“Man, that deer is going to make some great candles!” Said no one ever.
After a successful hunt, the backstraps, tenderloins, and juicy venison steaks all get careful consideration. The fat? Not so much. But utilizing as much of the animal as possible is a respectable goal for all hunters, and that includes the fat.
The practice of rendering deer fat into tallow candles has been around for hundreds of years. My dad taught me how to make them when I was a kid. He grew up fairly poor and he showed me knock out these coffee-mug candles without spending a dime (he was making them out of necessity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it). They are an easy DIY gift idea that use items you probably already have at home.
- Fat—the hard, waxy fat from a recent deer or elk
- An old coffee mug or heat-safe jar
- A 100% cotton t-shirt or pillowcase
- Double boiler or Crock Pot
- Duct Tape
- Fat from one deer will make about 1-2 coffee mug size candles. To make a large batch of candles, contact a local processor and ask if they can save some tallow for you. Some will even give it to you for free.
- Cold tallow works best because it is easier to handle and cut into very small chunks. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will melt down.
- Low and slow is key. The slower you render the fat, the cleaner the wax will be. It does take some time, though. A crock pot on low also works, but creates a “dirtier” looking liquid wax.
- If you’re having trouble getting the wick to stay in place in the bottom of the jar, use a sticky dot or hot glue gun.
- The candles will keep throughout the year without spoiling, especially if they are stored in a cool environment.