Thursday, December 16, 2010

Soapy Goodness

I haven't made my own soap in 15 years, but with all this goat milk coming in I thought it would be good to get back up on that horse. Goat's milk soap, with its low pH, nutrients, amino acids, and natural exfoliating capabilities, has been touted as a mild and moisturizing skin product for centuries. I wanted in on some of that action! Beats store bought for sure.

This is my own concoction based on a recipe from Alabama Soapworks. I made sure that I used the correct amount of lye for a mild soap using this nifty calculator from Majestic Mountain Sage. I know what you're thinking: "Lye! But won't that burn your eyeballs out?" Only if you don't wear goggles while making it. Soap making is a chemical reaction between sodium hydroxide and fats, creating a hard substance that lathers up real nice and makes you feel squeaky clean. The caustic nature of the lye is transformed into something completely benign. Our great grandmothers were making soap from wood ash and animal fats, which doesn't sound nearly as hazardous as its chemical appellation.

With this round of sudsing, I went with vegetable oils, like olive, palm, and coconut, rather than animal fats. I spiced the mix with lemon verbena essential oil from local producer, Bonny Doon Farm. In the midst of integrating the lye with the oils, I had a moment of panic that saponification was not happening. My mixture resisted thickening. Not good. It's true, you can totally fuck up making soap. Maybe your oils stay separated, or your fats curdle, or your brew remains thin and soupy rather than thick and stewy. Regardless, botching a batch of soap is some serious dough down the drain, especially if you are using organics or specialty items like Shea butter or vitamin E oil. I solved my problem with my slightly dated bible on the topic, Soap by Ann Bramson. All I needed to do was heat the pot back up a bit and get the chemical reaction to activate. Worked like a charm.

These bars will need a month to cure, but when they are done I'll post them in my Etsy shop for purchasing. I think I will name this one Lucy's Luscious Milk Soap.

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