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Monday, August 15, 2011

Soap Using Mutton Fat

I made soap yesterday from about 3kg of the mutton fat from the sheep I purchased last week. It is soap at it's most basic and cheapest.
It is a beautiful gentle white colour.
There are lots of step by step and how to guides on the net about making soap so I won't go into it here but reference some resources for you along the way.
A lot of people are surprised to find out that animal fat can be made into soap; in fact it is the most common as it is also the cheapest and a ready by-product from animal processing. In commercial circles, the ingredient on the soap that you buy, if listed, will be "tallowate".
It is much more preferable than palm oil that is also commonly used and is responsible for endangering orangutans and their habitats.
Animal tallow is available free or for a very small price from your butcher and if you ask nicely they may put it through the grinder also to make the job of rendering quicker.
So for the first step in making tallow soap, you will need to render fat. I suggest you go here for more information.
We are fortunate enough to have a real commercial food processor and passed ours through a grating disk before rendering. This is ultra fine and we did it because we could but even chopping it up into small chunks is going to be fine for rendering too. 
So after following the information in the link above, it is ready for making into soap.
I will list some of my suggested reading below but I believe Rhonda from Down To Earth has probably explained the process definitively and makes some very good points that I would also like to stress also.
-Soap making is a process involving chemical reactions (remember science lab days)
-All measurements MUST be weighed by weight not volume so a set of digital scales is vital.
-Have everything set out and organised before you begin.
So include this in your reading;
and the link that you really need for a soap calculator
I used these very inexpensive storage containers from a dollar store (so thrilled to find they were made in Australia).
The result was lovely large creamy blocks after being left to set for about 24hrs.
I cut these slabs with a long knife after marking them out roughly for size with a ruler.
Then I stamped an impression into some using ordinary stamp blocks by using firm downward pressure with the heel of my palm.
You are impressing rather than stamping in this case.
These are now placed on drying racks in an out of the way place for about 4-6 weeks to cure.
I am allergic to many essential oils and fragrances and have deliberately left this soap at it's purest and plainest. I think after many years of commercial brainwashing, we are a bit conditioned to expect our soap to look a pretty colour and smell like an exotic fruit bowl. 
There are certainly lots of different things you can do to add fragrance and colour and many of those methods are quite natural and harmless. 
For instance pink clay for a subtle pink colour. Dried flowers and tea leaves for subtle fragrances and textures.
Making soap requires care and caution but is a very easy process.
It is incredibly frugal at it's simplest and is good for your home and excellent for gifts.
It is recycling an otherwise wasted by-product.
Interesting huh?
I bought a sheep for meat and ended up with bones for stock and fat for soap and knuckles for games.
I am going to stop short at the innards. I think I've done a pretty good job and how could you not respect an animal who has supplied so much. That is why it is so exciting to be able to buy such an animal from Black Ridge Farm where it was grown and farmed with respect. I see us as being part of a food chain. The food we grow and eat sustains us in so many ways. Removing ourselves from our food to the extent that we don't even visit a butcher but buy something faceless on a styrene tray means that we have totally lost respect for our food. We have devalued it. That roast, the stock, the soap...they were more than three years in the making. Makes you think huh? Everything nowadays feels so instant. We want, we buy, we have.
When you grow your food or at least give some pause and respect for the journey of food from paddock to plate, then you are starting to be truly nurtured by your food.


  1. What beautiful soap - i'm so flabbergasted at how creamy it looks, I sort of expect fat to be yellowy (don't ask me why).
    I like that it looks so "use items from the kitchen" in its production.
    Well done :)

  2. Hey Tanya, have thought about making soap recently and the soap you've made looks great. As Lee said it looks lovely and creamy..........

    Just wondering which soap holder is it going to find it's way to........bathroom or laundry?

    Just as well you had a commercial food processor, take forever grating by hand.........

    Claire :}

  3. Thankyou for this post Tanya, I am going to book mark this one for when I make some 'real' soap.. Yours has turned out so well..

  4. What a star, they look fantastic!!!

  5. I love the idea of using the stamp to add a little articial touch. I'm going to have to try that. I've made mutton soap before but since we no longer raise sheep it has been years.

    I was glad to see you using good old fat instead of the cazillion different exotic oils that others use. Somehow soap made that way doesn't seem as natural

  6. I really must have a go at making soap, yours looks great...

  7. Looks like it will be back to making our own soap again.. It has been quite a while since the last time...
    I love the way you have embossed your soap a personal touch..
    Thanks for making me think home made again :))

  8. thanks for linking to this again Tanya, an excellent post :)
    We just received our lamb from Black Ridge Farm and the experience can not be beaten. I hate seeing palm oil in products, and as we now know even the "ethical" stuff isnt really ethical. Surely we can all come to terms with using an animal by-product if we can accept all the chemical nasties society usually uses.
    I have a soap question: Where can I source lye locally as it can not be shipped to us in Tas? Thanks :)
    Ps. Did you get some elderflower cordial bottled? I'm happily watching the berries on our bush as they mature :) x

  9. great post, love the containers, I've been trying to decide if I should buy soap molds, that seems like a good solution. I love the colour of the pure tallow soap, so white!

  10. I wish I'd seen this when I was preparing to make soap from the fat rendered from our lambs but didn't think to google mutton fat soap. My soap has cured 5 weeks I think now (exact date in the phone) but I grated a block the other day for washing powder. The little bit on my hands was a different feel to the sopas I'm used to (natural homemade but very lathery soaps) but not unpleasant. It felt so good to use the fat and know that I was doing my best to respect every part of our lambs and their sacrifice. I've skins to finish processing too and although I didn't use the head or innards (the offal was blended for the cats which they loved) I think for a first time experience we have done most well. :)


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