Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It's soap season!

Castile with goat milk soapJanuary starts the urban homesteading doldrums. There's not much to do except for making tons of soups and toasty yeast breads. Around here, there's not a whole lot of garden work to be done, except for doing a little weeding, planning for this year's crop and mooning over the seed catalogs. Canning and freezing are projects that are months off.

So, what should we be doing with our time? Well, I've designated January through March as soap making season. Last weekend my sister-in-law came over and we made a cold process Castile soap (100% olive oil) with goat's milk. This weekend I'm hoping to make a coconut oil and cocoa butter soap. The hardest part is waiting the four weeks for the bars to cure.

I've written before about my fascination with making soap, and now is the perfect time of year to get back into it. I'd like to make enough soap in the next few months to last us all year. If I plan things right, we'll also have enough leftover for next year's homemade Christmas gifts.

If you are interested in making soap, my favorite reference book is The Handmade Soap Book. It's great for beginners as well as those seasoned pros out there looking for good recipes. Plus, all the pictures make for great soap porn.

If doing the cold process method is too intimidating, you can always try out melt and pour soap making. Personally, I don't find it as challenging and, since you don't have much control over the ingredients into making the soap base, it's not as fun. But, you don't have to deal with the lye, so if you are a sensitive individual this may be the way to go.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well you've piqued my interest Crunchy. I've always heard that homemade soap is a bit harsh on the skin. My children and I have very sensitive skin. Will this work for delicate skin? Also, what about teenage skin?

kssnflwr said...

Sorry Crunchy, you'll never get me to stop using the creamy body wash from Bath and Body Works. But I did go home and eat leftovers instead of stopping at Totoz Tacos yesterday. Rechelle is right about their burritos!

Britta said...

Thank you for this post. I've been thinking about making my own soap for awhile because all the "natural" soaps have coconut or almond oil in them, something this deathly allergic girl can't handle.

jenny mae. said...

ive always wanted to make my own soap. whoo hoo!! actually ive been itching to make some out of breastmilk (apologies if that sounds weird but ive had friends do it and say it's great!) we're in no short supply of such a base at this end ;)

emily said...

Ooh, this sounds nifty! I've requested the book from my public library.

Green Bean said...

Cool. I've been thinking about making soap for a while - and yogurt. I may have to give this a whirl. Thanks for the inspiraton.

Rechelle said...

mmmmmm - soap porn. My favorite.

Jacran Cottage said...

For a long time now I've also wanted to try making soap, but the idea of the lye scares me too much. Like green bean I'm also thinking about making yogurt, but it would have to be goats milk.

Cave-Woman said...

Once upon a time my grandmother made her "year's worth" of lye soap in a large cauldron. It's was impressively home-made.

Not being quite as hard-core as grandmother (I'm getting there...just give me time), I've tended to go with Dr. Bronner's liquid Peppermint soap. It's incredibly good at cleaning everything. I use it in laundry, to clean the kitchen threshhold ( it wards off ants remarkably well), and to make a soothing bath.

I'd be interested in learning more about making my own olive oil soap. I'll investigate the book. Thanks for the link!

shellyg8r said...

Yeah! A post after my own heart. I've been an avid soap maker for five years and grow to love it more everyday.

The only thing you have to worry about the lye is spilling it on yourself or splashing in your eye. But these things can be prevented by covering your workspace, wearing long rubber gloves and a thick apron.

As for harshness, the detergents they put in commercial body washes and bars are far more unfriendly to your skin than a bar of well-made soap. Making sure you are calculating your lye to water amount is crucial in making a mild balanced soap. A lye calculator is a must. You can find one at Majestic Mountain Sage or thesage.com.

I explain to my costumers that most commercial cleansers (and I say cleanser b/c only soap made with lye can be called "soap") strip away dirt and oil. While a good handmade soap mostly cleans the dirt while leaving your natural oils. You can even do something called "superfatting" to your soap where you leave some of the oils in your finished product.

My best recommendation is to get a book like Crunchy mentioned and learn all you can before making your first batch. There are some wonderful resources on the internet as well. Miller's Soap is a site tat comes to mind.

All in all, when you have a little experience under you belt, soap making is soo much fun!

Riana Lagarde said...

i love making soap, i make my own lye too. i was just thinking of making up a batch that we will use this spring. i also making laundry soap, hand soap for the bathroom as well as bars with honey, olive oil, goats milk, lavender buds, etc.

we must be thinking on the same wavelength, except its getting warm here so i can do some more planting, i have my first carrots already!

DC said...

I thought I was actually going to go a day without making a comment. I don't have time to make soap, and the last time I mixed dangerous chemicals (it was in high school), I accidentally broke a beaker full of concentrated sulfuric acid that spilled all over my shoes and melted part of them.

