Sunday, November 25, 2012

Soapmaking Is Addictive!

Our Simple Goats Milk Soap, in the flat tray molds.
Soaps are frozen in the mold to get the lovely ivory colour
and to keep the milk proteins from scorching.
Farmer Man is calling me the 'Soapmaking Kitchen Witch'! I'm often in the kitchen, melting fats and oils, stirring big pots of goop, geared up in gloves and goggles before mixing lye, pouring out fresh soap into molds.  Our freezer is often crowded with goats milk in ice cubes trays, getting frozen for soap making.  Or, there are molds full of soap taking up space - waiting to be frozen, before being removed from the molds and cut.

I am officially hooked on soap making!  Much of my time is spent in not only making soap, but reading about the properties of various fats and oils, researching natural additives and essential oils, cruising websites and blogs concerning soap, looking at soap recipes and planning how to change them into goats milk recipes, and scrutinizing packaging and displays.  It's almost like a full-time job, without the pay check (so far)!  Of course, I also spend some time each day caring for my little goaties...and the other critters around here.  But I always seem to get back to soap.  I've subscribed to newsletters from soaping websites, I've got books here that I can pick up at any time.  We want, like the food we grow, to offer our customers a wonderful, natural product - without harmful chemicals (aside from the lye, which is potentially harmful only to me during the process of making soap).  I've been deepening my knowledge of essential oils for fragrance - no fake chemical fragrances for us!  I've been learning about the benefits of ground oatmeal, herbs and natural clays and so much more!

The original Hemp Soap, with the dark spot in the middle.
The picture doesn't show it's pale green colour.

I love all the soap I've made and tried, but my favorite so far is our hemp soap.  It's very gentle and moisturizing, lovely sudsy, and doubles as a shampoo very nicely!  I had decided to make it in a loaf mold, to distinguish it from our Simple Soap.  In the loaf mold, however, I got a funny spot in the middle, as you can see in the photo.  Now, to preserve the benefits of milk and to produce a lovely, pale color I freeze all our soap as soon as it is poured in the mold.  In cold process soap making, the molds are usually insulated to encourage heat to build up so that the soap goes through what's called a gel phase.  I'm trying to avoid that gel phase and the resulting heat; so much heat can be produced in the chemical reaction of lye with oils and fats that the milk can be scorched!  This would destroy some of the benefits to the skin of the milk as well as discolour the bars.  To this end, I mostly use flat tray molds, so that the heat doesn't build up and dissipates quickly in the freezer.  But, I didn't have enough tray molds and was trying to produce soap quickly, so I started making the hemp in a loaf mold.  Heat builds up in the middle, even in the freezer, and I get a spot in the middle that has gone through the gel phase.  Doesn't really effect the soap - it's still lovely but I didn't like the look.
The latest Hemp Soap, not frozen.  No centre spot,
but the colour is more yellow/beige.

So, I've tried different things: letting the oils cool longer before adding the lye/goats milk mix.  I've stirred the final soap longer and longer, hoping to release some of the heat before pouring it in the mold.  All, to no avail.  So, I decided to make a batch without putting it in the freezer, insulate the molds on the counter and let the stuff go through the gel phase!  Result: a bar with a different colour and texture, and no spot in the middle!  Now, I really shouldn't judge this new loaf of hemp soap.  It's just come out of the mold and needs to cure for a month or so, during which time it will change.  However, so far I don't like the colour as well - it's a bit more of a yellow/beige/green whereas my first bars were a pale, pale minty green.  The texture is a bit more coarse, it's not as smooth and creamy as the first batches.  And, of course, I haven't used it yet and won't for a number of weeks and that will be the ultimate test.  I'll draw my final conclusions when the soap comes in the shower with me!  Wow, that sounded so....scientific.....

1 comment:

  1. Learning a lot from these posts! Something so simple that we take for granted each day and I'm finding out just how complex it really is. I hope the craft markets go well for you.