Introduction: Fire Starters From Household Scraps
Whether it's for a fireplace, a fire pit or a chiminea, you've got to be able to get the winter partying started. These little fire starter cups burn hot and long - plenty long enough to get just about any log flaming fast. The best part? the fuel is free stuff you've already got - just three ingredients: Bacon drippings, left over candle stumps and shredded paper!
What makes it work is combining the bacon drippings with the waste wax and then pouring the molten mixture into tiny paper cups that have been stuffed with shredded paper. If you don't happen to have a paper shredder, you can use wood chips or wadded tissue from last year's gifting. It's just there to take up some space and help get oxygen to the fuel. If you have saw dust you can add some of that, but not too much as it can slow the burning. A little is a good thing, especially if your drippings are less than solid at room temperature.
IMPORTANT WARNINGS: Whatever you use for the paper, be sure it's really just paper (or wax paper)! You don't want to burn anything with a plastic lining; those fumes aren't usually conducive to the holiday spirit, and they're not good for kids and pets. And, if you have pets that might be tempted to eat the fire starters because of the faint scent of bacon, keep them out of reach.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
To make about three dozen fire starters:
A couple pounds of waste wax - dead candles
Two quarts or so of bacon drippings (you can use any solid or very thick kitchen drippings, just not too runny.
(NOTE: a 2-to-3 ratio of drippings to wax is what I used)
3oz paper cups (like these on Amazon) - very handy for all sorts of crafting
A cubic foot or so of loose shredded paper or wadded package wrap tissue
A big tin can for the crucible, and a dutch oven or other large pot to make a double boiler with the can
A few feet of heavy duty aluminum foil
Burner on your stovetop
Optional: Wax paper or festive package wrapping tissue to wrap the finished cups (it's cheap and it burns safely and well).
Step 1: Prepping the Fuel
Melting the wax takes a while, so let's get that going. Dump some candle scraps into the big tin can/crucible and set it in the big pot. Leave room in the crucible for the bacon drippings you'll be adding. Pour water the pot to an inch and a half or so in depth. Place this on a burner on your stove on medium heat. Stir occasionally with a paint stirrer or other wasteable stick to check for unmelted chunks of wax. BE CAREFUL NOT TO DRIP WAX ONTO THE BURNER!
When this batch of wax has melted, pour in the drippings. I used three parts wax to two parts drippings. You don't want the finished fire starters to ooze fuel, so we want a fairly solid fuel when cooled.
A word about drippings... Not all kitchen drippings are good fuel. For instance, if you keep the drippings from your Thanksgiving turkey, they will separate into three parts. The water will go to the bottom, the gelatin will go to the middle, and the burnable fat will come to the top. If you're using a separated fat like that, be SURE you don't get ANY of the gelatin or water in the mixture. It would get transferred to cups, and you'd either have one or two runny, unburnable fire stoppers, or a lot of sputtering, fat-splashing, dangerous fireworks. No water. None.
Step 2: Stuffing the Cups
The kids can get in on this, too. Just set up the paper stuffing operation well away from the stove. This part is really easy. Stuff paper into enough cups to cover the bottom of your foil-lined cardboard box. You'll be pouring wax into them here, and getting a lot of it over the edges of the cups, so be sure your foil fully covers the bottom and sides of the box.
Step 3: Filling With Fuel
With the wax/grease fuel mixture completely melted, give it a mix to make sure the fat and wax haven't separated. Lift the can out of the water, and set it down on a paper towel to absorb the water on the bottom, and wipe down the sides. No water should be allowed to drip into the cups.
Pass the pouring fuel over the cups, with the goal of filling them between 2/3 and almost full. Don't worry about the overspill. The cups will pop right out of the cooled stuff on the bottom of the box. It's grease, eh? But it's wax, too, which will keep the grease from saturating the paper.
After filling all the cups, you can put a piece of foil or parchment paper over them, and load a second layer.
Let the cups cool outdoors or in the garage for a few hours, then pop them out of the box, and wrap them with tissue paper or wax paper. It takes about one square foot of wax paper or tissue to cover one cup. Twist the top, and you're done!
Here's wishing everyone a warm and cheerful winter, rich in hygge!