But then, a strange thought came over me that I never would have had before I found this blog: Do we need to bathe with soap? Okay, sure, if you've been working on your car all day or have just slaughtered a cow or something, soap might not be a bad idea. But wouldn't it do just as well to hose yourself off with water after that half hour pilates session? If you use a wash cloth and scrub, the top layer of skin cells are going to come off your body with or without soap. How clean do we need to get anyway? Smelling like botanical extracts hasn't always been the rage it is today. Napoleon once sent a note to Josephine saying, "Coming home within a week. Do not bathe."

Could soap-less bathing be the next crunchy challenge . . . or do I need to go back to 7th grade health class? Hmmm . . . this I will have to ponder.

jill said...

I have never made soap but plan to make some in a few months. I have everything I need except for the olive oil. Using bar soap over body wash is one of the tips in 'The green book' because there is less that ends up in the landfill.

Marcie said...

hehehe...soap porn...sorry I'm going to go grow up now...

april said...

OMG! I just had to listen to my mom tell me all about how her grandparents used to make soap out of sheep lard. She didn't spare me much details. I really wanted her to stop saying "buckets of fat".

I made the mistake of telling her we're thinking of getting a couple lambs.

Holly said...

To DC--

Oddly enough, I had been wondering the same thing.

When my daughter was born, the pediatrician told me just to wipe her face off with a wet washcloth instead of using soap. She's two now, and we have yet to start with the soap on her face (the rest of her body, yes). And her skin is great.

Of course...she's two. Kids all seem to have great skin. When I tried to just rinse off my face in the mornings (after using soap the night before), my skin broke out like crazy. So maybe there is something necessary there. Or maybe my skin has just become accustomed to the stripping effects of soap.

For kssnflwr, you can find recipes for body wash online at websites like www.bathandbodyrecipes.com.

just ducky said...

Confession time--I haven't used soap on my body in the shower since I was about 10 and now I'm in my mid-thirties! I do wash my hands with soap after I go to the bathroom, of course...but soap in the shower has always felt squeaky and weird to me, so I stopped using it. If for some strange reason I have dirt on me--which isn't often--then I will use soap just on that area, but other than that--NOTHING! I haven't suffered any odd effects from this choice. I'm healthy. I have not had any bizarre infections, skin problems, illnesses, etc. I do use shampoo on my hair, but that's it. I hope you all still respect me after this...

Correne said...

Okay, I know this post was officially about soap, but my brain is still reeling from the comment about "nothing to do in the garden except a little bit of weeding." My garden has been under 2 feet of snow since November, and it's not going to melt for at least 2 or 3 more months. The temperature today was roughly -10 Celsius (that's 14 in Fahrenheit).

I have to admit, though, that I am excited about starting my own tomato plants indoors this year, probably late next month. Usually, I just buy the plants from the greenhouse in May and put them in the garden.

Susan said...

Yaay! soap! i LOVE making soap! the only problem is that I don't use it fast enough to make as many types as I want (I like experimenting with the oils, I really never use fragrance) - why I need multiple types of unscented soap is a bit of a mystery, but heck, I do. And can always hoard them and give 'em away for Christmas like I did this year.

I found the lye much less intimidating after working with it once :-)

Susan said...

I forgot to mention

millersoap.com has a great collection of recipes for cold process soap. But definitely get a book - I have The Soapmaker's Companion. I got it right after making my first batch, and it really explained the why and how of so many things I had done (or not done)

To those worried about harshness - I have extremely sensitive skin, and since switching to homemade soap and lotions have gotten rid of the excema that I had for most of my life. It's definitely not harsh, and may help resolve some of your skin conditions.

DC said...

Holly and Just Ducky, thanks for your input on the going soapless concept. I am guessing that the success of such a venture would depend on one's skin type, body chemistry and activity level. I am feeling emboldened by your story, J.D., and might just have to give this a go for a trial period. I'm pretty sure that my concern for the environment, interest in eastern philosophy and left-of-center political views have already earned me the "dirty hippy" label in the eyes of some anyway, so I might as well see if I can push things a little further. I'll continue to shower every day, use deodorant, and wash my hands with soap. We'll see if there are any complaints.

just ducky said...

I almost forgot!...in my confessional I should have added that I DO use deodorant. I'm very conscientious in regards to odors--breath, body, perfume, etc...because I get a headache almost instantly around some perfumes and household cleaners. I never want to be "that person" who people don't want to sit by or work with because they stink... My mother (a die hard soap user and clean freak) has a nose that could smell a foul odor 3 states away and has never found me to smell bad--which is the reason I've never brought the soap back into my shower... However, I work with computers all day and live in Minnesota. It's not like I'm sweating a whole bunch...

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