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How to Make Tallow Candles

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Beef tallow has been used for centuries as a cooking grease as well as fuel for lanterns. Making tallow candles will give you a nice and long-burning source of light that works well in outdoor situations. While anyone can use beeswax, candle wax or even shortening to make a candle, knowing how to convert the fat of an animal into light can come in handy during a survival situation. This trick uses beef as the main ingredient, but you can use the fat from pigs, elk, deer or other large food animal as well.

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Preparing the Beef

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The first step is to process the beef fat and turn it into wax. If you don’t have any slaughtered animals on hand, you can easily contact a local butcher or grocery store and buy fat by the pound. It’s cheap, and there’s a good chance the store will be happy to sell it to you instead of throwing it away. Keep it cool until you are ready to process the material.

Place the fat, grizzle and all, into a large pot and put on medium heat. It will smell horrible as it begins to melt down and cook, so make sure that you are doing this project in a well-ventilated area. Better yet, do it outside on a grill or low burning fire. Parts of the beef will melt down in a couple of minutes, but it is important to stir until a good portion of the solids begin to liquefy. This will prevent the grease from coagulating and burning on the bottom of the pot.

Once there is enough liquid to cause the beef to move freely in the pot, you can cover it and let cook until all you have left is a clear and boiling pot of grease. Just make sure to stir occasionally to avoid any unintentional burning. The time that it takes depends on the thickness of your product as well as the quality of your flame, but expect the process to last a few hours at least. You will know when it is done when all of the beef has dissolved with the exception of a few bits of flesh here and there that are crackling in the molten grease.

Remove from heat and pour the liquid through a pasta strainer, separating the meat and solids from the grease. You can either pour it directly into mason jars or into another pot first. Just make sure that you are protecting your hands and eyes from any accidental splashes of grease. You can allow the crispy, meaty parts to cool before seasoning and eating if you like as well.   Let the grease cool and solidify before covering and storing.

Preparing the Candles

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You have a couple of options to consider when preparing the candles. First, you can simply place some string into the molten tallow in the mason jar and allow it to cool. Or, you can take some string and make some hanging candles as well. Hanging candles can be placed on a nail attached to a beam or thrown over a tree branch. They are excellent sources of light and work well at campsites or in the yard when you don’t want to use other resources.

Reheat the tallow by placing the mason jars in a pot of simmering water until they liquefy. Dunk a few inches of each end of the string into the liquid. Remove them and wait for it to cool. You will notice that the tallow will solidify. Repeat the dunking process and watch the material quickly accumulate until it resembles a breaded corn dog on a stick. Place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely.

When ready to use, simply throw the string over the nail or branch and allow each end to dangle. Light and watch them burn for hours.

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