.  My mom has stories of using rancid fat for soap and it comes out just fine.  Smells bad while prepping it.

Now to make soap, you need a mix of solid and liquid fat.  I keep everything – cooking oil that has passed it’s prime, used frying oil, drippings.  I even have a container of coconut oil that my husband put in the microwave and then ruined the container (I just didn’t feel like the coconut oil was safe for eating).  All that makes for great soap.  I plan on making up the actual soap this weekend so next week I’ll have the how to for that.

I believe in fairly basic soap.  I don’t have anything fancy nor do I do molds or anything like that.  I own 1 official soap mold and it makes a basic 2 pound loaf of soap.  Aside from that, I gather boxes that cases of cans come in (or beer boxes from the store).  I love them as molds and I never have to worry about them getting ruined.

So, dig into your freezer and pantry for old fats, cause next week we are making soap.