Years ago there wasn’t the variety of creams, lotions and potions on the market that there is now. I wouldn’t know where to start these days. For those without a pot full of money there was only one choice back in the day, and that was lanolin.
Getting that lanolin cream wasn’t so straightforward though.
Lanolin comes from sheep’s wool. Getting it out of the wool is pretty simple but rather time consuming.
Ernie would bring home some wool when the shearing had been done. You don’t wash it; just put it in a large pot filled with water and some salt. I used to put in three tablespoons. I had an old stock pot passed on from my mother that was kept for non-food purposes, boiling the wool, dying clothes etc.
The wool needs to be gently pushed down until it’s covered with water.
Bring the pot to a boil, and keep the water boiling for at least six hours, topping up if the water level drops.
Now it gets messy. I used a piece of oilskin and a large spoon to get the wool out of the boiling water. The wool is heavy so make sure you use something sturdy enough to lift it if you have a go at making lanolin cream.
Take all of the wool out of the water. It’s not much use for anything now that it has been well boiled, but it will be fine to add to a compost heap; that’s where all my boiled wool ended up.
Now you have to keep boiling the water, but no topping up now. Let it steam off. When all the water is gone, what you have left is pure lanolin.
I waited a short time, just a few minutes, and then poured the lanolin through a piece of cheesecloth fabric to get out any little bits of wool or burrs that were in it.
Lastly, I poured it into washed and slightly warmed jars, small ones I had collected. When the jars cooled and the lanolin was set, it was ready to use.
If you decide to have a go, remember that using modern cookers you may not need to boil for so long. I was using the range and wood so it could be a little faster in a modern kitchen.
Doing everything manually was very rough on your skin, all the handwashing and gardening left my hands really dry. Once that dryness turns into cracks, particularly if it happens in winter, they take an age to heal. The chances of infection were high and back then simple infections killed people.
Even if you didn’t get infected, cracked, sore hands made doing the daily chores a very miserable affair. Ernie used to put some on before going to work in the winter to protect his hands. We couldn’t risk Ernie not being able to work. No work, no pay back then; and no pay meant no meat, cheese, sugar or fat for the family.
Yes, things have changed in many ways and many people, particularly young women can’t imagine life without the massive amount of creams and lotions available these days. I wonder if they know what all those chemicals are that they are smearing all over their faces? At least I knew what I was using was provided directly from nature with no chemicals added.
It worked for me. One of the girls at the crochet class was surprised to hear that I am 90 next birthday, she thought I was mid 70’s. Not bad eh?
Speak to you soon Tess, love to the family,