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Light into the darkness – making tallow for lights

We have talked about it before. After about 8 years of events, we used up the last  bits of our homemade tallow reserves and needed new material (of course we also bought and used some ready made tallow in the meantime).

Our event at the open air museum Bärnau was the ideal occasion for cooking it. I ordered about 5 kg of beef fat a the butchers for app. 15 EUR.

I cut out some of the larger junks of meat and sinews, but it does not have to pe perfect, these parts are going to be left over after cooking and will land in the sieve. And I just roughly cut the fat.

Then I just put the whole kettle on the fire, filled with a little water so the lower parts of the kettle wont burn the contents.

And then you just leave it to cook for a few hours. At first it will look like somewhat of a soup and the pieces will become hard and rubbery…

…. then slowly you can see the first pieces disintegrating and the grease swimming on top of the brew.
And finally, the water will be gone and the pot will have the smell and looks of a chip pan with the cooking grease in it. You will also hear the characteristic noise of cooking grease.

From here on out it can become dangerous, lower the heat and slowly and carefully keep stiring, otherwise the meaty bits will stick to the bottom of the pot and the evaporating gasses will form little explosions in the hot grease and that can lead to heavy burns.


When the last meaty parts have fried down to little crunchy bits, take the pot off the fire and strain the grease from the meat parts. You can use a normal sieve for that, if you want the tallow especially clear and fine, you could also use a piece of linnen cloth to strain the tallow.


The tallow looks brown-yellow-ish when hot but will be nice and white when it is cold. We filled it into old claypots so we can fill our lamps with just a spatula from these pots during events. and we also filled some lamps directly.


And this is how wonderfully light the result looks. The consistency is like butter, a bit too soft to make candles, but with a little bees wax mixed in, that will be a good base for candles as well. The addition of a little salt would also make this stay longer, but honestly, our last tallow has not gone off for 8 years and we did not even store it in the fridge. and even if it had gone sour, it will still work for filling the lights. You don’t have to eat it after all.


More on historical light sources for your event