Sunday, 17 March 2013


fat's got a bad rap..housewives used to collect it from cooking meat and poultry and made soap or they sold it to tallow merchants who used it to make candles and soap often to be sold back to the housewives..the commercialisation of soap making though put an end to these practices..

in my grandmother's time and even as recently as when i was a child it was common practice for women to keep cooking fats stored in dripping tins and to use the 'dripping' in pastry making, roasting or as a spread for bread..for instance, i clearly remember the delicious flavour of beef or bacon dripping spread on a fresh slice of bread and sprinkled with salt and pepper..however, advances in our understanding of the effect of saturated fats on our health has meant these fats are largely discarded by most contemporary cooks..

years ago i stopped throwing fat before i use fatty meat scraps and bones for stock i roast them all and i collect the fat that collects at the bottom of the pan..i then strain it through muslin, clarify it by boiling it with water and then it gets refrigerated until there's enough tallow to add to a batch of soap..most of the meat and poultry i buy is free range and organic so i'm reasonably confident that my tallow is pesticide and chemical free..and the soap is really cheap..

marigold petal cold processed soap
tea with hazel


1325 gms tallow
500 gms copha
675 gms olive oil
345 gms sodium hydroxide
750 mls filtered water
1 cup dried home grown marigold petals


large stainless steel saucepan
plastic, glass or stainless steel container large enough to hold the water
2 thermometers
stainless steel mixing spoon
stick blender
mould/s of choice (i use a lidded plastic tub that i oil and line with baking paper)
blanket or old towels
protective clothing, eye ware and gloves
newspaper or other protective material for covering work surfaces
vinegar for neutralising any accidental splashes/spills
iced water bath


warning: make sure there are no children or animals around when working with sodium hydroxide

~ prepare the work area by covering with chosen protective covering
~ prepare mould/s
~ place tallow and copha in a large saucepan and melt over low heat
~ add olive oil and place thermometer in melted fat/oils
~ wearing protective clothing, eye ware and gloves pour the sodium hydroxide into the water, stir and add second thermometer 

~ the fumes given off during the initial reaction when the sodium hydroxide is added to the water are potentially damaging to the respiratory system and mucous membranes so this is best done in a well ventilated room or outside  
~ do not add the water to the sodium hydroxide because it can be explosive
~ once the sodium hydroxide is added the solution is very hot

~ the aim is to now get the two mixtures to about 50-52 degrees centigrade at the same time..i find the best way to do this is to place the container of lye (sodium hydroxide and water) in an ice bath once the fat/oil mix has cooled to about 65 degrees centigrade..a close watch is required so that one of the mixtures doesn't cool too much..if this happens it needs to be heated in a bain marie..
~ once the two mixes are at the required temperature slowly add the lye to the fat/oils while mixing
~ mix either with a spoon or a stick blender until trace..trace is seen to have occurred when a drizzle of the mix leaves an impression on the top of the main mixture..trace time varies considerably but mixing with a stick blender tends to shorten trace time..i stirred this batch constantly for the first 10 minutes, then briefly every 10 minutes for 40 minutes and then because it was taking so long i opted for using the stick then traced within 2 or so minutes
~ once trace has been achieved add marigold petals (this is the time when essential oils and other additives such as ground oats, clay and so on are also added)
~ pour the soap into the mould, place the lid on and insulate well for 24 hours by which time it should have set firm
~ tip the soap out of the container and, wearing gloves, cut into usable sized pieces
~ store on a lined cake rack for 3-4 weeks, covered, and turn regularly by which time it will have matured and be ready to use

~ until the soap has matured it is still alkaline and potentially caustic
~ if the soap has any liquid pockets it should be discarded..the liquid will be caustic and the soap cannot be salvaged


ingredients            cost $
tallow                                0
copha                                5
olive oil                            3
sodium hydroxide       3
marigold petals            0
total                                  11/32 = $0.34 per bar

further reading: i have only covered the basics in this post..following are a few links that might be of use: (i find this my most useful link because the calculator works out the amount of liquid and sodium hydroxide after the fats/oils are keyed in) (a bit of information on additives) (useful for converting centigrade to fahrenheit and vice versa) (troubleshooting)

every time i make cold processed soap it never ceases to amaze me how a caustic substance like sodium hydroxide and greasy tallow and/or oils combine to create a sudsy, cleansing and lovely gentle on my skin almost seems like alchemy..


  1. such an informative and lovely post

    1. thanks took me quite a while to write but i really enjoyed writing it..jane

  2. Sheep tallow is my absolute favourite and I have a lot of converts to my soap. Great job with the post.

    1. thanks tanya..i can imagine that your soap is really you buy your tallow specifically to make soap?..most of the fat in my soap is sheep tallow because the only red meat i eat is lamb..jane