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What makes lard trace slow?

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szaza

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Is it only lard or all animal fats? I know for sure it's not the fatty acid profile, because a recipe with the same fa profile made with plant based oils is super quick to trace.
One thing I could think of is free fatty acids. Are there more FFA in plant based sources for stearic/palmitic acid? If so, what makes it that way?
Or if not, are there other possible explanations?
 

Primrose

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It wouldn't be all animal fats, because I find beef tallow moves faster, and goat tallow faster again.

Duck fat seems to behave similarly to lard.
 

szaza

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Thanks @Primrose and @cmzaha !
So if I understand correctly, lining up in descending order of slower and slower trace it would be:
Goat tallow,
Beef tallow
Lard and duck fat
Chicken fat
Something like that?
How does tallow compare to vegetable oils like palm oil and butters? Is it still slower or does it trace faster? I'm mainly curious if animal fats trace slower than plant oils in general or only some of them do..
 

BattleGnome

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Do you have a general speed of how fast plant oils trace? Have you found coconut, olive, safflower, cocobutter, etc all trace the same?

I feel like you’re asking half of the question without establishing your expectations.

The only animal fat I’ve used is lard, so I’m useless for the question you’ve asked. But in my experience coconut traces faster than olive. I have not noticed a difference in trace between evoo, pomace, sunflower, and canola. 100% lard and 100% olive trace similar for me using CP with a just cleared lye solution.

I think I’m asking if you’re asking for information so you can make a “master list” of speedy tracing fats or if you’re trying to figure out if it’s worth branching out into different types of fat.
 

szaza

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Sorry if I was confusing.. @BattleGnome I meant vegetable oils that are high in stearic/palmitic acids that are used in vegan soaps instead of lard/tallow (like palm, butters, neem oil)
I'm working on a vegan/vegetarian way to replace lard. Replicating the FA profile of a lard soap was my first step and one thing that stood out was that the vegan alternatives all traced really quickly compared to the lard soaps (that traced exceptionally slow) with exactly the same recipe. I'm now wondering what it is that makes lard trace so slow if not the FA profile. I have no idea where to start looking, so I was wondering if it's just lard, or all animal fats. I always thought more hard oils = faster trace, but that's not true for lard (and apparently at least some other animal fats) and I'd like to know why so I can come up with a better veggie/vegan alternative. Does that make my question clearer? I'm honestly not even exactly sure what the right question is at this point, unless if there's someone who has a clearcut answer to exactly what component of lard makes it slow down trace.
 

Arimara

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Sorry if I was confusing.. @BattleGnome I meant vegetable oils that are high in stearic/palmitic acids that are used in vegan soaps instead of lard/tallow (like palm, butters, neem oil)
I'm working on a vegan/vegetarian way to replace lard. Replicating the FA profile of a lard soap was my first step and one thing that stood out was that the vegan alternatives all traced really quickly compared to the lard soaps (that traced exceptionally slow) with exactly the same recipe. I'm now wondering what it is that makes lard trace so slow if not the FA profile. I have no idea where to start looking, so I was wondering if it's just lard, or all animal fats. I always thought more hard oils = faster trace, but that's not true for lard (and apparently at least some other animal fats) and I'd like to know why so I can come up with a better veggie/vegan alternative. Does that make my question clearer? I'm honestly not even exactly sure what the right question is at this point, unless if there's someone who has a clearcut answer to exactly what component of lard makes it slow down trace.
That's practically mission impossible. You're talking about two different sources of oils. Even if you did find a blend that is, in theory, similar to lard, you have to break the fatty acids compilation down even further, where you will really see the differences. The soap calculators cannot take the lesser fatty acids into consideration and there are things in animal fats and plant fats alike that while they look similar on paper, they differ more than scientist currently know.
 

szaza

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That's practically mission impossible. You're talking about two different sources of oils. Even if you did find a blend that is, in theory, similar to lard, you have to break the fatty acids compilation down even further, where you will really see the differences. The soap calculators cannot take the lesser fatty acids into consideration and there are things in animal fats and plant fats alike that while they look similar on paper, they differ more than scientist currently know.
Nothing is truly impossible as long as it doesn't break the fundamental laws of physics;) I know it's hard to find a good vegan lard replacement (otherwise it would've been found ages ago), but I think/hope it'll be an interesting journey.
 

