Tallow experiment

Monday 28th December 2020

Waste not want not.....or the one time I worked with tallow.

Today's post is a quick one about working with tallow, or more commonly known as animal fats. I do get asked a lot about my soaps and if they have animal fats in them. The answer is NO. None of my products use tallow or any kind of animal ingredient. I do however, use beewax in my honey-bee facebar and occasionally, in some of my soaps. These are clearly labelled as non vegan. All my other products are 100% vegan and are made with sustainable and fairtrade nut butters and oils.

So, before I go any further, let me reassure everyone that I have never made soap with tallow before this week. I have read up on it many times and as all soap makers know, tallow was the main source of fat used by our ancestors to make soap. Alleppo soap, made from the combination of tallow and olive oil is in fact the oldest soap recipe in the world! Thankfully, we don't have to use tallow anymore, but meat eaters could recycle their lards,lamb and duck fats if they wanted to, avoiding many clogged drains and fatburgs! Although my family and I are 80% vegetarian, we do eat meat on occasion. We are however going full vegan this January so watch out for a post on that! 

So, last week being Christmas I had the opportunity to use a bit of tallow that would have ended up tossed in the bin. It was only 200g but it was perfectly clean and paired with another 90g of leftover cacao, shea and beeswax that were also getting a bit stale, I decided to experiment and get this under my belt. You never know when this may come in handy! In some parts of the world, sustainability doesn't always mean vegan. 

Results? A super stinky process! Yuck!, was my first reaction to the fats melting in my double boiler. Adding the sodium hydroxide only made the smell worse. This NEVER happens with nut butters and oils. It did however, mix beautifully and stayed at trace for ages, allowing me to work in the essential oils without any stress of my mixture getting too stiff. I can see why so many soap maker use tallow as it gives you plenty of time for patterns and layers. Anyway, I'm keeping this bar super simple as I just want a MVP (minimal viable product). No colours just black pepper, bergamot and rosemary essential oils. The colour is off white and slightly brown but I think that's due to the nut butters being slightly off.  It poured beautifully into the mould and set within minutes. Still stinky though. Put a box over it and get it away!

24 hours later the bar is ready to be cut. The stinky smell is GONE and I can clearly smell the essential oils in all their blended glory. Hmmmm, maybe too peppery! Anyway, the bar is dry and hard so ready to cut into bars. It reached 'gel phase' in the night, which is a process some soap makers aim for. The results is a darker centre in the middle of the bar and overall, it looks really nice, but time will tell. I'm curing it for at least 3 weeks now.

For now, I'm going to say that the experiment was a success......so far. But you never know! I'll post an update in a few weeks. Soap is notorious for shapeshifting and changing colour or scent! As it looses moisture and water over time, it shrinks and hardens. I read somewhere that a soapmaker discovered a fully wrapped piece of soap from the 1930's  in her attic. Apparently, it had shriveled to the size of a small stone and was like a large hard marble gone orange! I'm going off topic here, but you get the idea, soap can change!