Oils and fats are important ingredients in making soap, and many different kinds can be used. Frugal minded, homesteading, or recycling people may want to find a source for fat other than store bought. I felt this way, and so, while browning some hamburger for dinner and draining the fat away, I wondered if there wasn’t a way to use this fat that was going to waste anyway for something useful and productive.
A quick internet search showed me that this has been done, and there are a number of different sites detailing methods for making the fat pure and clean. The basic method is to boil the fat with an equal amount of water, allowing it to cool and lifting the cleaned fat off the top of the water that has trapped the impurities.
Sounds good in theory, but would it go as smoothly for me as my sources said it should?
I started saving the hamburger drippings and bacon grease that was leftover from cooking, and after about 6 months, I had 5-6 cups in jars in the refrigerator. My first step was to scoop this out into a pot for boiling. The hamburger drippings had separated into a layer of good fat and a disgusting mass of jelled goo. I did my best to leave the goo behind. After getting all the fat out of the slippery jars, and dumping the gross goop into a container for the trash, I poured in my water and two tablespoons of baking soda.
Onto the stove went the pot, and I waited for it to start boiling. This seemed to take a pretty long time, longer than if the pot would have contained plain water, and I got a little distracted doing other small chores while I waited, like putting away clean dishes and wiping down counters. All of a sudden, the pot was foaming up right to the top. I managed to get the heat turned off , preventing it from boiling over, but I was shocked how boiling had made enough foam to double the volume in the pot. I resolved that I wouldn’t be trying this trick again without plenty of baking soda and a fire extinguisher on hand in case of a grease fire.
I poured in cold water, and set the pot in the cool garage to allow the pure clean fat to float to the top. The next morning, I was greeted with very tan colored, very bacon-y fat, floating on scummy water. I cut the fat away from the sides of the pan, trying as well as I could to keep it from falling into the icky water and getting all wet and dirty again, dumped the water by our burn pit, and got ready to start over.
After repeating the entire process five times, I finally had pure white odorless clean fat to use for soap making. I learned that not everything is as easy as it sounds on the internet, and that my cooking grease might be particularly dirty compared to some.