I’m calling these “Fat-Free” because the fat I used to make them was… you guessed it! FREE!
I finally have the results on the candle making process. I will never become a chandler, but I may make these more than once, actually. It was quite fun, and I have my preferred methods already! WOOT.
First, my supplies:
We have here, 10 lbs of hard beef fat. As I said, I got this free from my grocery store (I expected to pay for it as I had to order it, but it arrived with a lovely N/C written across the top of the plastic. WOOT!
- A large container to melt the fat in (I used a Dutch Oven, but people use stock pots, crock pots (I’ll get to that later) and regular sauce pans to render their fat.
- Jars or containers for the candles. I did both the little mini jelly jars and the pretty blue vintage ones–for fun.
- Cheesecloth (to strain the fat. YOU WANT TO DO THIS!)
- Cotton string or twine for wicks (Braid it for the fatter candles)
- Bolt nuts (to keep the wick at the bottom of the jar.
That’s it! That’s all it takes. Now there are LOTS of ways people suggest to render the fat. So, I tried several of the most popular looking ones. I started with just putting fat in the Dutch oven and covering it with water. I knew it would work best if I trimmed off the meat stuff and cut it small, but I wanted to really see how different things would work, so I tried it right out of the package.
As you can see, there is still a lot of meat on that fat.
Ready to boil! It took quite a while to melt this fat. It was really nice to do it this way because the water kept the fat from becoming too hot. I could go do other things, come back, stir, mash with a potato masher, go away again, and repeat. The disadvantages were that it took MUCH longer to do it this way and I don’t think it got out all the fat it could have. I think there was more waste this way.
Anyway, after this, I took all the leftovers, strained ‘em, and put them in the crockpot overnight. Just let it keep melting that fat. Meanwhile, I strained the liquid I had from this a couple of times and then set it outside. The fat solidified and rose to the top. The water and meat pieces fell to the bottom. Our dog loved it over his bowl of dog food. See:
Okay, so that was taken several years ago. Isn’t my granddaughter cute? Yeah, Sergeant is too. I just thought that tongue says it all!
The crockpot method is also very nice in the “dump it and leave it department. It also smells a lot better. My eldest came in the house the next morning and said, “Mmm… what’s for dinner?” We all gagged. LOL. It did get a LOT more rendered fat out of the leftovers from batch one.
This is what it looked like when I took the time to cut off the excess meat (or most of it) from the fat. Sergeant liked that too. And can I just say it is WEIRD to be trimming MEAT from FAT instead of the other way around? When Laura claimed that Ma Ingalls used every single piece of that pig, she wasn’t joking!
This time I just put it in the Dutch oven, turned it on and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. Now this is how I’d always pictured Willow doing it. I mean, I figured they were rendering the tallow while organizing the beef when their meat arrived each time. Then freeze it into bricks and melt again to strain it a couple more times before doing the candling–just get the big stuff off first and all. Well, it doesn’t take long for the fat to melt. In that regard, this is the fastest way. I’d say I stirred for an hour tops. I think I could have cut that–maybe even in half–but I was paranoid about overheating the oil. I’m a rookie. What can I say?
Then again, it sat to harden. I melted it again. Strained it again. And let it harden. Again. These melts were FAST. I mean, ten minutes or so maybe. While it melted (and you do have to stir) I got ready for the pour process. WOOHOO!
Now here’s the nuts and bolts of it… *ducks*. I just tied a string to those nuts (nice and long so there would be no problem with it) and set aside. I did twelve like this–one for each little jar.
Works great–kind of like fishing weights. Just keeps that wick at the bottom. Then what I did was to set up my wick rod. I’d imagined Kari building these neat things out of wood. Just use a block on the bottom, dowel rods going up each side, and one long dowel rod across the top. I figured screw eyes in the end of the side dowels would allow the top dowel to slide through and sit there nicely. And I almost made one. Then I thought, “What if I hate this and never do it again? What would Willow do?” I glanced around my house and my eyes landed on my front door–with the “temporary” (it’s 12 years old now) curtain hanging from a … MAGNETIC ROD. WOOT. Genius. I didn’t get a GOOD picture of what I used, so here’s one from Amazon. Because I think it’s cool.
