Mmmmm…  making your own sourdough bread

Fresh sourdough bread!

I grew up and have lived in Northern California my entire life.  One of my favorite places to visit has always been San Francisco.  There are so many things to do there, but I never go to the “City by the Bay” without visiting the Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf.  I shamelessly eat an entire sourdough “bowl” filled with clam chowder, then waddle on over to the store to buy a loaf (or two or three) to bring home.

I tried to make my own sourdough by catching the wild yeast in the air in a slurry of flour and water, but was never satisfied by the taste of the sourdough. It just wasn’t what I was used to. I do plan to try this again, however, because I found out that it wasn’t supposed to taste like the San Francisco Sourdough!  Each region around the world has it’s own “wild” yeast floating around, and each bread will taste different!  Some will taste more sour, while others will rise faster!  Then, I found out that you can actually buy the San Francisco Sourdough yeast and “grow your own”!

That’s exactly what I did.  I had previously bought my Kombucha starter through Cultures for Health and saw on their website that they had quite a few different fermented items for sale, including sourdough.  The company offers sixteen different sourdough yeast varieties, including ones for spelt, rye and brown rice.  But I was after my favorite, which is the San Francisco variety!

homemade sourdoughWhen I got the yeast packet, I decided to just dive right in and get the yeast activated.  It was simple enough – especially since I wasn’t having to “catch” a wild yeast – which made me feel a bit more confident.  I followed the instructions that came with the yeast packet.  I had to buy some water, because our tap water has both chlorine and fluoride (ick), which can kill the yeast.  Our well water on the future homestead is good and pure, without chemicals or excessive minerals, so I will bring home a gallon or two of that water the next time we go up.

One thing I have learned sohomemade sourdough bread far is that it’s a good idea (for me, at least) to write the time on your sourdough container.  That way, you won’t forget when you last fed your sourdough.  Also, beware!  This stuff is like Gorilla Glue!  Seriously!  Wipe up any spills immediately and wash off spoons and jar rims right away, otherwise you will have to soak and then scrub.  Also, a word to the wise – it doesn’t smell anything like you might expect!  That’s why I had thrown out my “wild” sourdough attempts – it really has a strange smell to it.  Not that real sweet “yeasty” smell that you get from the commercial homemade sourdough pizza recipeyeast packets we are all used to.  And it wasn’t really “sour” either, but more alcohol-ish, but not really like beer either.  I was worried that I had contaminated the sourdough with my kombucha.  Apparently, I hadn’t.  However, if you are fermenting several things at the same time (kombucha, apple cider vinegar, sourdough, even vegetable pickles), it’s wise to keep everything at least five feet apart!

Oh…  one more thing – these little yeasty beastys like to escape!  I put my quart jar of sourdough into our entertainment cabinet where it is always warm due to the electronics, then came back several hours later to find sourdough dribbling over the rim of the jar, down and over the shelf and then to the floor!  That’s when I went out and bought the half gallon size of jars.  😉sourdough bread recipes

Once I got the sourdough bubbling well, and had fed it four times, I was ready to make some bread!  I followed the simple sourdough recipe that Cultures for Health have on their website.  Word of warning:  the sourdough takes a LOT of kneading!  20 minutes!  The

homemade sourdough bread recipes

………………………….It’s Alive!!!

first time I did the kneading, my husband helped.  Now, I just turn on TV and mindlessly knead while watching!  Hey, don’t judge me – at least I’m multi-tasking!  Once kneaded, the bread must rise for 4-12 hours!  Yup, it takes a lot longer to raise sourdough than it does the “regular” kind of bread, but of course a lot depends on the air temperature.  When we have a fire going, it takes about 4-5 hours for the bread to rise.  But, in a cool kitchen (about 65 degrees) it may take overnight, or as long as 12 hours!  You just need to get used to your sourdough to figure out how it will work for you.

sourdough bread recipes

A nice warm fire helps the sourdough bread rise!

Let me tell you, baking that first loaf of bread was pure torture. It smelled so good while it was baking (our mouths were watering and our tummies growling) that when it was done we couldn’t wait for it to cool down, like the instructions stated. We were like ravenous vultures tearing into the bread!  It was so good!  Not quite as sour as the San Francisco Sourdough that I’m used to, but very good just the same.  Apparently I need to let my sourdough “sour” a bit more to get that rich sour flavor, by feeding it one more time before I cook with it.  I have also read that as my sourdough “matures”, it will get more sour.  Also, I think the crumb is just a bit too fine, so perhaps this first batch didn’t rise enough or maybe the oven wasn’t hot enough.  These are all things I just need to learn with my sourdough!   I don’t mind practicing.  🙂

Of course, I couldn’t stop there.   The Cultures for Health website has oodles of recipes, so my next dish was pizza. homemade sourdough pizza recipe This was easier and faster than the bread because you don’t have to knead it so much or even let it rise for hours.  However, when I rolled it out on the cookie sheet, I thought I had it thin enough, but it was still just a bit too thick for our taste.  We don’t like doughy pizza dough, but are more partial to the thin crust types, so now I really roll it thin.  What is great with this recipe is that you actually cook the dough before you put the toppings on it, then finish it in the oven – which gave me a great idea!  I could make several pizza crusts, bake them, and then freeze for future meals!  One caveat, however, is that they take up a lot less room in the freezer if you make square or rectangle crusts, then stack one on top of the other!homemade sourdough pizza crust

