Lard was never a household staple for me before I started farming. Although I’d read about the benefits of traditional fats, I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone speak a positive word about lard before I started raising hogs myself.
Learning how to raise hogs, I read about how they used to be bred to pack on the fat so people could enjoy lots of lard. It went for cooking, baking soap, skin care, candles, and many other practical projects. This versatile fat has been prized all over the world for ages.
These old-time folks knew what they were doing. They had centuries to figure out what worked and what didn’t. That lard we scorned was full of vitamin D and apparently pure lard like mine does not harden arteries the way its modern replacements do.
We put that knowledge to good use at my house now. We cook with big dollops of lard, and if I can get away with a less buttery flavor, I bake with it too. We make soap and a rich hand balm that protects my skin from the itchy effects of chlorine because I teach fitness classes twice a week in a swimming pool.
With Christmas coming, I decided the 4-year-old and I would take on a special project of making candles using lard. (Some of these candles will be used as gifts, so if you are family and are reading this, please pretend to be surprised if you receive a home-made candle!)
First, my son and I got out the kitchen scale and cut off 2 oz of beeswax from a beloved old brick of beeswax that was given to us as a gift some time ago and has been used in many memorable projects.
We melted a pound of rendered lard from our own hogs and mixed the liquid wax and lard. After cooling it for a while, we added .5 oz of orange essential oil and .25 oz of cinnamon essential oil.
While we waited for the wax and lard to cool, we curled some candle wicks around pencils and balanced the pencils on jars. My son helped with the curling of the wicks. I think this was his favorite part. I held the tip of the wick still on the pencil while he rotated the body of the wick in large circles around it.
Eventually, we poured our hot mix into the jars and then had to let them cool. It felt like it took a long time to cool (or at least my son thought so), and when we were done, we found that the candle was still very soft. You can easily make an impression in it with your finger, but this shouldn’t be much of a practical concern because it is a container candle. I expect if someone added a higher proportion of beeswax, they could have a firmer candle.
I rarely buy scented candles because I feel uneasy with their chemical perfumes, but one of our own scented lard candles is burning on the table right now, and I am enjoying it so much. Every time I breathe in, I smell a gentle whiff of cinnamon. My 11-year-old just came down and said, “It smells great in here! Is that the candle?”
I can enjoy that lovely scent knowing that it is coming from a pure source. Honestly, I did not expect to enjoy the lard candles so much. We may do this again, maybe with some citronella to keep mosquitoes away from outdoor suppers in the spring and summer. In the meantime, we have a lovely aroma and a light for family suppers during some of the longest nights of the year. (And some other people in our family will have that soon too! Shhh!)