Sunday, November 23, 2014

Making Soap - A Tutorial

It was only a few years ago that I first discovered how to make soap at home.  I don't think I've purchased store bought soap since.  The entire process is so quick that I can easily whip up batch or two that will last me for months.  Around the holidays I tend to make a few extra batches to include into gift baskets.   There's nothing quite like pure, homemade soap.

Essentially, there are two different way that you can make soap at home.  The cold process method and the hot process method.   The cold process produces a lovely, smooth bar of soap that is pleasing to the eye.  The downside to this method is that it can take weeks for your soap to cure before you can use it.   Because I am impatient I use the hot process method in which you cook your soap, speeding up the curing time.  This process produces a quick bar of soap that can be used immediately.  The hot process soaps tend to look a little more rustic - which is okay with me.

After trying many different recipes I have settled on this simple one from the Holy Hen House.  Her recipe uses easy to find oils and produces a fairly smooth, white bar of soap.  The recipe can be easily modified to include scents, essential oils, and any other goodies like coffee grinds or oatmeal.

To start off with, your going to need a few supplies.   The most important piece of equipment is an old slow cooker.  I picked up a sweet vintage one for a few bucks at the thrift store.  Your also going to need a tempered glass bowl, a scale, a heat resistant spatula or wooden spoon, and a loaf pan (not pictured).

9.4 Ounces of Crisco
6 Ounces of Olive Oil
6 Ounces of Coconut Oil
8 Ounces of water (or tea, coffee, goat's milk....)
3 Ounces of Lye
Any other goodies you might want to add (Oatmeal, Herbs, Essential Oils)
Its important to remember that all your ingredients need to be measured by weight.  If you modify the ingredients be sure to enter it into a soap calculator to insure that the oils to lye ratio will work out.  Sometimes a like to add an ounce or two of castor oil to my soap, it makes a nice hard bar that lathers well.

Start out measuring out the oils and adding them to the slow cooker.  While the oils are melting measure out your water and lye and slowly ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER.   Be extremely careful while handling the lye, it is very caustic.  The chemical reaction causes the water to heat up extremely fast and produces harmful vapours.  Remember to put your glass bowl on a heat resistant surface and to open up the windows for ventilation.  It can be difficult to find lye in the stores, it's usually located in the drain cleaner area.  I bought mine from Home Hardware. 

Once the oils are melted and your lye solution has cooled down a bit, turn off the slow cooker and slowly add your lye solution into the oils.    At this point you want to stir the oils and lye solution together until it comes to trace.  Trace is achieved when your oil solution has reached the consistency of pudding.   It can be really handy to use an immersion blender to bring the oil solution to trace.   Once trace has been reached, turn the slow cooker back on to low and let your soap cook for about an hour of so.   The soap will puff up and start to look like mashed potatoes when its finished.  Turn off your slow cooker, let your soap cool somewhat and feel free to stir any extras like ground oatmeal or essential oils.  

You can let your soap firm up in any shaped container that you like.  I like to use a silicone loaf pan.  The silicone makes it easy to pop the soap out once it has hardened, plus it has a nice design on the bottom of the pan.  If you use a metal or glass loaf pan, its advisable to line your container with parchment paper so that the soap doesn't stick to the sides.  

Scoop your soap into your pan and try to smooth out the top as much as you can.  Let the soap harden over night.  In the morning you can pop out your loaf of soap and easily cut it up into bars.  At this point, you can use the soap right away but I like to let mine dry out on the cooling rack for a week or so.  

My latest batch of soap: Plain, unscented.
In other news, things have been pretty quiet around the house.  We finally got our peacock stained glass window hung.   I bought it at a garage sale in the summer along with a pretty stained glass lamp for a few a few bucks.  The panel was built into a strange light box so we disassembled the entire thing, framed the glass, and antiqued it. We hung it in the kitchen window to hide the underside of the roof that overhangs our front door.  Eventually we want to do a small kitchen renovation and take out this window but in the mean time it provides some coverage.

A few weeks ago Little Dog had some sort of accident while I was at work.   A was away, working out of town, and in the middle of the night I was awoken by her distressed whining.  The vet thinks she had pinched a nerve and she lost the motor function of her back legs.   They sent us home with an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxers, and strict orders of bed rest.   Slowly she has been gaining the use of her legs, but it's a long process and A and I have to be careful to constantly keep an eye on her.   When she goes out to do her business we have to support her back end with a towel under her hips.  My doctors have been kind enough to have her come into the office for chiropractic adjustments.  It will a frustrating next couple of months but we love our fur babe and would do anything for her.

The dog's lack of mobility has kept us all pretty close to home.  Walks in the bush just don't seem the same without her quick, short pace beside me.  Instead, we have been enjoying the comforts of home, cozy evenings close to the woodstove, comfort foods and baking.  I have a few crochet crafts and sewing projects on go to keep my hands from being idle.  We have been sampling the local craft beers in the evening.  I'm not a huge drinker these days, but a dark, malty ale is hard to resist. 
I plan on making a large pot of vegan chili for dinner tonight.   A has proclaimed this recipe to be the best chili he has ever had.  What type of comforts are you enjoying to stay cozy this winter?