Today was soap making day at Happy Acres. Last year we starting making our own bar soaps, using what is called cold process soapmaking. We made so much last year that this will be the first time this year we have needed to make any. But our supply is getting low, so it’s time to get soaping!
Our first creation this time around was a 100% olive oil soap, made with goat’s milk instead of water. Olive oil soap is known for it’s mildness, and is easy on the skin. However, the soap is also a bit tricky to make, since using only olive oil makes for a softer bar. Last year we made some soap using 90% olive oil and 10% castor oil, and though it took longer to set up in the molds, the results were worth it. So this year we decided to try a 100% olive oil soap.
We had bought some olive oil/goat’s milk soap in 2009 when we visited a soap shop in Tarpon Springs, FL, and loved it. So we were ready to see if we could make our own version and get the same great soap. We’re going to pour this one into silicone molds, where it can sit as long as necessary to harden up.
Our second creation today is a soap we’ve made before: Lavender Goat Milk. We’re tweaking the recipe a bit, using 100% goat’s milk instead of 50% goat’s milk/50% water. And we upped the amount of Lavender essential oil a bit. Scenting soaps is an artform, to say the least. Different scents require different amounts of oil to produce a pleasant final result. This soap also has some of our very own lavender flower buds in it, ground up and added to the essential oil.
I think much of the real work of soapmaking is in the preparation. We’ve been planning and researching this year’s planned soaps for months, as well as trying all our own soaps and others we have bought. And since the Lavender Goat Milk Soap has a long list of ingredients, we measured out the various oils and butters before we actually started making the soaps. The olive oil soap was much simpler to measure, since it only has four ingredients: olive oil, goat’s milk, lye, and fragrance oil. We never add artificial colors to any of our soaps. The yellow color of the Banana-licious soap comes from the color of the olive oil, and will probably fade to a lighter color as it ages. Or not. Time will tell, which is part of the fun for us in making soap.
My wife is in charge of developing all the recipes. She runs the ingredients through an online soap calculator to determine the correct amount of lye to use in the recipe. I cannot overemphasize the importance of careful measurement of all the ingredients used in making soap! We use a digital scale, and measure everything in grams. She also keeps a notebook with all our recipes, including detailed notes about what we did for each batch. Making soap is no time to be flying by the seat of your pants. Many of our recipes are online on her blog at Bloombakecreate.com.
I also can’t overemphasize the need for taking safety precautions when making soap. All of our equipment is dedicated to soap making, and never used around food. We wear rubber gloves and goggles during the entire process. Pets and children need to be safely out of harms way (both of our cats slept through the entire procedure).
Today we made two batches of soap in a little over two hours, counting the prep time. We’ve tried making three in one day, but that was a bit too much. We don’t want this to seem too much like work. Now comes the hardest part of the soap making process: waiting! We will cut the Lavender Goats Milk soap into bars tomorrow, then let them cure for 3-4 weeks before using. The Banana-licious Olive Oil soap will probably need to sit in the molds for at least a week.
We’ve got more soaps in the planning stages for this year. You can bet I’ll be back with more soap news as it develops!