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How to Make Tallow Candles from Deer Fat

Updated on December 2, 2016
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Maggie Bonham is an award-winning author, and editor of more than 35 books and 1000s of articles.

You got a deer this season! Congratulations! At this point, you've noticed that the deer had a bunch of fat on it and instead of tossing it in the trash, you were wondering if there was something easy you could do with it. It's no good for eating, being extremely gamey, but it does make excellent candles from the tallow.

Tallow is the refined fat from the animal. I've noticed that deer tallow is more saturated when it comes to fat. It hardens better than beef tallow, which makes me think it is overall better for tallow candles. The process of rendering the fat can be a bit messy, but it is easy and you're likely to get several container candles that will look terrific and are great for using or gift giving.

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Getting Deer Fat

Deer fat (as well as elk and moose fat) is largely considered inedible due to the pungent flavor. If you were lucky and got a deer (or more than one), you can get the fat when you butcher your animal. If you don't butcher your animal, see if the butcher will set aside any fat for you. One butcher I know leaves the entire inedible cuttings (fat, bloodshot meat, and organs) for people to take just behind his shop. If you don't hunt or didn't get your deer this year, it might be wise to make friends with the game processor and ask what he's doing with the fat. You just might find a source during hunting season.

Note that you can always use beef fat or some other type of fat for your candles. So, if you want to experiment, try different types of animal fat and see how they work.

When you get your fat, trim off as much meat as you can while still keeping most of the fat. Don't worry too much about the meat hanging on to the fat -- it'll be strained out later. Just get as much meat as you can removed and put your fat in a Dutch oven or other big pot.

Preparing to Render the Fat

Rendering fat is the process where you remove the impurities in the fat and create tallow. You'll need the following to do this:

  • Large pot such as a Dutch oven to melt the fat
  • Large spoon for stirring
  • Strainer or cheese cloth (I use a tea strainer)
  • Butcher paper and pan that is at least 2 inches deep

Rendering the Fat

I usually render the fat and break it up into bars to use to make something with the tallow another day. If you want to make your candles now, skip molding and cooling the tallow and go right into pouring it into the containers with wicks.

  1. Put deer fat in big pot and place on stove. Turn heat to medium.
  2. Let the fat melt down. Stir and skim off any large pieces of cooked meat or rind. (You can offer them as snacks to your pets once cooled. My chickens love them.)
  3. Line deep pan with butcher paper.
  4. Pour hot tallow through strainer and into the deep pan. Let cool.
  5. Cut apart when solidified and cool. Store in plastic bags in refrigerator until ready to use.

Supplies Needed for Container Candles

Here are the minimum supplies for making candles:

  • Containers that can withstand hot temperatures. I highly recommend canning jars such as Ball or Kerr. I suggest pint or half pint jars.
  • Cotton wicks of the appropriate size. I bought 8 inch wicks, but you can choose 6 inch wicks. You will want cotton core wicks rather than zinc core wicks for natural waxes such as tallow. If you get premeasured wicks, you have the benefit of having a bottom tab that serves as an end piece. Otherwise, you'll have to fashion your own.
  • Twist ties -- you'll need two per candle to ensure the wick stays centered.
  • Deer tallow.
  • Pan for heating tallow.

Making Deer Tallow Container Candles

  1. Prepare containers by adding wick to the center. Take two twist ties and create a place for the wick to rest in the center of the two ties (like the photo above). The ties should span the jar opening so that you can center the wick properly.
  2. Heat tallow in pan until completely melted.
  3. Pour tallow into each container with wick. Be sure to keep the wick in the center.
  4. Let cool and harden. You can decorate the jar with whatever you'd like that is nonflammable.
  5. Trim the wicks to 1/2 to 3/4 inch, if necessary.

© 2016 Maggie Bonham

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