Image courtesy of Amazon as I said.
Those end pieces are magnetic! So I just laid it down atop some cans of beans and veggies and voila! Had my little wick stick and without any cost at all!
See! All ready to go! Just pour (carefully… it’s HOT) and voila!
I think it’s fascinating how the oil is so yellow and turns into white again. Okay, look closely at that picture. See the nuts on the edges of the jars? Once I got done pouring, I just scooted the jars and wick strings around until they were reasonably centered. Voila! Wicked candles. I poured 10 of these. Still had TONS of melted tallow. So… I went for the BIG GUNS
I wish I could tell you why there’s a piece of cardstock back there. I really do. Clueless. It was late. That’s all I’ve got for you. LOL. Anyway, I needed more space for stuff to work–hang and all, so I tied some wicks to my cabinet door handles and put the bigger jars below it… like this. I had 4 of these!
Looks like lemonade in those jars, doesn’t it? Weird, right? At this point, things got interesting. You see, I had cabinet doors (like to where the dishes are and the cold cereal boxes–minor things like that) sitting there unmovable. If someone came stumbling in for breakfast and didn’t pay attention, we could have a mess. So I did what any good chandler would do. At midnight in the middle of January in the desert (read: it’s cold out there!), I opened the doors and windows. Then I piled blankets on me, put on a sweater, and let my fingers type half-frozen as I worked on my current book and my tallow candles solidified.
The little ones only took about… maybe an hour? Forty-five minutes? Not sure because I didn’t check often. I just sat down and got up about an hour later. The big ones weren’t even close. Hardly thickening. But I cut off the wicks to the height of the jar on the little ones, put the lids on, and stuck ‘em in the fridge. Then I carefully moved the bigger ones to the wick holder apparatus. I snuggled back under the blankets, and sometime in the next hour or two they were solidified. So, doors and windows closed and jars went in fridge.
My daughter took two home with her–big and little. She called with her verdict: “They’re going to burn for a LONG time and they do have a bit of a beef smell, but it isn’t bad.”
Last night, I finally burned mine. I burned one of the little ones just to get a feel for it. When you take the candles out of the fridge (I just kept ‘em in there after solidifying them all the way), there is no scent. I can’t smell a thing. When they burn, they crackle a bit and every once in a while, I thought I smelled a bit of beef–like beef jerky. But it wasn’t consistent, and it might have been the open bag of beef jerky on the floor beneath it. Snicker.
I took my little tiny candle into our bathroom to get a feel for how much light it would put out (Our living room has two lights that stay on pretty much 24/7 and are HARD to turn off, so I didn’t wanna mess with that). I was astounded! Now we don’t have a big bathroom–it’s a bit smaller than I imagine Willow’s to be, but not THAT much smaller. There was PLENTY of light in there. I could find anything I needed by just opening the cabinet door and reading. It put off a bit more than any nightlight I’ve ever owned. That surprised me. I thought it would have taken two to be of any real use. Not so! WOOT! Still, I wouldn’t want to do my makeup with it. Just sayin’.
All in all, I got 10 little jars and 4 big ones out of 10 lbs of hard fat scraps. I think I must have lost at least a pound to meat and gristle. Not too shabby for a simple experiment. Today’s experiment is that after I melted the entire top of the candle, I snuffed it out and put lavender florets on top. I’m letting them sink into the melted tallow and harden again. I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll have a slightly faint scent of lavender. If it works, it’ll be a GREAT way to add scent next time. Just fill the jars 1/3 of the way. Let harden. Pour a tiny bit of melted tallow on top. Add the lavender. Let harden. Repeat twice, and bam. Lavender candles! (I know, I know. “Essential oils!” Well, I’m doing what I think Willow and Kari would have tried, not what others can do by going to the store. It’s a quirk of mine!)
So, there’s my lesson. I had fun. I think they’ll make fun gifts for friends who are crunchy enough to enjoy it!