What was next?  Crackers!  Bacon, Rosemary and Cracked Peppercorn Crackers!  These were really good.  Again, the recipe is on the website at Cultures for Health.  Luckily I have an old overgrown rosemary bush out back, so I was able to harvest my own rosemary – can’t get any fresher than that!  The bacon flavor comes from bacon grease, not the actual bacon, so if you want to make these crackers, save your bacon grease! These were really good with a little cream cheese spread on top.  Yum!  But, where the recipe says to roll very thinly, they mean it!  I really didn’t get mine thin enough the first time, and though they tasted great, the crackers just didn’t have any crunch. They are better when they crunch! sourdough crackers

Finally, I wanted to show you my Olive and Parmesan sourdough bread.  Well, I wanted to show you the bread, but before I could take a picture of the final product, it disappeared!  Yes, this one is that good. Here is another tip I would like to share with you:  don’t add the olives right away.  They get torn into quite a few small pieces while you knead the dough.  Knead the dough for a good five minutes first, before you add the olives.  You might also consider adding whole olives (the recipe calls for sliced), because even by adding them toward the end of the kneading, they still get torn into smaller pieces.Olive Parmesan Sourdough recipe

I hope you try making your own sourdough, if you haven’t yet!  There are tons of blogs and recipe websites out there with instructions on how to “capture” your own “wild” yeast.  Or you can do like I did and start with a proven source of sourdough yeast.  Either way, I am sure you won’t be sorry.

And for those of you that are gluten intolerant: apparently fermenting the wheat makes the gluten more tolerable!  There are those who cannot eat “regular” white bread, yet can eat sourdough bread.  Of course, if you truly have celiac disease, you want to be cautious, but read this article first – you may be surprised: Gluten Intolerance & Sourdough Bread from Livestrong.  

For my next batch of sourdough, I am going to make the smaller boule type sourdough shapes so that I can make a sourdough bowl and add some salmon chowder to it!    One recipe that I have been looking for (can’t find the original blog) is actually using stale sourdough (is there really such a thing?) to make stuffing.  I would also like to find a recipe for a french herbed sourdough using herbes de provence, but actually using the individual spices and not the herbes de provence already mixed together.  Do you have a favorite sourdough recipe?


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Lard and Olive Oil Soap

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!

crockpot renderingI 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 wasDIY Wooden Soap Mold 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 (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.

Here is the recipe I used:  Recipe for Lard and Olive Oil Soap

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.

How to make lard and olive oil soap

Ingredients all lined up and ready to go (minus the olive oil and lard). The vinegar is standing by to neutralize any possible splashes of lye.

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!  😉

Olive oil and Lard Soap TutorialNext, 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!

DIY Lard and Olive Oil Soap

After the bottom of the mold was pried off, the soap just slipped out of the PVC mold.  This is a picture of the soap before the waxed paper was peeled off.

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.

How to make Lard and Olive Oil Soap

This picture was taken right after the soap was cut, and you can see the different colors in the soap. It reminded me of a cup of latte with a fat decorative pine tree on top! Do you see it? No worries, however, because as the soap cured, it all turned the same shade of white!

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.

How to make soap from lard and olive oil

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.

Chai tea and orange Soap

These are the ingredients used in my Chai tea and Wild Orange lard soap.

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?

How to make soap with Lard

After slipping the soap out of the mold, I peeled back the waxed paper to reveal a beautiful loaf of soap, then cut into 1″ bars. I got eleven bars of soap from this batch.

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.

Olive Oil and Lard Soap DIY

The soap continues to cure (saponify) and dry on these racks for approximately 4-6 weeks.

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!

Olive Oil and Lard Soap Recipe


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DIY Soap Molds

Do you like soap?  So do I.  Especially the ones that have a nice, creamy lather and smell fresh and clean.  You too?

Yes, I knew we would be friends! 😀

Every time I go to a craft faire or farmer’s market, I seek out the booths that have those wonderfully scented, beautifully decorated soaps.  I always go for the lavender, lemon verbena or any of the naturally scented soaps. I really enjoy talking with the soapmaker about what is actually in the soap, and have paid anywhere from 3 to 8 dollars for a bar of soap, and was glad to pay it!

So it was a natural progression that I would try to make some myself.  But first, I needed some basic equipment, including a soap mold!

Make your own wooden soap mold

You can use just about anything as a soap mold – old shoeboxes, food boxes, milk cartons and loaf pans. All that is needed is waxed paper or parchment paper to line the container!

Naturally, I did a lot of research in books and on the web, and found that I could use just about any bread loaf pan, shoebox or plastic food container to use as my soap mold, as long as it was carefully lined with waxed paper or parchment paper.

