You can make soap with many different types of oil and using the fat from a wild bear is no exception. This post isn’t for beginner soap-makers, because I won’t be explaining “soaping basics.” This post is for anyone who’d like to try a soap recipe using their own rendered bear oil.
A quick aside here: Why bear oil?
Because when there is a sacrifice of life to sustain us, in this case—meat from a bear for our family, we believe it is most honoring to the animal and all involved to utilize as much as possible from that sacrifice.
The key to a successful soap batch is calculating the correct amount of lye according to the TYPE of oils you’ll be using in your soap. Different oil types require different lye measurements, so don’t fall into the trap of trying to substitute one oil for another in a given soap recipe without checking the lye adjustment first.
I use soapee.com to calculate recipes, because it is the only site I’ve found that includes unconventional options such as bear fat—even emu and chicken fat!—in the ingredients options. (Soapee.com lists it as “Tallow bear.”)
Before we get to the recipe I use, let’s talk about how to make your bear fat into a useable substance.
I froze our saved bear fat in gallon bags and that is a nice size to render down into oil. It is best if your fat is as free of hair, strips of meat, and blood as much as possible. “Clean” fat will cook down into a nice oil for cooking food or making soap.
If some quantities of your fat aren’t as “clean,” it still has other uses. After cooked (rendered) down into oil, this is a fine oil for oiling leather: your boots, harness, or other leather equipment. This is in my opinion! I don’t have any friends that have rendered bear fat. 🙂 Also, less-clean rendered oil is added in small quantities to our home-made dog food, so nothing ever really goes to waste.
To render: chop your bear fat into rough cubes (not pictured). Fill a crockpot 3/4 full and set it on the lowest setting. I reccommend putting your crockpot outside for the slow cook! Otherwise, your house, your hair—everything will smell strongly of fat.
Depending on the amount of fat, the cooking process will take about an hour or several hours. For a large batch, I periodically drain the liquefied oil. This seems to help the solid fat chunks to cook down more quickly. There will be some fat that simply won’t melt down, which is normal.
Strain the oil into clean containers and reserve the unmelted fat chunks.
You can fry these left-over fat chunks, called the cracklings, and bake them in cornbread or eat them straight up if you like that sort of thing. If you don’t care for the taste (we didn’t!), then mix the leftover cracklings into homemade dogfood which has proved to be most popular with our dogs.
Your finished oil should be somewhat translucent when warm, and opaque and creamy when chilled.
A straight up all-bear-oil soap isn’t recommended because that won’t create a “balanced” bar. It will be too soft, won’t lather well, etc. The majority oil in the recipe is bear oil and the other oils help balance the bar.
The end-product soap from this recipe will be a beautiful, somewhat soft bar— very creamy and gentle. I’ve never had bear soap that had a “fatty” or negative fragrance quality either.
A word to the wise: I don’t sell my soap made with bear oil. Where I live it, is illegal to sell products made from legally-procured wild game.
On to the soap recipe! Add color and fragrance as you typically would with any other soap batch. My recipe used a 35% lye solution, because I prefer a harder bar as it cures, sooner rather than later.
Again, check out soapee.com for smaller or larger batch calculations, or to add different types of oils in addition to your bear, and enjoy soaping with a valuable and unique oil!
9.49 oz liquid-of-choice (I use goat milk or "teas" made from steeping pine, or rose, or plantain, etc. in water) 5.11 oz lye 22 oz bear oil 12 oz coconut oil 1 oz castor oil .5 to 1 oz fragrance or essential oil