Rendering Deer Fat for Soaps, Salves, and Candles

We start by helping my father butcher a doe he’d shot. Visible chunks of fat are trimmed and set aside.

Scraps of fat are ground up.

Nothing needs to be precise here. A coarse, quick grind is good enough.

The fat is put in a cast iron Dutch oven and covered with water.

Put it on the heat and start it simmering.

Melted fat is ladled out as it collects on the surface, and more water and fat added as needed.

To collect the fat, I put a couple layers of cheesecloth over a bowl and strain it through.

It’s got an interesting color. The top layer is the fat, below is meat-water.

This is what we’re left with- a bowl of fat and meaty water, and a bowl of coarse, very dry bits of meat and connective tissue. I used some of the latter for pet food, mixed with other goodies.

The next morning, the fat has hardened.

It lifts out of the bowl in one big slab, with bits of tissue stuck underneath. Now we’ll purify the fat further and get those bits out.

The slab is sliced into pieces to easier fit in the double boiler.

I don’t have a proper double boiler, so I improvise one with two containers. Use something on the bottom of the larger pot to keep the smaller one from contacting it directly. I use a few mason jar bands.

The fat is fully melted and ready for finer straining.

I pour it through a permanent coffee filter.

Finished, rendered deer tallow. One doe yielded five cups.

I’ve chosen containers for candles and salve.

Essential oils are used for fragrance. My father requested unscented soap for hunting.

Once we’re ready to start making the finished items, the tallow is melted once again.

Jenni is the soaper, here she adjusts a recipe for deer tallow.

Oils, fats, and lye are weighed.

The ingredients are mixed thoroughly.

The soap mold is prepared for a small batch.

The soap mix is put in the mold. Jenni says it traced much more quickly than usual.

Placed in the freezer to cure.

Cured, the soap is removed from the mold and cut into bars.

Here, I prepare for candles and salve, gathering containers and chosen fragrances.

Slowly mixing oil, stirring, checking until the fragrance is right. Deer tallow has a bit of a “gamey” scent but nothing too strong.

Pouring candles.

Poured salve.

Wicks are added to the candles before cooling.

Testing candles. Unfortunately, I found tallow doesn’t seem to support a very strong flame. I’ll experiment with additives in the future to improve the burn.

Finished items.

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