I decided to add hand-rendered tallow soap to my repetoire of experiences in cold-process soapmaking. On Saturday, my (vegetarian) husband and I stopped in at Mason's Meat Mart, a charming establishment that not only harbors the overwhelming smell of cold raw flesh, but boasts a large display of collected meat-slicing implements and various skulls hanging about. We purchased 2.5 pounds of raw suet (that's beef fat, kids) and went on our way home. It cost me $4.21.
I thought I'd post it here for any traditional-method soapmakers, in case anybody wanted to try their hand at rendering their own fat. It's good if you have friends or relatives who hunt deer or raise livestock - you can usually get it for free because it's usually considered a waste product.
Rendering: The Dry Methodhttp://www.squeaky-queen.com/tallow/raw_tallow.jpg
Here is the raw suet in the pot. I should have cut this stuff into smaller, maybe 1-inch pieces, but I didn't want to touch the stuff any more than I had to. This will stick to you like no grease I have ever encountered, and it's really difficult to wash off the ol' hands. If you are going to do this, I recommend kitchen gloves so you don't have to get sticky, and chop it up.
Turn the burner on LOW. You want to melt it, not cook it.
SAFETY TIP: Keep a tight-fitting lid handy, especially if you're cooking on gas heat. Fat can catch fire easily, and NEVER throw water on a grease fire- instead, put the lid on to deprive the flames of oxygen until the fire goes out.
After a while, the fat will begin to melt. As it melts, dump it into a clean measuring cup (or something that has a spout) and pour it into a clean jar (I used an old spaghetti jar) that has a coffee filter attached to the top. This will drip s-l-o-w-l-y into the jar, but you'll filter out all the bits of meat, gristle, and connective tissue that may be left in there. http://www.squeaky-queen.com/tallow/mid_cook.jpg
I found using a metal potato ricer to mash the bits of fat helped squeeze the liquid fat out and they melted faster.
TIP: don't let too much liquid fat accumulate at the bottom of the pan because it will burn, and that will smell like a nasty singed cow. Ladle or pour it out as it melts and you'll avoid this.
Once all the fat is melted and poured out, you have bits left in the pan. These are the cracklin's, and if you're really hardcore pioneer, you can grab yourself a biscuit and some extra fat, spread those puppies on and chow down. I am not hardcore, so I threw them away.
Now you've rendered fat and you're left with a jar of clean fat that will be white when it cools down.
I made soap with it using 80% tallow in the recipe (the rest was 10% coconut oil and 10% olive oil), and here are the results:http://www.squeaky-queen.com/tallow/finished_soap.jpg
It's colored with French green clay, and the colored/white bits inside are soap shavings from previous batches. I scented it with a nice, manly, woodsy scent. It's a great soap, but whether or not it's worth the pot roast smell during rendering and all that hard work is yet to be determined!