The first step in making farmstead soap - is getting a beef kidney.According to my homesteading books, kidney fat is the best both for eating and soap making. Last year, when we brought a few of our steers to the processor, we asked him to save some fat for us so we could make soap. Also knowing about the superiority of kidney fat, he saved us two kidneys. Here I am removing the kidney and then rendering the fat to make pure beef tallow.
To render the fat, cook it over a LOW heat. This can be accomplished in a pan in the oven on a low temperature, on the stove or the back of a wood stove (maybe elevated on a spare gas-stove burner grate or two to keep the heat lower), or as I did in a crock pot. A crock pot uses electricity, but guarantees a consistent low temperature, which allowed me to sleep through the rendering of the first kidney. Cook the fat until either all the solid tissue-y parts float, or test it with a thermometer. For lard, you don't want the fat to get over 255 degrees. I haven't found a temperature for knowing when beef tallow is done. The fat from one kidney was just at 260 when I awoke this morning, and dried a perfect white, so it seems fine.
Stay tuned for adventures in soap making :)
The finished product!