Bonjour from Campagne Maison
Or is that kettle, pot, or tub? Depends on what part of the country you were raised in, I suppose. All I know is that this one belonged to my paternal grandmother. From verbal history I have been told that she used it to boil water to wash clothes in, with the help of a scrub board and lye soap-- that would be homemade lye soap, made in this same kettle.
Grandma would make lye soap when they killed a hog because the “rendering of that fat” was one ingredient necessary for making the soap. She saved bacon grease throughout the year to add to the soap making recipe. That may have been her secret ingredient, or “fragrance”, I don’t know. I’m not sure where she got the lye. I do know that some people made it from the wood ashes cleaned out of their heating and cook stoves. They would filter the ashes with water to get the liquid to mix with the hog fat. It was a “science” of trial and error to get the recipe just right. She cooked that mixture in this pot over an open fire all day and the kids would help stir the pot. After it cooked, I assume she poured it out and let it cool and then cut it into bars. I do not remember hearing anything else about the procedure after the cooking. I do know that some of my older siblings said it was strong enough to “take your skin off”. It must have been if it could take stains out of work clothes.
I love having a piece of MY family history to share with others. Unlike my grandmother, I cannot use the kettle to wash clothes in or make lye soap--THANK GOODNESS- but I do display it proudly. Last year it held California poppies. This year it’s petunias.
If anyone has any more details on the making of lye soap or the use of these old cast iron kettles, I would love to hear about them.
Please leave a comment if you stopped by the farmhouse today. We love having company.