Then I found this website at Lowes:

It shows how to make a round soap mold out of PVC pipe and a loaf type mold out of wood.

The round soap mold is easy peasy – just buy a foot or two length of 3″ (inside diameter measurement) PVC pipe and two end caps.  In the picture, you see the white PVC pipe and end caps.  I bought my PVC at Home Depot because they have 2 foot lengths already cut – no need to buy an entire 10 foot long piece of pipe!  The pipe itself cost $7.75 and the end pieces were $6.21 each, and with tax it came to a little over $20.00.  I didn’t mind spending that much money because I knew I would be using the mold over and over again and it could make several pounds of soap at a time!

How to make a round soap mold

The hardware store made my round soap mold for me!

The wooden mold was a bit more involved.  The Lowe’s tutorial can be a bit tricky to understand, but basically you are just making a wooden box.

However, after looking at several retail websites for molds, I decided I wanted a mold that would be adjustable for larger or smaller batches of soap.  After a bit of thought, this is what my husband made for me:

soap mold

The finished product. Isn’t it a beauty?!

You can see that the end of the box is stationary and screwed into the sides.  The the opposite end is adjustable to four different sizes!  Just unscrew the wing nuts, pull out the screws (which go through all thicknesses of wood) move up or down the box depending on how large your batch of soap is, push the screw back through the holes, screw the wing nut back on, et voila!  I sized the box to handle batches of two, three, four and five pounds of soap.  The width is 3-1/2 inches wide and so is the height, so if I want to make a square soap, I just fill the mold up to the top.  Or, for a smaller soap, I can fill the mold to whatever desired height I want.

Isn’t my husband the greatest!

So, here is how he did it:

DIY wooden soap mold

First, we started out with two 1″x4″ poplar boards, one was 2 feet long and the other was 3 feet long.  You can buy these already cut.  Buy one 1″x6″ poplar board 2 feet long.  You will also need two 6″ long screws, 2 wing nuts and 2 hex bolts (the long screws).  We used 14 wood screws to put the box together, but the box is actually longer than what is needed to make a 5 pound batch of soap!  I’m thinking of having my dearest drill a few more holes into the sides, so I can make a couple of batches of soap at a time in the same mold!  Of course, I will also need another end piece for adjustment.

                                         ♫ Oh sweetheart…  

Back to the project 😀

Make your own wooden soap molds

Measure 3-1/2 inches, which is the inside measurement between the two sides of the box.

First, the 3 foot long 1″ x 4″  was cut to 2 feet long, to match the other 1″ x 4″.  The left over board is what makes the ends. We measured and marked the bottom board 3-1/2 inches apart, which is where the inside of the boards would be placed.  This was so that we would have a standard 3-1/2 inch bar of soap.

DIY adjustable soap mold

You should always pre-drill the holes so that the wood will not split when you insert the screws!

The sides were then screwed from the bottom into the 1 x 6 board.  Because we didn’t want the screw heads to scratch anything, Ray counter-sank the screws into the wood.

Next, with the 1 x 4 board that was cut off, measure two pieces to be 3-1/2 inches wide and carefully cut those as straight as possible.  These are your end pieces.  Screw one of the end pieces between the sides, flush with the end.  This is your stationary end.

DIY adjustable soap mold

The green tape is a guide to where the holes in the side walls will be. The stationary end has been screw into place

Now, as carefully as possible (this is where a drill press would come in handy), drill two holes through the length of the 3-1/2 end piece.  Ray was able to do this without a drill press or even a drill guide.  If you are drilling the holes free-hand, you really should have someone watch to make sure you are perfectly vertical with your drill bit.DIY adjustable soap mold

Now, measure your holes.  If you were successful in keeping your holes perpendicular, they should be about the same distance apart on both sides.  If not, you might need to adjust your holes a bit.  Now, with the adjustable piece laying as it will in the mold, measure from the bottom up to the center of each hole, then transfer these measurements onto the side board about six inches from inside the end.  The purpose is so that when you thread the hex bolt through one side, it will go through the adjustable end piece and through the other side.  Drill those holes.  Test to see that the screw goes through the side holes and through the end piece.  Now, do the same on the opposite side.  Test again to make sure the screws go through the entire run of wood.  You may need to ream the holes out a bit to get the screws to work through. That’s okay – nobody’s perfect!  Screw on the wing nut.  That’s the first set of holes.  Now, go onto the next set of holes in the sides, then the next.

DIY adjustable soap mold

All of the holes have been drilled and tested.

After reading about the sizes of the soap molds, we spaced the holes as follows:  From the inside of the stationary end, place the adjustable end at 6 inches.  This will make about a 2 pound loaf.  Then, space the holes on the sides every 3 inches to make 3 pound, 4 pound, or a 5 pound loaf of soap.  Of course, this is approximate and you will have to experiment with your recipes. The last set of holes for a 5 pound recipe of soap will be approximately 15 inches from inside the stationary end to inside the adjustable end.  DIY Wooden Soap Mold

So, all of you soapers out there, what do you think?  Isn’t this mold the coolest?

Now – on to making some soap!


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