What would I do if I had to come up with enough
oil for cooking
lotion and lip salve,
to last an entire year?
Go to the store of course. BUT what if I couldn’t? Other countries today struggle with this and America has many times done so in history so it is a guarantee it will happen again. The last time I know of is during WWII.
Once I thought ghee might be my oil of choice for cooking but many batches later, I’ve learned that it takes a lot of milk to make butter and a lot of butter to make a little ghee. I had hoped to have a dairy cow, Ellie, but she ended up being a freemartin despite being promised she was not. It worked out as we realized the input for us would greatly exceed the output. Discouraged, I put the thought on the back burner. As I’m working on a budget to get out of debt once more, the thought came back to me, I could save part of the 90 dollars I spend each year on cooking oil. I buy a case of olive oil each fall at rock bottom prices of a supposed reputable brand. What could I do to lessen the amount of olive oil needed each year which isn’t the whole box but I like some in storage at all times.
I began to look at my options. Oil can be made from dairy, nuts from trees, oil seed pumpkins, oil seed sunflower seeds, coconut trees, olives trees, and animal fats. Olive trees are out as is coconut trees. A few native nut trees will mature in Wyoming and I think it would be wise to start a couple in our yard but it takes a lot of nuts to make a little bit of oil which is why it is expensive. Butter and ghee is limited since the input it far greater than the output in our situation for a milk cow or a larger number of goats. Naked seed pumpkins would take about 33 pumpkins to make a liter of oil. That’s not going to work either. Oil sunflower seeds is another option but it takes 35 pounds of seeds to make 3 gallons which sounds better except it takes 140 sunflower plants. We don’t have the acreage.
That leaves us with animal fats. First I looked at what I’ve done in the past and filled in some gaps in my knowledge to form a plan. I learned that animal fat comes in categories: Tallow, Lard, and Schmaltz.
Beef Suet (the fat by the loin)
Beef, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, deer, moose, elk, caribou, and other ungulates (hoofed animals) fat is called tallow. Well, I don’t have llamas or alpacas and caribou are a bit further north but I once used sheep, and deer in soap making mixed in with pig fat because you don’t get much fat on a single sheep or deer. I think fat for soap wouldn’t be hard to come by. For cooking fat, sheep fat is too strong flavored for me and for many on a forum I visited.
Deer is the same. I read that the fat by the loin and kidneys of deer and sheep works for candles – makes sense. It’s the same area you gather fat for tallow candles from a beef too and makes the best soap. Combine this suet fat, which it is called, and olive oil and you have Castile soap, my favorite. I’ve made tallow candles and you really have to watch the temperature as the tallow has a tendency to want to melt off when you dip the next time. I’ve just never thought to render beef fat for cooking but I will in the future. The suet fat is especially good as it is higher in triglycerides known as glyceryl tristate. This makes it great for deep fat frying.
It would work well in pastries but beef suet impart a beef flavor though suet is milder so maybe a pie crust made with suet would work best for a pot pie or possibly a biscuit in which a beef or deer meat gravy is poured over the top. My mind is racing, is yours? Though the suet is the coveted fat, the harder fats you find around muscles can be used also.
And if you dip pine cones in tallow, it makes a great fire starter they say and would be useful if you have green or wet wood to build a fire with.
Fat from, bear, rabbits, and pigs is soft fat and when rendered it is called lard. Most of us don’t have a ready supply of bear fat but I’ve read many an account of its use by mountain men of old. Rabbit fat I can’t find hardly anything on. Wild rabbits have almost no fat so you’d have to use domestic. Some have used it as part of the fat used in soap making. There seems to be a toss-up on those who like cooking with it. I’ll have to see which side of the fence I sit on. Pig fat on the other hand I’ve used many times to make soap and I adore leaf lard which comes from the same area as the suet on a beef, around the loin and kidneys. It makes the absolute best pie crusts. Leaf lard is milder in flavor than beef suet by far and is my fat of choice to cook with in pastries like pie crust and biscuits. I’m thinking I should try to switch all my shortening recipes to leaf lard. I’ve done so to most of them already. I would not use anything but lard in tortilla shells.
Then there is the final category –Schmaltz. I had never even heard of it let alone used it. I guess I’m really missing out. I’ve read when rendered it keeps for 6 months in the refrigerator. It has a medium-high smoke point. That means it is higher than butter but lower than peanut oil. But what is it? It is fat from poultry such as duck, geese, and chickens. It is a soft fat, almost liquid at room temperature and is used a great deal in Jewish cooking. They use it in biscuits and pie crusts, now that, I must try. Chicken fat used in a crust for chicken pot pie would be my choice.
I see site after site on the internet where chefs use goose fat. As for duck fat I guess a 50 /50 ratio of butter to duck fat is the favorite choice. I’m not likely to try this as we don’t hunt geese or ducks but we could.
So what could my self-sufficiently program provide if need be?
Oil for Cooking: Butter, Ghee, Beef fat, and Chicken fat.
Candles: Beef suet, Bees wax (when we get bees again), Deer or Elk suet, and Sheep suet.
Leather Conditioner: One gentleman makes his out of 50% Beef fat, 25% Beeswax, and 25% Lard. I could manage that when I get my hives going again but first I’ve decided to cultivate a host of fruit trees, berry bushes, and a lush garden that blossoms over a long period of time, then bring in bees and add a little honey too to my leather conditioner.
Soap: Lard, Tallow and I’ve heard you can use a small percentage of Schmaltz too.
Lamp Oil: Ghee, Tallow, Lard, and Schmaltz too.
Lotion: Tallow and Lard
What choices would you have depending on where you live and your personal resources?
I will continue to buy olive oil and coconut oil in the here and now as part of my oil consumption but I am going to expand my foundation to work toward something that would be far more self-sustaining for my family if need be and lower my cost too.