Sheared Bliss


Good Clean Fun
July 27, 2009, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Food, History, Museum | Tags: , , , , ,

This past weekend I joined the lovely ladies down at the museum for a day of soap making.  I’ve always wanted to make soap and never had the chance until now.  My chemistry class in high school was supposed to make soap until someone in the period before mine spilled lye and failed to tell the teacher who put her hand in it thinking it was water and gave herself a nasty chemical burn.  We’ll call that my safety warning.  Soap making uses some serious chemicals so be careful!

Step 1: Mix the lye into the water (not the other way around or you’ll have an explosion on your hands).  This creates an exothermic reaction (hey, look at me remembering stuff from chemistry class).  For those of you who don’t remember chemistry class, that means it heats up.  Really heats up.  It was 170 degrees the first time we took its temperature, but I’m pretty sure it started out hotter than that.

Step 2: While you’re waiting for the lye solution to cool down you can start heating the fat.  You can use pretty much any kind of fat – lard, bacon drippings, whatever you’ve got on hand.  We made one batch with tallow (mmm . . . beefy!) and one batch with olive oil (that makes castile soap).

V melting tallow over the fire.

Step 3: When the lye solution and the fat are both about 120 degrees, mix them together.

Step 4: Stir for all you’re worth.

Keep stirring!

Keep stirring!

As you stir, a saponification reaction takes place between the lye and the fat creating an entirely new substance – soap!

Step 5: When the soap is the right consistency (something like a thin batter), pour it into molds.

Dont spill!

Don't spill!

Step 6: Let it sit in the mold for at least 24 hours.  During this time the saponification reaction will continue causing the soap to harden.

Step 7: Tip it out of the mold and cut it into manageable pieces.

Step 8: Let it cure for a month or two before using.

Step 9: Lather, rinse, repeat.

We also made lunch because soap making is hungry work. 

Squash cakes, carrots and onions, salad, scones, nut bread, clotted cream, and two kinds of preserves – oh my!

After lunch we had to do something with this:

Thats a six and a half pound cabbage.  After hefting it, J commented that it was the same weight as her son when he was born.

That's a six and a half pound cabbage. J commented that it weighed the same as her son when he was born.

We made sauerkraut then called it a day.

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