Mobjack Bay

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Could it be tracing fast due to the total percentage or composition of the unsaponifiables? Lard is very low in unsaponifiables. I’ve seen <0.2% and < 0.8% (source), while unrefined shea butter can have as much as 15-16% (source; source Table 2). Avocado oil has 4-9% unsaponifiables (source), but some other edible oils have very low percentages (source).

In Susan Cavitch’s book The Soap Maker’s Companion, she says this on page 108:

“The percentage of unsaponifiables is very high in pomace olive oil... The unsaponifiables in pomace create a thick, waxy, synergistic soup, making the oils more viscous, quick to react, and fast to pull the neutral oils into the soapmaking reaction. They act as a catalyst, getting the reaction going, and building up some momentum.”

I have been using unrefined shea at nearly 40% in one of my recipes and it wants to trace pretty fast. When I switched to refined shea instead of unrefined shea, the recipe slowed down noticeably. The first time I made soap with 3% orange wax, I barely got it into the mold. It has a composition similar to lanolin (source) and is high in unsaponifiables. According to Jan Berry, lanolin can speed trace (source), but I haven’t used it, so I don’t know from experience.

ETA: I also found this post by an SMF member that gives a good explanation of how and why the structure of a fatty acid affects speed of trace.
 
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szaza

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Thanks @Primrose , that's kind of what I attempted minus the palm oil and got super fast trace that I'm trying to understand.

@Mobjack Bay very interesting that your unrefined shea traced so much quicker than refined shea. I guess that means there's a catalyst in the unsaponifiables of shea..
I don't think it's only the amount of unsaponifiables, but also which ones. For example, lard has 0.8% unsaponifiables (according to wikipedia) while refined cocoa butter has 0.3% (source) and still is known to accelerate.
Recipes high in plant-based palmitic and stearic acid seem to trace faster with me than a 100% CO recipe, which further supports the idea that there is a catalyst at work (based on FA alone, it should trace slower)
I'm now wondering if there's a catalyst in plant-based sources, would there be a trace slowing component in lard?
NEW QUESTION!: Does anybody have experience with lard vs liquid oil in a recipe? Would a recipe with 100% lard trace faster than a recipe with 100% olive oil for example? (Or 80% vs 80%)
 

BattleGnome

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I mentioned in my post that lard and olive trace similarly for me under near identical conditions, but they both have similar reputations. I got to my current recipe by flipping my lard and olive percentages, trace time didn’t seem to change.

I can’t comment of fatty acid profiles but I can comment on feel. The only 100% veggie oil soap I’ve ever made that feels like a lard soap has used crisco. I have a feeling palm is part of the reason but that would negate some of the vegan (most who comment about vegan soap make a point to mention they don’t want to use palm because of orangutans/deforestation tactics).

Based on my readings steric acid does promote a fast trace (mostly in shaving soap threads. I think the “Songwind” thread has the most details about how people have developed their recipes but I don’t make shaving soap to have it on hand). Since steric is often used as a thickener in lotions there may be be a “property of steric acid” that likes to be thick?
 

Ladka

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@Mobjack Bay very interesting that your unrefined shea traced so much quicker than refined shea. I guess that means there's a catalyst in the unsaponifiables of shea..
I don't think it's only the amount of unsaponifiables, but also which ones. ... supports the idea that there is a catalyst at work
It seems logical there is a catalyst in unrefined fat speeding tracing, and I'd be very happy if such a catalyst was found to add to my lard soap which traces real s-l-o-w. One that would not be too expensive and not palm or other unethycally produced oil (and I just do not believe in "ethycally produced" certificates for palm).
 

Mobjack Bay

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@Mobjack Bay very interesting that your unrefined shea traced so much quicker than refined shea. I guess that means there's a catalyst in the unsaponifiables of shea..
I don't think it's only the amount of unsaponifiables, but also which ones. For example, lard has 0.8% unsaponifiables (according to wikipedia) while refined cocoa butter has 0.3% (source) and still is known to accelerate.
That low number for cocoa butter really surprises me, but CB also has higher steric and palmitic (61%) compared with lard (41%). To tease out the effects of unsaponifiables, the ideal approach would be to compare how a single fat behaves with and without unsaponifiables.
 

