This past fall, Spring, a good friend of my daughter-in-law, Wendy, butchered a pig and was kind enough to give me the fat. Thank you again, Spring!
I rendered the fat into a white, beautiful, creamy lard. I had never done this before, so after researching different methods of rendering lard, I decided to try two different ways to see which one I liked the best. You can see that article here, called Rendering Lard – Two Ways.
What to do with the lard? Make soap, of course! Animal fat is the traditional ingredient in soap, using either lard or tallow (tallow is beef fat), along with olive oil, which makes a wonderful hard bar of soap called Castile.
After reading numerous books on soapmaking and watching dozens of You Tube videos, I felt like I was ready to try. I was a bit leery of the whole lye bit, but decided to take a deep breath and jump on the soapmaking bandwagon anyway!
The first thing I had to do was gather all the equipment, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a whole lot. My dear husband made me a beautiful adjustable soap mold (you can see the directions on how to make one HERE) and I also bought PVC pipe with two end caps to make a round soap.
My first experiment was with the round soap mold. I used the soap lye calculator at brambleberry.com (easy to use) and printed out my recipe. I decided to use olive oil along with the lard because olive oil is known to make a gentle and mild-to-the-skin bar of soap that cures into a hard bar that won’t melt too fast in water. Besides, one of the reasons for making my own soap is self sufficiency, and we will be planting olive trees this spring, so we will have our own source for olive oil in a few years.
First, I gathered all my materials. Since my tap water has both chlorine and fluoride, I decided to go with the distilled water. When we move up to our future homestead (soon!) I will use either well water or rainwater to make my soaps. The olive oil I used came from a family friend who produces olive oil from his own orchard, because I knew it was pure. Thanks Ken! I was able to find the lye at a local farm and feed store, which was lucky because I understand that lye is hard to find nowadays due to it’s use in making methamphetamines. My digital kitchen scale worked perfect as did my digital kitchen thermometer. My daughter-in-law sells doTERRA essential oils and has gifted me with several different oils, so I decided to use the lavender essential oil for my first batch of soap. Lavender essential oil is known for it’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as it’s ability to calm, decrease depression and induce sleep! For more information about essential oils, you can visit my daughter-in-law’s website HERE. I am not an affiliate of doTERRA, but have come to really appreciate the quality of their oils.
Here we go: The first thing I did was line my mold with waxed paper. Easy enough! The round mold sits upright on it’s own, which is a very good thing! Then (deep breath), I measured the water and the lye separately and separately took both outside. I carefully added the lye to the water. Important! Never add water to lye! I’m not sure what happens, but this is a warning I see on every soaping website and tutorial I have ever seen, and this is one experiment I DO NOT want to try! In fact, I was so nervous this first time pouring the lye into the water, that I read the instructions over and over just to make sure I was doing it right! Plus, I did it outside so I wouldn’t be exposed to any noxious fumes! I didn’t get a picture of this part because I was so nervous I forgot!
Next, I melted the lard and added the olive oil. I was just a bit nervous at this point because my lard smelled just a bit “piggy”. I’m not sure if it was because it had been frozen for a while (which might have brought out the scent) or just melting it brought out a stronger smell, but there it was. Hmmmm…….
Trudging ahead, when the lye water got to about 125 degrees and the lard/olive oil mixture was the same, I brought in the lye and carefully (so it wouldn’t splash) poured it into the lard/olive oil mixture. Now I am glad I got such a large stainless steel pot, because the lye did splash just a bit, but the drops didn’t make it even half way up the pot! I carefully used my plastic spoon to gently mix everything together, then with my stick blender on low, began carefully mixing.
The clear lye water and the clear but yellow lard/olive oil mixture turned a creamy antique white color almost immediately! Lo and behold, within a minute or two of mixing, the “piggy” smell went away also! So now I had to mix everything with the stick blender anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes, or until I had achieved “trace”. Of course, other than in pictures and in videos I had never actually, in person, seen trace before, so I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t know exactly what that was. Well, let me tell you, you will know what trace is when you see it! It’s similar to jelly making from scratch. When a drop or two of the soap holds it’s shape on the surface of the soap, or if you turn off the stick blender and draw it across the soap and it leaves a “wake” behind it, you have achieved “trace”. That’s the time to add anything else you are putting into the soap, like colorants, herbs, essential oils, etc., so I added the doTERRA Lavender Essential Oil at this point, turned on the stick blender and blended for another minute or so. The soap was starting to get pretty thick by now (like a stiff pudding), so I knew it was time to get it into the mold.
Actually, I think I waited too long. It was no longer pourable, so I had to spoon it into the mold. Easier said than done at this point, since the round mold I was using had only a 3 inch opening!
** Note to self **
Get a good plastic or stainless steel funnel for pouring soap into the round mold!
Done! I was so excited! I didn’t burn myself or destroy anything with the lye. I did it! Wahoo! I couldn’t wait to see how the soap turned out! But I had to. The instructions say to leave the soap in the mold for 24 to 48 hours. I decided to go half way and open at about 36 hours. The soap stuck a little bit to the bottom lid, but once I was able to pry it off, the soap slid easily out of the mold! Now all I had to do was peel off the waxed paper (easier said than done) and cut the soap into bars.
I ended up with ten 1″ bars of soap out of this batch. I then tried stamping designs into the soap with some Stampin’ Up stamps, but I think I may have waited too long to unmold the soap, because it was already getting pretty hard! I was able to get a slight impression into each bar, however. Next time I will unmold after just 24 hours.
For my next lard soap, I decided to add in a bit of coconut oil, wild orange essential oil and chai tea.
I won’t write all the details, as most of the procedure I followed for this soap were the same as for the first soap. However, I used 100 grams of the water to make a strong chai tea using four tea bags. This was added to the lard/olive oil/coconut oil mixture after the lye water was already stirred in. Supposedly this preserves the scent of the chai tea. I also added a total of 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom, and this was all mixed with the stick blender until I reached trace. Once the soap was at trace, I added the actual contents of the tea bags (that’s what all the speckles in the tea are about) and 10 drops of doTerra Wild Orange Essential Oil.
Let me tell you, the smell was amazing! It smelled like sitting by a warm fireplace during a rainy autumn day with friends, drinking chai tea and eating oranges!
However, next time I make this soap, I will add just a bit more of the chai spices – maybe a full teaspoon – because upon unmolding the chai scent had become very subtle. I think I will also add 15 drops of the EO. I originally went light on the spices because I know that some can be an irritant to skin, but jeeze louise, one teaspoon in a two pound batch of soap shouldn’t be too much. Right?
While the soap was in the mold for 24 hours, I went to my local craft store and bought one of these wavy soap cutters. When the soap was unmolded and then cut one inch thick, I ended up with almost perfectly sized 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ bars of soap! Oh, I forgot to mention – see all those dark specks all over the soap to the left? Along with adding the actual chai tea to the soap, I sprinkled a bit more on the top before I covered it to cure. I thought that would make it look more fancy!
Both batches of soap are now sitting on drying racks in my crafts room so that they can cure. I will need to cure these for 4-6 weeks before using, so that the lye is completely saponified and will not be harsh on the skin.
This was so much fun, I am totally hooked and want to make some more! So, my next experiment with making soap will be with the tallow I rendered this past fall. I can’t wait!
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