Whelp, I finally did it. You know all those jars of bacon fat that you save in the back of the fridge because “someday” you are going to use them? Oh you don’t do that?! Maybe its the Yankee in me wanting to save and repurpose everything” or maybe it is just me being strange but I finally put those jars upon jars to use yesterday and repurposed them into SOAP that we will use as a family this winter! I figured it was about time as we had collected five quarts over the course of the past year or so. Too much bacon you say? Never!!! 
Over the past week I have been “rendering” the grease to make good, clean lard to use (as much as I love bacon I really don’t want our whole family smelling like it!).  To render the fat (8 times to take out the smell!) I placed ALL the bacon grease into a large stockpot and added the same amount of water.  Then brought the mix to a boil for a few minutes.  Boy did our house smell like bacon!  I fooled the kids the first couple of mornings I did this and they were sorely disappointed that bacon wasn’t being served at breakfast.  After the grease and water was brought to a boil I placed the pot into the fridge to cool off.  The cool temperatures allow the water (and bacon bits) to separate from the fat.  Repeat seven more times and you have a (virtually) free, lard soap base.  I mean we were going to eat the bacon anyhow…..  As you can see from the pictures the first rendering (first picture) was pretty icky, but by the third, fifth and eight rendering the grease was pretty clean and no longer smelled like bacon!
Last night I cracked open my handy dandy soap book that I tucked away when the kids were born.  I haven’t made soap in nearly five years out of fear that the lye part of the process would be too dangerous with the kids.  WRONG.  Yes it is a potentially hazardous component of making soap at home, BUT, as always it seems, I was proven this thought was very much incorrect.  The kids actually HELPED me with the second and third batches.  Of course they were gloved, goggled and looking like gremlins but they were protected and had fun helping to repurpose something we will use as a family.  Lesson learned (again) to not limit what I think is possible for the fear of safety, but rather embrace the possibility that learning can happen with safety precautions and very strict guidelines.  Would I let them do this on their own?!  Heavens no!  But with mommy right there we shared a magical moment and memory together and I was able to share repurposing with my kids, something that is a part of my core as a person.  Please note that I’m not saying “go out there and make soap with your kids” it can be potentially hazardous.  I am however, supporting making memories and sharing what makes you tick with your kids.  
So anyway, we whipped up three batches of lard based soap.  Added some olive oil and vitamin E for moisture as well as our favorite essential oils.  One batch of peppermint, thieves (to support our immunity thought the winter season and kill those germs!) and lavender.  The kids had fun sprinkling the lavender buds on the top of the soap at the end.  The end product?!  36 BEAUTIFUL handcrafted, repurposed, sulfate free, bars of hand soap that we will use over the next year.  Super cost effective as we already ate the bacon, had some olive oil in the pantry, I had the lye sitting in a cabinet in the garage from before kids, and we use essential oils daily so those were already on hand. The recipe we used was pretty simple too.  If you want to try your hand at repurposing those jars of fat and grease that are sitting in the back of YOUR fridge try this:

1 quart lard/oil (we used 1.5 pint lard, 1 cup olive oil- not extra virgin)

1.5 cups water

1/2 cup Lye

50 drops essential oil of your choice

Put lard/oil in crockpot and melt together and let stand to cool to a temperature between 100-120 degrees

Place the water in a glass bowl and slowly mix in the lye with a metal or silicone spoon. 

Mix until dissolved.  

Place bowl aside and wait until a temperature between 100-120 degrees.  

The trick is to try and get the oil and water/lye mix to reach the same temperature between the 100-120 degree range.  When you have achieved that add the water/lye base slowly to the oil and mix with a stick blender.  Mix until you get a “trace” basically when it starts to thicken,  Then add your essential oils and any minerals for coloring.  Continue mixing until like a pudding consistency and then carefully pour into your soap molds.  Let stand overnight on a non wood surface and then the next day pop out of the molds, cut if needed and then put somewhere to “cure” for four weeks.  After that you are good to go and use that soap for everything!

Caution! One of the steps involves making the lye solution which is a highly caustic chemical that can burn the eyes and skin and can harm the lungs if inhaled so work in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles and keep a spray bottle of vinegar handy. Vinegar neutralizes lye which is a highly alkaline substance. If you get a serious burn—especially in the eyes—or inhale lye too deeply, consider the emergency room.

Over the years I have really come to value knowing what goes into my body (and my family).  I cook and bake from scratch, we LOVE our garden and try to eat as organically as possible.  I use chemical free cleaners (thanks Young Living!).  Avoiding all those extra additives, toxins, sulfates etc. is more natural and healthy for my body.  Knowing what is in our soap is just one more step to that toxin free and organic life!

I think I’ll try my hand at making shampoo next… but maybe not from bacon grease…. I feel that my hair might thank me.