Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Making Goat Milk Soap - Part 2

   It's been a couple of days since I poured my soap up. I usually give the soap two days to set before cutting it into bars. If we're in the midst of the dry, hot summer I may only have to wait one day.

 After removing the soap from the molds (which easily come apart) it's time to cut the large "loaf" of soap into bars. I have a soap cutter which was bought online. This makes cutting the bars so much easier. One batch of soap makes 28 good bars and 4 ugly end bars.

Being handmade, hand poured, and hand cut means that no two bars are exactly alike. They each have little cracks, rough spots or some kind of flaw. That's the beauty of a handcrafted product. They have character unlike commercially made products.

My dad picked me up some old coke crates which make great drying racks. I stand the bars up on end and line them up in the crate. Standing them up on end keeps them from warping as they dry. The soap needs at least two weeks to cure. The longer you let them cure the harder the bar will be and the longer they will last in the shower without quickly dissolving. A one month old bar is nicely cured.

I hope you give soap making a try!

"There are four things a child needs: plenty of love, nourishing food, regular sleep, and lots of soap and water."  - Ivy Baker Priest

Monday, April 8, 2013

Making Goat Milk Soap - Part 1

   One thing we do with our fresh goat's milk is make soap. Goat Milk Soap is wonderful for your skin and I'll never use anything else. I make a few different kinds of soap. Plain, Oatmeal, and a couple of essential oil bars...Lavender and Lemongrass-Eucalyptus. All with fresh milk from our Nubians and other natural ingredients.

I first started experimenting with soap making about four years ago when I purchased my first dairy goats which were miniature Toggenburgs, Britta, Rita and Friedrick. I type "experimenting" with a smile on my face and a chuckle because those first few attempts at soap making flopped majorly. My first batch exploded over night while setting. I woke up and went to see if it hardened in my cardboard box mold and it looked like a cake that had been baked with way too much baking powder. It was puffed up in a big mound with a big crack right down the middle. That was flop #1. My second batch didn't explode praise God. I thought I had it right. Everything went well during the soap making process, it hardened in the mold, I went to cut it into bars and it crumbled into little pieces as I cut it. Flop # 2. After my first two failed attempts I was pretty discouraged. I called the lady who I bought my Toggs from (who was a soap maker) and asked her if she had any idea why my soap flopped. She offered to teach me to make soap and invited me over. So, she taught me to make soap. She made it look so easy. I came home and started making soap. I haven't flopped a batch since! I've made a few adjustments to  the recipe to make my soap my own. Today, I'm going to share it with you.

There are hundreds of recipes and soap making procedures out there. The best thing you can do when you find a recipe that you'd like to try is find a lye calculator online and check to make sure your fats, liquids and lye all balance out. This is why my first batches didn't go well. Either I had too much lye, too much water, not enough fats, or all of the above! After you find a good recipe try it out several times then you can start tweaking it to make your own.

My soap recipe

2 cups water
3 cups goat milk
9 cups lard
2 1/2 cups coconut oil
1/2 cup shea butter
1 1/4 cup food grade lye (beads)
essential oils, oatmeal or any natural additive of your choice

To start, I measure out all of my fats/oils/butters and put them in a large pot to melt over the stove. I melt them on medium/low heat. You want to melt them somewhat slowly so they don't get too hot. There are many soap makers who use a thermometer and bring the fats to a certain temperature. I don't. I use the finger test. If it's warm to touch and melted through it's good. That's probably not the best way to do it or the best advice but that's how I do it.

Next I mix my lye, water, and milk in a separate bowl. (I use a large electric mixer to mix my soap so my lye and liquids are mixed in the stainless mixer bowl. You can also use a big bowl or pot and a hand held electric mixer.) Lye is hot and produces strong fumes. This should be done in a well ventilated area. Gloves and goggles are a good idea. (As you can see in the pictures...I'm not using them. I recommend that you do. ) Because the lye gets VERY hot I freeze my 2 cups of water as well as my milk. The iced water cools down the lye quite a bit. If the water/ice is completely frozen I will just add cold milk, not frozen. Usually I freeze my water about halfway then use frozen milk. Most importantly is that when you add the milk to the lye and water mixture it's only warm and not hot. If it's hot it will burn the milk and make your soap a dark, ugly brown. This is why you mix the lye and water/ice first. You should mix this quickly so you don't get crispy chunks of lye. These are hard to melt. careful when handling the lye after it has been mixed with your liquids. It can burn your skin and eyes.
Next I add my milk (or frozen milk) to the lye and water mixture and stir it well.
After the lye, water, and milk is well blended I add my melted fats to the mixture. You want your fats and lye mixture to be close to the same temperature. This is where a thermometer would come in handy. Again...I do the finger test. Not the best, but it's my way.
I turn the mixer on a low speed and let it run for about 15 minutes. Using a spoon occasionally to scrape the thickening soap away from the sides of the bowl. After about 15 minutes of running I turn off the mixer and let it rest for about 15 minutes then turn it back on. I do this until the soap comes to a trace. Meaning the soap is well blended, cooled and is the consistency is like a thick pudding. How long it takes to come to a trace depends on the weather. In my experience, nice dry sunny days are much better for soap making.
While the soap is mixing and resting I start cleaning up a bit and I get my molds ready. I have two molds that were purchased online and my dad made two more for me out of wood. This way I can make two batches at a time or make a batch every day. To keep the soap from sticking in the molds I have tried lining them with several things. Plastic wrap, foil paper (bad idea), freezer paper, and fabric. I find fabric to be the easiest to work with. I use a large linen kitchen towel which will fit down into both molds. I don't worry about the folds and wrinkles of the fabric. That just adds some extra homemade character.

After the soap has come to a trace it's time to add any essential oils or other natural additives you'd like in your soap. You can also just leave it plain which is one of my favorites.  If you plan to add essential oils I use anywhere between one and two ounces of EOs depending on which I use and how strong they are. This time I decided to split the batch. I poured half of the soap mixture into one mold to make plain soap and I added oatmeal to the other half. For half a batch I got about 1/2 cup of oatmeal and blended it for a few seconds to make it somewhat powdery. Then I added it to the soap mixture and turned the mixer on low while using the spoon to help pull the mixture away from the sides of the bowl and toward the center. You want this to get well blended.


Now I pour the oatmeal soap mixture into the other mold and set them aside to harden for a couple of days before cutting them into bars.

Check back in a few days and I'll show how I cut the bars and set them out to cure.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cannin' Carrots

   We're finally starting to get carrots from our garden. Carrots are one thing we've always had a hard time growing. I'm so excited to finally produce some good carrots! They are so much better than what you can get from the grocery store. Fresh is always the best!

With the carrots that we've pulled so far and the few pounds of organic carrots I had purchased and stored in the fridge, we had quite a few. I decided to can some and put them up for future pots of soup and other dishes. My mom and sister came over and we peeled, sliced, and canned away. Many hands make light work. We were done in no time. We ended up putting up a dozen jars and had a good time doing it.