Archive for the ‘Soap Making’ Category

Lard Rendering and Soap Making

November 6, 2011

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.




Things to do with Lard

July 8, 2011

You probably don’t remember but ages ago I rendered a batch of lard from a fat old pig.  Since then the lard has been sitting in the freezer waiting for me to put it to some good use, which I have finally done.  The first thing I did was to try it as a method of preserving eggs.  Last year we ran out of eggs in the middle of winter, so we thought that this year when the eggs were coming in thick and fast we would try to preserve some.  The method we found recommended was to double dip the eggs in lard, polishing after each dip.

Then the eggs are stored in a cool place.  We did this to 4 dozen eggs back in January, and as Murphy would have it we have not run out of fresh eggs at all this winter.  🙂  However I thought that it was an interesting experiment anyway, so since it has been 6 months we thought we should see how the eggs are going.  As eggs age the air gap at the base of the egg gets larger, you can see the size of the air gap in these eggs and while it is larger than a fresh egg, it is not huge at all.

So we tried to crack a couple, and I would say the yolk was a bit softer and more inclined to break, but apart from that they looked and smelt just fine.  It seems like quite a useful technique.

Then with the rest of the lard, I made good old fashioned soap.  It was just the bare basics – melted lard and caustic soda dissolved in water, brought to the right temperature and mixed up together.

It was not hard to do, I just had to be careful with the caustic.  Once it is mixed I simply stirred it for as long as it took until it started to thicken, then it went into a mould.

It was left to set for 24 hours before being cut into bars.  After leaving it to harden for 6 weeks it was ready to use, and we really like our homemade soap.  It lathers up nicely without dissolving into a mushy mess, and looks lovely and white.  The second batch I made I put some essential oil in to give a nice scent, but I quite like it scentless so wouldn’t bother with that again.

So that is what I have been doing with my lard.  🙂  In other news our neighbouring farmer recently came over with his lovely big tractor and cleared along the fence near a corner of our block.  Now we need to shift a couple of piglets over there to ensure that it doesn’t all just regrow.

Lydia has 26 hens in her bush ranging tent dwelling system now.  They seem quite content and have been safe from predators so far which is just what we want.  I think the next phase is to join TOP, the Tasmanian Organic Producers and see what needs to be done towards going organic.

Meanwhile the pigs are breeding, the calves are growing, the chooks are laying, the menfolk are sick and life goes on.  🙂