This fall, as I mentioned prior, I was blessed with a small deer. When we were cutting up the meat for steaks, sausage and canning there was lots of fat trimmings. Most red meat leaving some fat on the meat is a good thing, venison fat has a much higher melting temperature. I don’t know the exact temperature but I do know that having a piece of fat on a venison steak is quite unpleasant compared to beef. Also I’ve been told the fat can give the meat a “gamey” flavor. I don’t know that that would be the sole reason for a deer to taste as such, but may play a role.
Anyways, we were getting the meat cut and trimmed and I asked my dad if he had one more bowl I could use. Unknowingly, there wasn’t another one in the shop so he headed to the house to find one for me. After he left I chuckled as I said to my husband “he’s gonna roll his eyes when he finds out I want the bowl to save the fat”. In years past the fat has always been discarded for the animals to eat. He got back with the bowl, rolled his eyes as expected and said “Why am I not surprised…”
I put the fat in the freezer for a mid winter batch of soap. In doing some “investigative journalism” otherwise known as tea with grandma and reading though a few family history books she wrote, I found out how she and great grandma used to make soap. As usual I find the old ways better than new, but there hasn’t been much of a change in homemade soaping over the years with the exception of the availability of different oils and fats.
Soap making on grandma’s farm was always done in the spring for a couple reasons. Butchering was done throughout the winter due to the lack of refrigeration. Lye, a toxic poison necessary for soap making, gives off fumes that you don’t want to inhale.
If you look up soap making today you will find you need a soap mold. They come in various sizes and shapes. Grandma said they used cardboard boxes lined with paper. My next batch I plan to do the same; I still haven’t invested in any fancy soap mold and I have boxes.
Soap was made with the rendered fats from that years butchering. Today you can order all sorts of wonderful fats and oil such as jojoba, coconut, olive, palm, and shea butter to name a few. I enjoy using the “fancy” fats, but there’s something about making some down home farmhouse soap with rendered fats.
Last year I had the treat of using pure duck fat to make a very small batch of “Duck Fat Soap”. A chef friend of mine Loves, with a capital “L”, duck and duck fat. He gave me the fat and I made him soap. It turned out pretty good. Light lather, hard bars but soft feeling soap and pure white color.
This winters experimental fat soap was deer. I know they’ve been making soap from rendered venison for years long before my time, but for me having no recipe it was an experiment.
Rendering the fat took a couple days because I didn’t want to warm it too quickly and have it scorch. I know it has a high melting point but I also know if your fat gets too warm and the color darkens even a little it will affect the end product of soap. To render any fat put it in a heavy bottom pot, I used my enamel coated cast iron, add a couple inches of water to the fat and warm very slowly. You can warm the fat on the stove or in the oven, whichever works best for you.
Once the fat is completely melted let it cool. It will then turn back to a solid on top of the water. break the fat and dump the water. Most of the bits of meat and anything else that was on the fat should have sank to the bottom. If the fat is not as clean as you would like repeat the process. Venison is by far the worst smelling fat I’ve rendered so far.
Now the fat is ready for soap. I had planned to just use the venison for this batch but for some reason I decided to use some coconut oil I had too.
Coconut Venison Soap
14 oz Coconut oil
16 oz Venison fat
4.3 oz Lye
12 oz Water
4-5 tbsp. Comfrey Root
2/3 c Dried Lavender
Combine and heat the fats slowly at this point I added the lavender and comfrey because I wanted them to have time to steep. Generally I don’t like “chunks” In my soap. I had planned to let this steep and strain it before adding the lye. But as luck would have it I didn’t realize I was out of cheese cloth before it was too late. If I were using essential oils I would add them later.
Very carefully add the water to the lye in a glass container, outside.
**This should be done with extreme care because getting the lye on your skin will severely hurt you. This should be done outside because of the fumes it lets off. Lye also heats itself to a hot temperature. This is why I make soap in the winter.
I cooled both the fat and lye water to 120 degrees, Then added the lye water to the fat.
Stir briskly for about 20 minutes, until the mixture traces.
**Tracing is when you can see the path of the spoon after you stir.
Pour the soap into a mold of your choice.
(I used an enamel coated jelly mold, I have spent enough time in the kitchen that I can do almost any household and construction project with things only found in the kitchen! I can mud and tape sheet rock like nobody’s business. 🙂 )
Let the soap sit in the mold for a day.
After a day remove the soap from the mold and cut into bars and let set for about 3 weeks to cure.
I have to say I can make soap but I am not the best soap maker the world and this batch proved it. The soap turned out ok. It had nice color, good lather and scent (not like the fat when it was rendering thank goodness.) The only problem I had was cutting it. One cut would like nice and the other would kinds crumble. From what I can tell it was due to my cooling temperature. Soap made solely with venison fat should cool to 120 degrees as well as the lye. Soap made solely with coconut oil should be cooled to 130 degrees and the lye at 70 degrees. So I guessed at the temperatures and guessed wrong. Everything else about the soap turned out great. So if you know the right temperatures I would love to be able to edit my recipe if your willing to share.
Next year hopefully I will get another deer and another chance to get this right.
I couldn’t wait until next year to try and fix this, here is part two.