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Deer Tallow Soap (Part II)

With the tallow rendered we pick up with activities of day 2, actually making lye soap. Before continuing I’ll need to throw out my disclaimer one more time. If you choose to attempt the following process you do so at your own risk! You should always use safety precautions and safety equipment when handling lye, especially when mixing with water. You should NEVER mix lye with warm or hot water. Nor should you breath the fumes/vapors of lye as a solid or when mixed with water. If lye comes into contact with your skin follow the directions on the container. Remember that this procedure is for making lye soap from deer tallow. Use of any other fat will require a recalculation of ingredients. Again, if you choose to attempt the process you do so at your own risk!

Now, with that out of the way let’s continue making our soap.

Step 3. Making the lye water

Using a glass measuring cup and a digital scale I measured out the 6.08 ounces of distilled water. I chose to use distilled water to ensure that no additional elements were added such as chlorine, fluoride and anything else added to our tap water. Once measured, the water was placed in the freezer to cool a bit while I measured the 2.092 ounces of lye in a separate container. One thing to note about measuring, always be sure to use exact measurements.

With the water chilled and lye measured, I put on my safety goggles, painters mask, and latex gloves and headed to the kitchen. On my way I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and chuckled a bit. I hadn’t looked like that since my high school chemistry days.

With the work area prepped I placed a small amount of vinegar aside in case lye came into contact with my skin. For those who don’t know, lye is a base and vinegar, an acid, can be used as a neutralizer. I also made sure I was close to the kitchen sink to thoroughly wash any part of my body that may come in contact with the lye solution. Feeling confident in my safety methods I began stirring the cold distilled water while slowly adding the lye. The clear water turned cloudy white and visible fumes cleared the measuring cup. A few of which found their way underneath the painter’s mask I wore and caused me to cough a bit. With extended arms I stepped back a bit and continued to stir and added the remainder of the lye.

With the lye crystals completely dissolved I took the solution to the guest bathroom and turned on the ventilating fan. Using a thermometer I checked the temperature and was shocked to see how the temperature had skyrocketed. The solution was left to rest until the temperature dropped to 125 degrees or so. Read More of Deer Tallow Soap – Part II

Deer Tallow Soap - Part I

Deer Tallow & Cracklings With my late season doe in the freezer and a bit of free time on my hands I’ve decided to get started on the deer tallow soap. As mentioned in my previous post, this doe had a good amount of suet (raw deer fat, beef fat, mutton fat, etc.). At the end of the day I kept approximately 4 pounds or so.

The reason for making soap was to pay homage to my grandfather and the lye (sodium hydroxide) soap he made. When I was a youngster my grandfather slaughtered his hogs around the fall of the year. After the hogs were slaughtered and butchered, cuts of fat and skin were thrown into a big black cauldron heated by cured firewood gathered the year before. As the temperature of the cauldron slowly increased the cuts of fat rendered a clear layer of lard. As time passed, and with plenty of stirring, the cuts of fat and skin were completely transformed. The cauldron was filled three quarters of the way with hot melted lard and a golden brown layer of pork cracklings floated atop the liquid foundation. With a light smoke from the firewood caressing the sides of the cooking vessel the smell of cooked pork rinds filled the air and plenty of samples were available for the taking. With everyone’s approval of the samplings the cracklings were removed and the lard was covered and left to set. Part of the lard was stored in 5 gallon containers and mason jars for cooking throughout the year and part was converted into soap, lye soap.

While I remembered the process that granddad used I didn’t quite remember the exact quantities of each ingredient. Come to think of it I never recalled seeing him with any measuring cups. So I turned to the internet for recipes and techniques just to confirm my recollection. Read More of Deer Tallow Soap – Part I

Alabama 2013-14 End of Season Summary

January Doe As I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s been a while since my last post. Between a sinus infection that turned into the crud, rain almost every weekend, photographing a youth basketball team and photographing a youth wrestling team, I just didn’t have much to write about. Eventually things turned around. Thanks to a Z-Pack I was able to shake the crud and eventually I felt like getting back into the woods. So, without boring you with all the details, I’ll summarize the end of the season as quickly as I can.

I experienced my first encounter while walking a trail on my uncle’s property. The day before one of my buddies shot a nice 8-point. The conditions were similar, cold and windy. As I started the ascension I heard a sound to my left. Thinking it was a squirrel jumping around I ignored it. After a few more steps I heard it again and decided to investigate. It didn’t take long to see a beautiful 10-point buck walking across the side of the hill toward the trail. I slowly flipped the scope covers and raised the rifle to get a good look. This buck was a stud but no shot opportunity was offered. While watching the buck, who had stopped to scan the area, I tried to formulate a game plan. Honestly it was pretty straight forward. Either stay put or kneel down to minimize my profile. I opted to kneel. A mistake that was immediately noticed by the buck. The buck glanced at me, and as if a rider yanked on the reins, threw his head backwards and made a hasty retreat to safety. I tried to grunt, doe bleat and even yell. All to no avail.

