I use tallow for a great many of my lotions and potions, including my lip ice, lotion bars and body creams. It gets absorbed into our skins easier than plant fats because it’s an animal fat. And it’s super cheap and easy to work with.
So, what is tallow?
Basically- fried out fat.
You heard right. Fat. Animal fat.
And no, you don’t end up smelling like a beef roast!
Okay, let’s start at the beginning.
Why use fat?
It’s Stable: Like coconut oil, tallow has a very beneficial fatty acid profile, with 50-55% stable saturated fats. This means that it is stable and does not readily go rancid, such that the beneficial nutrients can easily be preserved without refrigeration for extended periods of time.
It’s Nourishing: Properly treated tallow from grass-fed cows is especially nutrient dense, rich with nutrients that plant-based oils simply do not poses. Tallow contains a harmonious balance of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, in a balanced combination with their activators. It also has an abundance of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which as been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and palmitoleic acid which has antimicrobial characteristics.
It’s Easily Absorbed: When you apply tallow you will notice that it leaves your skin feeling smooth without leaving a greasy residue as with some body butters. Some experts hypothesize that this is due to the similarities in the fatty acid profiles of tallow to human cell membranes and sebum (the waxy substance naturally secreted by your sebaceous glands to lubricate,waterproof and protect the skin). In Latin “sebum” actually translates to tallow or lard.
It’s Safe: Tallow has long been consumed as a cooking oil that is especially useful for high temperature cooking and frying due to a high smoke-point. It is safe to eat, delicious and safe to put on the body. It received the best possible safety ranking in the EWG database. It is important that tallow is derived from pastured, 100% grass-fed cows however, to avoid contamination with pesticides and other nasty chemicals.
How do you turn fat into tallow?
It’s pretty easy. Chop your pieces of fat into chunks of about 1cmx1cm. Cover the bottom of a pot with fat pieces and allow to melt over medium heat. Check that they don’t stick or burn. As soon as those pieces are melted, add another layer and melt that down. When the fat starts to reach 3 cm up the side of the pot, start straining some out through a sieve into a clean container (I like using wide-mouth jars or pyrex dishes so it’s easier to get out again!)
What do you do with the pieces left in the pan after frying?
My mom used to give us these ‘kaiings’ on top of corn porridge (mieliepap) as a special treat! You can eat it basically the same way you would eat meat. Otherwise, just discard it.
Where do you buy the fat?
We prefer to buy our fat from the organic butcher when possible. Remember, you don’t want to apply chemicals to your skin, so why would you want to apply hormone-treated fat?
So, there you go! You now have some beautiful, pure, white tallow- ready to use!
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