Lard Rendering and Soap Making

I have had fun making soap.  I wanted to use more of the products from our pigs when we butchered them.  The fat was in large pieces to begin with and had come from a huge 10 year old sow who was developing arthritis and so had to come to the end of her days.  We didn’t want her to go to waste and she certainly did not.  In fact I still think of her fondly whenever I use our homemade soap.

The first stage of our soap making process was to render some lard.  To do that we had to cut the fat into small pieces, about 1 inch or 2cm square.  With so much fat to do it was all hands on deck, but using butchers knives meant that we had to be very careful of young fingers.

There are two methods of rendering lard, the wet method and the normal method so we tried both.  The wet method was to put the fat into water and boil it up.  Eventually the water all boils off and the hot lard starts to ooze out of the fat.

The other method is to put the fat straight into a pan and warm it slowly.  Again the lard oozes out of the fat.  Both methods worked fine.  I now tend to put just a little water in with the fat as it helps to keep the fat from burning as it initially warms.  Once the lard starts oozing out things move quicker.  It is quite amazing how much lard comes out.  The original pieces of fat shrink and start to crisp up as they are basically deep fried.

When as much lard has been removed from the fat pieces as possible the lard is poured into a mould.  I found it best to pour it through a fine sieve or even a course cloth.  It seems that if the fat pieces get cooked too much then the lard becomes tinted a deeper yellow.  This is not really a problem for soap but it is considered best to keep it as light as possible.

 

The lard was a beautiful white when it cooled.

When the lard had been poured out I was left with the fried fat pieces which are called cracklings. These are mentioned in the Little House on the Prairie books as a treat, but even salted we found them pretty unappealing.  However the dog and the chooks were not so reticent.

So, now that the lard was prepared I could get to the task of soap making.  I wanted a really basic lard soap so the only ingredients that I needed were lard, water and caustic soda.  The ingredients needed to be weighed accurately and mixed in a stainless steel or enamel pot.

The recipe that I use is:

2.75kg (6 lb) of rendered lard
4.5 cups of cold water
350gm (12 oz) lye or caustic soda granules

The lard was melted in one pot and the caustic soda was added to cold water in another pot.  I had to be very careful doing the caustic soda mixing, as it is extremely alkaline and will burn and the mixing of it causes a very hot reaction.  Once both mixtures were cooled to the right temperature (110°F for the lard and 85°F for the caustic/water mix) then the caustic mixture was added to the lard and the whole lot was stirred well together (usually for 30-60 minutes).  I continued to stir until the mixture thickened enough that marks remained when it was stirred as shown below.

I poured the mixture into some ice cream containers lined with an old tea towel and let it set overnight.  The next day I cut it into bars, using gloves so as to avoid any stinging sensations.  Apparently it pays to be careful with the soap for a couple of weeks until it has hardened.  It can be used after 6 weeks.  It looks a bit rough but is great to use.  It is scent free, lathers nicely but is hard enough to not disappear into a sloppy mess if it gets wet.  We love it.

 

 

 

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