My next encounter came while hunting my dad’s property with my pistol, a .357 Magnum w/ 158 grain hollow points. While snugly nestled 25 feet off the ground I watched as a nice doe and her fawn stepped out during the magic hour. I watched as they walked back and forth into a grove of cedar thickets. Eventually they felt comfortable enough to commit to the open and feed on acorns from the abundant pin oak trees. Shortly afterwards, another group of does joined them. Realizing I would get a shot opportunity I pushed the ear plugs into my ear and waited. Before long a total of 16 does were feeding their way straight toward my tree. Read More of Alabama 2013-14 End of Season Summary

Winter Gardening

Cauliflower The purpose of this post is to provide a brief update on the status of my winter garden. Planning for the garden occurred immediately after harvesting the summer garden. Cold tolerant plants such as kale, cabbage, collard greens, turnip greens, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach were chosen. After spreading lime and fertilizer, tilling the soil, sowing a few seeds and setting a few slips the garden was almost complete.

In years past we’ve had warmer weather through October so I figured I’d try to extend the growing season. As such, I rolled the dice and planted zucchini, yellow and winter squash. Heck I even threw in another round of cucumbers.

All plants seemed to thrive in their new home, all except one. For some reason the spinach didn’t seem to make much progress. Nevertheless, I kept chopping rouge weeds while dad kept the crop plants watered each morning. Before long, we were able to wean the plants off the water.

Around the end of September the squash plants had really taken off. They were standing tall and sporting broad shoulders and stocky fruit capped with yellow buds. Another week or so and the fruits would be ready to pick. It was looking like we might just be able to pull this off. And then October rolled in.

Somewhere around the second week of October a hard frost hit. All summer weather plants were decimated. The stems were limp with a mushy filling. There was no saving the plants. The only thing to do was chop the roots and carry the limp bodies to the compost pile.

Even though we lost the late season summer plants the winter plants were thriving. In fact, it looked like they embraced the cold snap. With October over the plants began their march into November. November would be the month to harden them. As the temperature oscillated between mid 60s and low 20s the plants adjusted. The cabbage and cauliflower plants have put on heads and turnip greens are anchored by turnips. The cellular composition of kale, collards, spinach and turnip greens has changed in such a way that a more tender product is the result. Always one to pay attention to quality control dad and I have picked and cooked several sample batches of greens. They are much more flavorful and tender than the summer greens we planted. We really enjoyed them. Judging from the hoof prints and missing collard green tops we weren’t the only ones.

With the corn and soy beans harvested, the whitetail deer has been faced with making adjustments. Most are eating corn and soy beans left behind from the combiners but the competition from doves, crows and black birds have almost exhausted the supply. Their diets have now shifted to acorns and anything they can browse. The search for a new source of food has driven them to not only check out the garden but to also take a few samples. Each day more and more tracks are visible and more crops are abducted through the night. With the increased presence of deer activity, dad and I have increased our harvest frequency. This will ensure we’re able to get our fair share before the deer wipe us out.

Overall, I’m impressed with the progress of the garden. There is nothing like eating fresh, garden grown, produce through the winter months. Hopefully she makes it through the colder months ahead.

Nice & Slow

Spare Ribs With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes you just want to take it nice and slow. As such, after an unfruitful hunt this morning, my brother and I headed back to my house to fire up the smoker. With rain in the forecast tomorrow, it was imperative that I cook a pork shoulder I picked up yesterday as soon as possible. Never the one to waste a good bed of coals I also threw on a slab of spare ribs prepared St. Louis style.

With all ingredients accounted for, the first item on the agenda was to wash both cuts of meat well and coat with a layer of mustard. Contrary to popular belief, the mustard does not impart any flavor throughout the cooking process. Instead, it acts as a binding agent that allows my top secret dry rub to adhere. Ok, my dry rub recipe used to be top secret but Dean cracked the code, or so he thinks. While throwing together the rub, Dean inconspicuously snapped a few photos and annotated the amalgamation of ingredients.

With the rub complete and each cut of meat washed and coated with a layer of mustard, it was time to marry the two. With the marriage complete and the smoker reaching temperature, it was time to baptize the couple by fire.

The butt was placed on the rack just above the water pan while the spare ribs were placed on the top rack. After placing the meat on the smoker the temperature dropped by 25 degrees or so. Given the history I have with the smoker I knew she would rebound once the temperature of the meat increased. In the meantime, Dean and I chatted as I raked leaves from the backyard.

After an hour or so of conversation, a prior engagement resulted in Dean heading out, which left me flying solo. Well not really, I still had Sheba. Ultimately, I stayed outside until the temperature of the smoker was stable at 245 degrees. Afterwards, I went inside, hit the couch and took a much needed power nap. My body reminded me that it was not routine to wake up at 3:30 in the morning. When I awoke, I found my legs draped across hers with her slowly caressing my feet. Talk about a lucky man.

Pulled Pork After a quick time check I realized that 4 hours had passed. It was time for the ribs to come off. I’m not sure if you caught it or not but the only thing that went on the ribs was a dry rub and smoke. No basting, no sauce, nothing. Personally, I prefer to keep things simple while cooking. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for the added flair but this was not the time. The intent was low and slow and when you cook low and slow you don’t need the extras. The melody of meat, spices and smoke will stand on their own.

After pulling the ribs off I made another time check. Based on my calculations I should have another four hours or so left before pulling off the pork shoulder. I recon I’ll post another entry to summarize. On second thought I won’t. Instead I’ll just let this photo summarize it for me.

So, if you’re looking for a change from the fast paced world we live in today, remember you can always take it nice and slow. Your significant other, relatives, pets and friends will appreciate it. I know mine did.