September 10, 2009|Comments (15)
In the morning, I’ll board a plane for paradise. That’s right, a tropical paradise of lagoons, hibiscus, palm trees, coral reefs, volcanoes, and SPAM awaits me. The most important feature of this paradise? My husband, Josh, will be there. Read more
August 29, 2008|Comments (12)
My beloved Aunt Nancy taught me about making my own soap. I can remember seeing her bins filled with old fashioned lye soap with odd little rippled sides and bumpy bottoms. It was quite a few years before I discovered that my wonderful and resourceful aunt used the plastic trays that candy is packaged in as soap moulds! Brilliant! This explained the funny shaped soaps!
She makes soap the old fashioned way with tallow, lye, and water. I love that soap. It’s good, cheap, and fun.
After a few batches of the “good stuff,” it was time to try out some fun soap recipes. What a blast! Boy, did I learn a lot! I made some real rookie mistakes: forgetting to grease the moulds, failing to stir the soap until the fats and lye water have thoroughly mixed, failing to keep vinegar within arms-reach at all times, wearing clothes I actually care about while making soap (they got covered in little brown/black specks), forgetting to turn on the fan above the stove while making the water/lye mixture **cough, gasp, hack**, and much more. In the end, I got it right!
Some cinnamon almond bars (above) and scented soaps (top of page).
When ready to begin making soap, you should have a few items close at hand:
- digital kitchen scaleold mixer or stick blender
non-aluminum kettle and spoon that you do not plan to use for food ever again
2 thermometers that hook onto the sides of pots
glass measuring cup with a handle (helps to have metric)
container to use as a mould (flexible plastic cake pan, etc.)
vaseline (not needed for the flexible resin cake pans)
large jug of vinegar (to neutralize the lye)
Next you need to gather ALL of your ingredients and measure them into the cups before mixing or heating anything. Use the scales to make sure you have the exact amounts!
SLOWLY and carefully add the lye to the water in the glass measuring cup on your unheated stove with the fan running. Stir constantly. DO NOT SPLASH. If you should get some lye on your skin — pour vinegar over it immediately!!! NEVER add the water to the lye!! Clip thermometer to the glass measuring cup and step away. You do not want to be around the fumes! Be careful and do not touch the glass because it will be very hot.
Now, heat your oils and fats. Follow the recipe’s instructions. Add the lye/water mixture to the oils when the temperatures are roughly the same temperature (between 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit).
Waiting for the lye water temperature to drop a little more. See my old kettle with the broken handle? Trash becomes treasure!
Stir for twenty minutes with the mixer, then every fifteen minutes (resting during the 15 minutes) until it reaches trace. Don’t worry if you don’t reach trace right away. Every batch of soap is different! You will know when you have reached trace when the temperature rises 2 or 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here we see the soap when it is just a few more minutes before reaching trace.
At trace, you can add scents and coloring agents (like cocoa, cinnamon, mustard powder, etc.). Stir and pour into moulds. Follow the recipe instructions. I usually cover the moulds so they will cool slowly but that isn’t necessary. I generally don’t mess with them for 12-15 hours after pouring. Then I take them out of the moulds, cut them into bars, and let them sit on racks.
Here is some cinnamon almond soap that has just been poured into the moulds after reaching trace and stirring in almond oils and cinnamon. Notice the texture — like a thick cake batter.
Recipe for Lacy’s Cinnamon Almond Soap:
- 600 grams coconut oil400 grams palm oil
460 grams olive oil
40 grams shea butter
560 mils bottled water
220 grams lye
almond essential oil for soap
3 Tbsp cinnamon or cocoa
Add lye/water mixture to melted fats when both reach 100-120 degrees. Rest overnight or longer. Release from mould.
I like to use the plastic containers that usually contain strawberries for storage and hardening of the soap. I simply turn the entire box over each day and don’t have to touch the bars of soap or anything. It is very inexpensive and ideal for small batches. Below are a few bars of cinnamon almond soap before hardening and also before shaping:
August 9, 2008|Comments (23)
After having rendered the tallow, poured it through a strainer with cheese cloth, shoved it in the refrigerator for the night, and blown out all those scented candles (lit to help with the odorous process) the fat is ready to scoop out. (Did you miss all those beginning steps? Check out Finally a Good Use for Fat, Part One.)
See that brown jelly stuff? Don’t eat that. That’s the water and impurities that I have not found a use for. I throw it very far away from the house. I did have a bit of a brainstorm, though. I wonder if we could bait the fox trap with it? Hmmm…. Back to soap making! Weigh the rendered fat and use the fat calculator to figure out how much lye and water you need. Just plug and chug with your amount of tallow and that you are using water and sodium hydroxide (lye). Need conversions? Click here. Remember that your tallow is already salted so you’ll have nice firm bars of soap.
Gather lye, distilled water (or rain water), scales, stainless steel kettle, resin cake pans or soap moulds, glass measuring cup with a handle, two candy thermometers with kettle clips, and your tallow. Keep white vinegar around to neutralize any acid that touches your skin. Lye burns can be nasty. In the fall (once our burn ban if lifted), I’ll show you how to make your own lye from wood ash. Then we will really be in touch with our inner pioneers.
Measure out your lye and water. Now, pay attention!!! Add the lye to the water.
Did you get that? Add the lye to the water and stir. Do not inhale the fumes. As you add the lye — hold the measuring cup by the handle. The lye water gets VERY hot. VERY hot.
Place your tallow in the kettle and begin to melt it on low heat. You can also melt it in a slow cooker. This I leave up to you but I prefer the stove. Keep it on med-low heat and stir frequently with the fan on. Don’t worry, your soap will not smell like the fat. Promise. Attach thermometers to lye water measuring cup and the kettle full of tallow.
Once the lye water and the fat reach the same temperature — about 100 degrees Fahrenheit — add the lye water to the fat. Stir. Now keep stirring. I like to use a hand mixer (a yard sale find) but stick blenders are nice, too. I stir for a while and then take a break and then come back to stir some more. Some people will tell you that you must stir constantly and never leave the mixture alone. But I’m not some people. Stir at least every five-ten minutes.
Once the mixture reaches trace — a thickened state that’s sort of like cake batter — you can add scent or color. The additives must be soap-approved. MUST. I poured half of the soap into a mould without scent or color and then colored the other half for fun.
I like to use my hand mixer to create a whipped look on the soap. Let cool overnight. There’s no need to wrap it up or cover it (unless you think someone is going to try and eat it — cause it does look very inviting). So don’t worry about that. Just let it hang out until morning.
In the morning, remove them from the pans and cut them into bars. Let the bars air or age on cooling racks or use produce containers. Some people will tell you that you MUST age the soap. You don’t actually have to age the bars. They really are perfectly safe for use — no more acidic than pool water.
There. You did it. You made soap from scratch. Now what to do with that meat that was leftover? Tune in next time for panhas! Oh yes, and one lucky commenter will get a bar of this soap. Winner to be announced tomorrow. Congratulations, chocolatechic! You won yourself a bar of homemade soap. How about that for a great way to end the weekend and start the week?? Way cool dudette.