szaza

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Thanks @BattleGnome that's very useful information! That would mean there's something within the 0,8% unsaponifiables of lard that slowds down trace.
Stearic acid indeed traces super quickly. Normal oils are triglycerides and are saponified in a 2 step process (first the 3 fatty acids tails are split from their glycerin backbone and then the fatty acids react with the sodium to form soap) in stearic acid (a fatty acid, not a triglyceride), the first step has already been done, which makes it trace a lot faster. Old oils (and rancid oils even more so) have already started the first breaking down process and can therefore also trace faster than fresh oils.
There is still a hypothesis in the back of my mind that maybe in plant oils the first breakdown process (fatty acids breaking off from the glycerin backbone) is more prominent. It seems counter intuitive, because animal fats need to be stored in the fridge (at least they are at my local grocery) indicating they go rancid more quickly than their vegetable counterparts. But maybe plant oils that are high in saturated fats just break down more slowly and are more stable in their diglyceride or monoglyceride forms than their animal based counterparts? (Just spitballing, sory for going off topic a bit)
 

szaza

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@Mobjack Bay the article about cocoa butter states most of the unsaponifiables in CB are sterols.
Cholesterol is well studied, so that's already one component of the unsaponifiables in lard. 100g of lard contains 60mg of cholesterol (source in Dutch), which is less than 1/10th of the total amount of unsaponifiables (if wikipedia is right, they refer to a book that I can't access). I'm curious what the other 90% is.
To tease out the effects of unsaponifiables, the ideal approach would be to compare how a single fat behaves with and without unsaponifiables
Would be a very interesting experiment! But even refined oils have small amounts of unsaponifiables. It would be possible to test refined vs unrefined, but refined vs unsap free seems difficult. Do you know of a process that would take out all the unsaponifiables while leaving the triglycerides intact?
 

Mobjack Bay

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@Mobjack Bay the article about cocoa butter states most of the unsaponifiables in CB are sterols.
Cholesterol is well studied, so that's already one component of the unsaponifiables in lard. 100g of lard contains 60mg of cholesterol (source in Dutch), which is less than 1/10th of the total amount of unsaponifiables (if wikipedia is right, they refer to a book that I can't access). I'm curious what the other 90% is.

Would be a very interesting experiment! But even refined oils have small amounts of unsaponifiables. It would be possible to test refined vs unrefined, but refined vs unsap free seems difficult. Do you know of a process that would take out all the unsaponifiables while leaving the triglycerides intact?
I probably should have used "trace or low levels" rather than suggesting zero is possible.
 

szaza

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Hmm.. since catalysts can be present at trace amounts (my boyfriend pointed out they can be metals as well, which are only present in trace amounts anyway), maybe it's best to first make sure it's not a difference in the amount of free fatty acids that makes lard trace slower than plant oils.. I'll try to look for a test that can show the concentration of ffa in oils (I'm sure they exist, it's used to check oils for freshness, just need to see if I can find a way to do it at home)
Meanwhile, a small test with different refined vs unrefined oils will also be a good start (I was planning on a soap with unrefined cocoa anyway, so I guess I could do one with the same recipe and refined cocoa as well)
After that I can try to find some reading on the exact composition of several oils (lard, chicken, palm, cocoa and shea for example) and try to identify which substances differ and could be the catalyst. A good experiment would be to add the supposed catalyst to a slow tracing recipe and see what happens (if it's possible to get that substance on its own) though I'm not entirely sure if that last part is feasible.

It seems logical there is a catalyst in unrefined fat speeding tracing, and I'd be very happy if such a catalyst was found to add to my lard soap which traces real s-l-o-w. One that would not be too expensive and not palm or other unethycally produced oil (and I just do not believe in "ethycally produced" certificates for palm).
Have you tried other ways to speed up trace already? Like soaping with warmer oils and not letting the lye solution cool down as much? Or using a bit less water for example? A good way to add a catalyst to soap is using an EO/FO that accelerates (like clove and cinnamon EO for example) just be sure to check the usage rates!!
 
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Ladka

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I do soap with warmer oils and don't let the lye temp cool down too much, and I SB quite a lot. I'll also try reducing water content and see if this helps.

After that I can try to find some reading on the exact composition of several oils (lard, chicken, palm, cocoa and shea for example) and try to identify which substances differ and could be the catalyst.
would you please include sheep tallow for me? You know, ship tallow (+sunflower oil) was my first soap and I still like it.
 
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szaza

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would you please include sheep tallow for me? You know, ship tallow (+sunflower oil) was my first soap and I still like it.
Of course! So sheep tallow is also slow to trace? How is it compared to lard? I didn't include any tallows because goat and beef were reported to trace faster..
 
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