Monthly Archives: March 2011

Tallow Anyone?!

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Tallow Anyone?!

I told you it wouldn’t be long before I got another blog post out.

It feels like spring may finally arrive after what seems like the longest winter in my memory.  I have been making soap to replenish my supplies and to create an inventory to sell.

Bygone Basics has two lines of soaps.  One is a Heritage line. These soaps are heritage pure and made up of standard home goods available  between the 1870’s and the 1940’s.  Standard ingredients include rain water, goat or cow milks, castor oil, and several other ingredient options (and of course lye).  Some of the soaps contain animal oils such as lard and tallow as well.  These make a very good bar of soap by the way.  If these soaps have scents, they are created by adding ground coffee (which is a fantastic way to get odors off your hands, such as garlic), cinnamon, and ground herbs.  I am put off by soaps that smell of so much perfume they become offensive, plus I wonder at potential chemicals in the scent and colorant additions in some homemade soaps I see being sold.  It is ok for many, I just don’t want to walk about smelling like a perfume shop, nor have my husband’s co-workers wonder why he smells…pretty.  🙂  Just personal taste.

The second line is so much FUN.  It is a play on the words “alphabet soup.”  The line is Alphabet Soap. Each soap variation in this line has ingredients that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet (some have to stray on an ingredient once in a while).  For example, one of the “C” soaps is a kitchen (citchen?) has these ingredients:

  • coconut oil
  • cocoa butter
  • castor oil
  • coffee
  • coffee grounds
  • cloves

These soaps and home dipped bygone era candles, as well as

Unrendered Tallow.

baked goods, jams/jellies..etc (things of bygone eras) will be for sale at the Bygone Basics Pantry, located at Amanda’s Bequest, the home of Bygone Basics, 5200 Anderson Rd., Montague, MI 49437 beginning May 1, 2011.

Tallow as it melts. This batch is about half done.

I started to tell you, and then sidetracked myself….Tallow.  It is hard to find.  It reminded me of the frustrating time last summer when my daughter, Jessica, and I were trying very hard to find a source of local goat’s milk for soap.  We were told repeatedly where we might find a source but kept striking out.  She quipped in frustration, “Everyone knows someone who sells goat’s milk, but no one actually does!” I’ve gone to a couple of butchers and they weren’t sure what it even was!?  FYI, it is a very hard fat deposit on lean grazing animals like deer, sheep and goats and sometimes around the kidneys of cattle.  In the past, my source was deer, taken on the property…but we now live in a no-hunting zone, where there are 20 deer standing in my lawn at any given time….just teasing me.

You may remember that the Bygone Basic’s kitchen is under renovation, but fortunately, we have a second kitchen here.  Nothing fancy, but it does the job.

This is our second kitchen. It works just fine for us. Note the Guiness cake cooling in its springform pan.

Today, I am making a cake for my mother.  Guiness cake.

Yes, it has almost a full bottle of Guiness Extra Stout in it and becomes a very moist, chocolatey cake.

The Guiness has a way of not adding it’s own flavor, but of adding a wonderful depth and dimension to the chocolate (the alcohol cooks off).

The cake is in the oven and the tallow on the stovetop. A wonderful "back home" aroma.

……..AND, I am rendering tallow.  The house smells like bygone homes where the kitchen eminated aromas of wonderful baking and the chores of economy (rendering tallow for example).  Tallow was inexpensive (or free if you hunted or farmed your own animals) and used in many ways in bygone era homes….but you had to render it.  Rendering is just cooking the hard tallow into a melted liquid and then straining it to remove impurities.  Those strained impurities will go into the composter.  We really do try not to waste anything.

Speaking of letting nothing go to waste, later today, I am making a series of “B” soaps.  What starts with “B”?  Beer.  The rest of that Guiness (and then some) is going into a complexion bar I’ve developed.  🙂  Never a dull moment here.

If you are interested in having any of these unique experiences and gaining their associated heritage skill, call or email today to get the date of your choice in the Bygone Basics kitchen.

Until next time…thinking SPRING!

Of Names and Odd Things in Walls

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Original Wood floors and a couple of odd rooms at the side of the kitchen, OK, but fairly modern for such a beautiful old house.

Yes, that was a weird title.  What’s weirder is the unusual assortment of things we have discovered in the walls of this home as we do some restoration during the normally slow season of Winter.  We were all set to install an entire heritage kitchen in one of the front rooms.  But that eventually left us wondering why we would put in a THIRD kitchen.  (duh?)  We decided to use the lowermost kitchen for our own use and make the house’s existing big kitchen the Bygone Basic’s kitchen.  (My husband, John, had designs on the lower kitchen….something to do with hops…guess he’ll have to rethink that one.)

Anyway…we pulled down some of the crazy mixture of recent walls that created a mouse maze of little rooms.  The previous owner had the place rented out as a tri-plex.  In process we found:

  • A bathroom (circa 1960 ish)
  • Dentures
  • Bunch of Bones (yes….we aren’t quite sure what to do about this find)
  • Old Tinker toys
  • A chimney
  • Beautiful original paneling (real tongue and grove pine original to the house)
  • A tarnished coin that had John all excited until I read the inscription on it “where a kid can be a kid.” <I’m still laughing about that find>  circa 2003

And that was all within a 15 square foot area that got a complete, down to studs stripping.  We can’t help but wonder what else these old walls have.  Hopefully not the ears to the bones.  🙂  I’d sure like the rest of the tinkertoy set though.

This renovation/restoration has been enlightening.  Just seeing how a home was constructed 140 years ago has been quite an education.  Anyone know what we can do with the square iron nails we have pulled from some of the lumber?  We are trying to reuse/repurpose anything that isn’t being re-placed.  The kitchen will be complete by April 1st.  I can’t wait for guests of Bygone Basics to experience it.

We are booking the spring and summer now so if you would like to Experience heritage skills in a fun and unique way, get your date on the Calendar of Experiences by giving me a call or an email.  (231) 740-4065 or ICan@bygonebasics.com

Of course, check out the Bygone Basics website too at  www.bygonebasics.com

Of Names:

I announced previously a name contest.  We did get some submissions, and I thank EVERYONE for their submission; but not “The Name” that tapped us on the shoulder and made us feel like it belonged.  We are calling the house for now “Amanda’s Bequest” as it was Noah Ferry’s mother, Amanda, who left the bequest in 1870 to build the house.  I think the name will make itself at home and stick around.

Until next time….and I promise it won’t be as long….