A perfect winter project, transforming the abundance of lard a nice local farmer gave me into lovely handmade soap! I got the lard in the spring, but with gardening projects, and general summer mayhem, never got around to making the soap. Lard keeps well though, in the freezer, or rendered and pressure canned. I began this project with the rendering, which took a couple of days…..cutting up the lard into cubes, and letting it melt overnight in a large (35 quart) slow cooker/roaster. Then the lard was strained and frozen in plastic containers until I was ready for soap making.
I always begin by measuring all my ingredients, and then line the soap molds with plastic. (After I rebatch the soap, i will use paper to line the molds, as it ends up looking nicer, but more on that later…) After ingredients are measured I begin warming the fats/oils on the stove until all the lard and oils are translucent, mixed well, and hot.
I then move on to the lye process, which is when I put on my safety goggles, as you really don’t want to get this stuff in your eyes, it is very caustic and dangerous to mucus membranes, but essential to cold process soap making. I do this part outside, as you don’t want the lye vapor in your house. You always ALWAYS pour the powdered lye into the water, and not the other way around. Stir to dissolve, and then step away…as it will put off fumes for a few minutes. After about 5 minutes outside I bring it in. I then pour the fats in a big plastic (heat proof) bucket, and then pour the lye solution in the fats. Then I mix with a stick blender until it begins to look pudding like (this is called ‘trace’ in official soap making circles) Once it begins to trace I pour into the molds, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit overnight. Then comes the washing of all the buckets, spatulas, measuring cups etc. Best to keep the goggles on for this part too, in case things get splashy. My recipe makes approximately 70 bars of soap, so its quite a large recipe….but could easily be halved or quartered for a smaller batch.
The next morning the soap can be cut into bars and cured for 3-4 weeks before it is ready to use. You can use the soap as is, without scent or additives, or it can be rebatched (remelted to then add essential oils, colors, clays, herbs etc.) I will keep some plain, and rebatch some with essential oils, clay, herbs, honey, and oatmeal…..will post more about that in another blog post! * note, also it is best to wear rubber gloves while soap making, and if you get some of the lye mix on your skin, wash immediately. And wear goggles. Pretty please.
below, the mixing. this soap is just about traced, and ready to be poured into molds…
below, the basic equipment needed for soap making. plus goggles and gloves, and molds (or just plastic wrap lined baking dishes)