May 04, 2005

Other revenue streams - soap making

Along with selling our Cider and Mead, we will also be offering items for sale online and in our tasting room. One thing that Jen is getting very much interested in is Soap Making. We are now using several soaps that she has made and they are a lot better than most commercial soaps. I have sensitive skin and need to watch that I don't use anything harsh. Some laundry detergents and strong soaps will make it look like I sandpapered my skin. Jen's soaps clean well, rinse cleanly and quickly and do not irritate my skin at all.
I knew there was a reason I married her…

By making our own, we can be perfectly sure that nothing artificial has entered into the ingredient list (same as with our Cider and Mead products).

Jen made a batch of soap this morning and I took some pictures:

Click for full-size Image

Here she is set up to make a batch. There is a digital scale inside a baggie for weighing the ingredients. The ratio of oil to lye is critical so an accurate scale is a must. If you have to little oil, the soap will be highly alkaline and harsh. If you have too much, it will be gooey and will not set up properly. Jen aims for a super-fatted soap with a few percent more oil than lye. This gives a nice hard bar but also makes for luxurious lather and a gentle cleaning action.

Click for full-size Image

Here are the primary ingredients for this batch. She is using Lard (rendered pig fat) but this is not an essential ingredient. A soap made from nothing but Olive Oil and Lye is called a Castille soap. Other oils that she is using are Hazelnut Oil, Coconut Oil and Palm Oil. Each oil has its own characteristic and the ratio determines the basic property of the soap.

Click for full-size Image

Honey and Powdered Oatmeal are being added to this batch. Honey for smoothness and aroma and the Oatmeal for an exfoliant property. The raw oatmeal is processed in a food mill before adding to the soap.

Click for full-size Image

Jen is measuring out the Olive Oil for this batch.

Click for full-size Image

Yum — a whole mess 'o Lard… Traditional soaps were made from rendered animal fats and fireplace ashes cooked together. The wood ash had a high concentration of Potassium Hydroxide. Commercial lye is actually Sodium Hydroxide but both work fine for soap.
For those concerned about the use of pig products, we will not be using Lard in all of our soaps and those few that have it will be clearly identified.

Click for full-size Image

A nice big pot of various oils ready to be turned into soap. Since the Lard doesn't melt that well, we are going to heat it up a bit.

Click for full-size Image

Here we are around 140 Degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is nicely melted and ready to go.

Click for full-size Image

Jen is making a Milk soap today. Usually, the Lye is added to water and that mixture is stirred into the oil mixture. Today, she is using milk instead of water. Because adding lye to liquid is exothermic Jen froze the milk first so as not to cook it. Generally, adding lye to water raises the temperature to over 120F. By freezing the milk first, she kept it under 80F.

Click for full-size Image

Here, the lye and milk has been added to the oils and Jen is blending them together. Using a stick blender, Jen is able to reach “trace” in fifteen minutes or so. This used to take hours and hours of hand stirring. We may be making our own soaps like the pioneers but we are not shunning labor-saving devices…

Click for full-size Image

A small measure of the soap has been removed and color added to it. Since Jen is looking for a “swirl” pattern through the bar, she is mixing it up a la Jackson Pollack.

Click for full-size Image

And here we are, an hour or so later with some finished bars in the mold. Later tomorrow, these will be removed from the mold, cut into individual hand bars and set out to air cure. Although 99.9% of the lye has been bound with oil chemically, there are still traces of it that remain for a week or two so the soap has to sit for a while before it can be used safely. Letting it cure also makes the bar harder so it lasts longer.

Click for full-size Image

And here are a few of her other batches curing.

As I said, this is wonderful stuff. Washes well (and we do come in with dirty hands — Jen from the garden and me with oil and grime from the shop), great lather and it rinses clean.

Posted by DaveH at May 4, 2005 08:20 PM | TrackBack

"Jen aims for a super-fatted soap with a few percent more oil than lye. This gives a nice hard bar but also makes for luxurious lather and a gentle cleaning action."

It also gives me a "fudge factor" in case I'm a little off with the lye measurement. Without that 5% (or so) of excess oil the lye measurement and mixing technique becomes truly critical unless you enjoy chemical burns.

As it is, when I'm cutting the loaves of soap into individual bars I can feel my hands tingle if I haven't been smart enough to grab some gloves.

Posted by: Jen Halliday at May 4, 2005 10:32 PM

Hi You have some nice look'n soap there, I have never tried making anything like that before, but I would be interested in giving it a try if you have reciepe or guide to make it to share. Thanks -Ilene.

Posted by: Ilene at September 22, 2007 06:58 PM