Deer Fat Soap

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 fat

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.

rendered fat

 

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.

lyeVery 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.

soap

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. 🙂 )

soap

Let the soap sit in the mold for a day.

soap

After a day remove the soap from the mold and cut into bars and let set for about 3 weeks to cure.

soap

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.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

 

Stuffed Squash

Summer is a very distant memory now and there’s so many months of cold left. I think I’m pretty well acclimated now as I went to get the mail this afternoon and thought to myself it was pretty nice out… it was -10. That doesn’t mean I’m not craving a garden fresh meal on the deck. It’s still winter and winter flavors.

 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
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This stuffed acorn squash is a nice change of pace and has a few different adaptations too!
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Print Recipe
This stuffed acorn squash is a nice change of pace and has a few different adaptations too!
Ingredients
  • 4 each Acorn Squash
  • 1/2 each Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 each Carrot diced
  • 1 each Celery Stick diced
  • 3 each Garlic clove minced
  • 4 each Button Mushroom chopped
  • to taste •Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sage crushed
  • 1/2 lb Ground Elk
  • 1/2 lb lb Venision Sausage
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put the whole squash in the oven for 10 minutes then remove and slice off the bottom. Scoop out the "guts" (seeds and such). (the short time in the oven makes cutting the squash easier)
  3. In the mean time saute the rest in a cast iron pan. (I use cast iron for almost everything. I love it!)
  4. Once the meat is cooked through stuff the mixture into the squashes and place them in a Dutch oven with a little water.
  5. Cover and bake for about 45 min, just until the squash is done.
  6. Then serve.
Recipe Notes

Variations:

  • Substitute ground beef and pork sausage for elk and venison.
  •  Add 1 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice.
  • Add 1 cup of cooked wild rice and 1/2 cup of Craisins
  • Add 3/4 cup of crushed Ritz crackers and 1  egg. (this should be combined after the meat is browned and before stuffing the squash.

These are just a couple ideas add or subtract to fit your families tastes.
I usually just stuff two squash and save the rest of the filling as a start to hotdish, as my husband gets tired of leftovers and really likes hotdish. 🙂

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Felted Wool Dryer Balls

Felted Dryer Ball

I was recently snooping on the Mother Earth News and found an article on dryer balls. I had totally forgot about these! There’s not much to it and they’ve been around for years. Simply put they are a felted wool ball that you toss in the dryer. They tumble with your clothes separating them allowing the dryer to work more efficiently thus taking less time to dry. I’ve been told you don’t need to use dryer sheets when you use the wool balls because they soften your clothes during the tumbling. I still use the sheets because with our wood stove drying out the air we have a ridiculous amount of static and the sheets help.

Essentially, tennis balls would do the same thing. I use them to break in a new Carhart coat. Even though they would they would work to dry quickly and soften clothes, your clothes will end up smelling like tennis ball, not always the most appealing smell.

Using the clothes line in the winter kinda works. It’s how my grandma grew up doing laundry in the winter but I’m not that much of a die hard. I use the clothes line in the summer and dryer in the winter.

Here’s how to make your own:

Wool Scrap

I start with the scraps of pieces from previous projects and bits of wool that didn’t spin like I planned (I messed up). Wrap them tight to start the ball. Then continue to wind yarn in a ball as you would wind a skein to a ball. Normally I wind my yarn loose, I don’t like to lose the give in it. For the dryer balls wind them tight. The tighter the better.

Dryer Ball

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Once you’ve made your balls, place them in a pillow case and tie a string around the case to keep each ball in it’s own spot. If they rub together before they are felted the can unravel.

Toss the tied pillow case into the wash machine and was on with hot water and dry on the hottest setting in the dryer. (From what I’ve heard felting doesn’t work too well in the new wash machines with out the agitator. I don’t know, I’ve never had a new one)

Once they are dry and felted they are ready to use. Just toss them in the dryer and go! (The finished picture is at the very top.)

I use undyed wool yarn because I don’t want to worry about colors bleeding. You must use wool for it’s felting properties.

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Scratch Apple Cider Vinegar

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I could have sworn I wrote about making your own cider vinegar before. As I was reorganizing the recipe pages I couldn’t find the article. Apparently I just posted the recipes on the “What’s Cookin’ ” page. I guess I’d better get on it.

I generally make my vinegar in the fall when I make apple cider, apple butter and apple sauce. You can save your apple peels in the freezer through out the year and when you have enough thaw and ferment. Personally I never peal my apples, with the exception of pie and then they are usually given as dog treats.

By now you’ve probably heard about the million and one uses for distilled and apple cider vinegar. I have the beginning of a vinegar article started and I think that’s where I will leave the history, facts and tips.(Finished it here) So without further ado the easiest vinegar recipes:

Apple Cider Vinegar 1
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This works well with pears too!
Apple Cider Vinegar 1
Print Recipe
This works well with pears too!
Instructions
  1. Place apple peals, cores and scraps in a crock or bucket and cover with water.
  2. Place a plate on top to keep the apples submerged. An extra weight may be needed. A jar filled with water or a rock that has been scrubbed and boiled works well.
  3. Cover the crock with a tight woven cheese cloth or flour sack towel and move to a dark cool place.
  4. This will sit and ferment for about a month. A taste will tell if it's done. If it seems weak let it set for another week and try again. If it's to your liking strain the apple pieces and pour into glass jars for use.
  5. There will be some sediment at the bottom of the jars this is referred to as the "mother". It can be strained out through a coffee filter if you like.
Recipe Notes

**Adding some sugar or honey to your apple peals will give the good bacteria something more to munch on and will hasten and strengthen your vinegar.

** Do not use metal containers to ferment or store the vinegar.

**A piece of wax paper under a metal lid will help prevent corrosion of the lid.

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Apple Cider Vinegar 2
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This one I find to be a cheater recipe, but it does work.
Apple Cider Vinegar 2
Print Recipe
This one I find to be a cheater recipe, but it does work.
Instructions
  1. Any amount of Organic Apple Cider in a crock left to set on the counter will ferment in a week or less.
  2. Once fermented this can be bottled and finished as hard cider or left on the counter for another week or so (check after a week and let it set longer if needed) to turn to vinegar.
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Using a Tree For a Curtain Rod

Ok, so before Christmas I wrote “Don’t Mind the Tree in the Kitchen” and it was left “to be continued”. Well here’s the other half. It’s not nearly as big of a “Ta Da” as I had hoped.

curtains

This is a picture of the curtains in the kitchen. As you can see… you can’t. The wood shelf/valance that is there hides the rod. I was going to take it down but who ever put it up nailed it from every possible direction! Taking it down would involve filling holes, removing wall paper and painting. I will take on plenty of new projects but I am still sick of painting from when we moved in, so for now it stays.

above the sink

Using the drop cloth for the fabric has worked well. It got too cold much faster than I anticipated so I didn’t get the loops sewn to the back so they work as a roman shade rather than a tie back curtain. The one above the sink is done. Pictured here.

I still hope to use some brown paint and paint a silhouette of a tree with branches reaching through all three panels. That’s permanent and I haven’t got my game plan together yet.

work room

This window in our “work room” or craft room works well with the tree. You will have to excuse the curtains, the belong in a different room but for demonstration sake I hung them here. With a few twigs or a round of dried flowers or leaves for tie back they would be simple but kinda cute. For the mean time, it doesn’t get above -20 out, so keeping the cold out and the warm in is my goal. I plan to revamp the window treatments come spring, when it’s still frozen out but warming up.

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