Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Those of you who live in the north, as I do, know the frustration of working with a short growing season. There are so many new and interesting things to grow out there and I would like to grow them all, at least once. Our short growing season, sometimes makes that difficult. I plant seeds early indoors on the windowsill but that is not always enough and there is not a lot of room on my windowsill. I could set up artificial lighting indoors but the cost in electricity would sometimes offset the benefits of growing my own food. A good way to overcome the short season is with a cold frame.
A cold frame is a small greenhouse built into the ground. This takes advantage of the insulating properties of the earth itself. The only glass you need is the top. I built mine using a glass patio door, but it can also be done with smaller windows. Double paned is better insulation against the winter cold but single paned will also work, especially if you are only using it spring and autumn and do not intend to overwinter plants inside a heated cold frame. Some gardeners put heating cables inside the cold frame in order to grow greens in there all winter. Other gardeners heat it with a manure and hay mix, taking advantage of the chemical reation that causes heat. I only use mine for starting seedlings early in the spring and hardening off what I have started.
You can build a cold frame that will work well by just digging a hole in the ground. The hole needs to be just a bit smaller than the glass top to get a fair seal all the way around the lid as it sits on the ground. The lid can just be flat over the hole in the ground. This is a simple and yet workable cold frame. Put your vegetable and flower seedlings in the hole in the spring and cover with the glass top to let the sun in. This will protect the seedlings from the frost during the cold spring nights.
Before I had a cold frame I had many, many seedlings in trays that I brought into the house each and every night. I then brought them back out into the sun the next morning, in and out, in and out - it gets quite tedius. The cold frame made the entire hardening off process much easier. I just put all my seedlings into the cold frame as soon as it was barely warm enough and closed the lid. I did have to wash the lid first for the sun to get through. It was covered with little muddy racoon prints, among other things.
I lined my hole in the ground with 2" wood. I also cut the wood so the back would be 6" higher than the front. This allows the sun to reach more of the seedlings and gives me a bit more height to play with. I put shelves in the cold frame to raise the baby seedlings up to the window. I lowered these as the plants grew taller. It is important to keep the leaves of your seedlings away from the glass or they will rot on the glass and block the light.
As spring goes on and the weather warms up, you may need to open the lid a bit during the hottest part of the spring day. The sun shining directly into the cold frame can raise the heat to a temperature that may cook your tender seedlings under the glass. This also helps to harden them off as they grow thicker stems to adjust to the breeze.
Glass patio doors are not hard to pick up for very little cost. I got mine free at the side of the road. I also managed to pick up four more new and single paned glass patio doors this past summer. All for for free!! People are always rebuilding their homes and replacing old windows and doors. Keep your eyes open as you drive around and let all of your friends know what you are looking for.
I have visions of a long line of cold frames along the edge of the garden. I have the doors and wood to build them, I just don't have the time! It is an age old problem and a really nice dream!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
After these have developed you can safely plant your cutting in slightly damp potting soil. Keep the cutting fairly warm and only slightly damp. Too much water will cause it to rot and too dry will kill it. Brugs do not like to dry out at all, so just keep it constantly slightly moist. I have not had a problem with mine. When they look a little wilted, I water them. I usually end up watering them about the same as my other houseplants, after they have started growing.
I kept the growing new plants in the kitchen all winter long. By the time spring came along they were this size. Your brugmansia will triple in size outdoors in the summertime.
When all danger of frost has completely passed, they can go outside. Up here in the north, they do best in full sun. Down in the southern states in the extreme heat, they do best in a fairly shady area. Half shade is ideal.
When they are actively growing they need a lot of fertilizer. They are heavy feeders. I almost think it is impossible to overfeed them. I use time release fertilizer in the spring and apply it liberally into the soil and the planting hole where my brugs are going.
They will grow at an alarming rate with good light, lots of fertilizer and enough water. They don't like to dry out completely and will wilt readily if they need water, and they need a lot of it. If given the right conditions, you will be rewarded with the most fantastic blooms you have ever seen. I started my cuttings in September 2008. I got my first bloom in October 2009. This is it.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Rose petal beads can be made from any rose petals, but the red shades will have a better colour when they are finished, sort of a deep mahogany. Cooking them in a cast iron pot will also deepen the colour. You don't need a very large amount of petals to make beads. They don't seem to lose much material in the cooking.
Start with collected rose petals. Some say to cut off the white bottom, but I do not have the time or ambition to do that and they come out just fine. Crush the petals or grind them up with a mortor and pestle and put them in a pot with a little water to cover. Heat very gently, without boiling, until the petals are a mush. This takes several hours. Keep the heat very low so that they never boil, just stay very hot. Add a little water if needed, to keep them moist. Do not let the water evaporate.
After 5-6 hours the petals should be ready. Press them into a fine sieve, getting out as much water as you can. If needed you can then wrap them in a towel and squeeze out even more water. Form the remaining paste into balls. They will shrink by 50%, so make them twice as big as you want the beads to be. Squeeze them into tight balls. Put a piece of wire or a coat hanger through the middle to make the hole for the string. Form the bead around the wire. You can shape them on the wire making them oblong or square, or you can make them round. You can make several different shapes and sizes. Make tiny little ones to put on earrings.
Before you are shaping them and they are fairly cool, you can add a drop or two of rose fragrance oil if you want them to have a stronger rose scent. Only a drop is needed as it goes a long way.
As they dry you will need to move them a little on the wire or they will be stuck to it and you will not be able to get the wire out of the bead when it is dry.
After you have the beads strung on the wire, hang them in a warm place to dry. They should be dry to the touch overnight and will continue to dry and shink for another week or two. After about two weeks, they are ready to make into jewelry. You can put a gloss varnish on them or leave them natural. I think they look best strung with other beads that will bring out the mahagany hues.
I don't have any completed beads to show you, unfortunately. I no longer have the ones I made years ago and, well, I burned the ones I was making yesterday in the pictures above. Its very easy to burn them. They smelled like roses, for awhile anyway until they began to smell burned. Its mid October and I don't think I am going to get any more rose petals this year. If I do , I will heat them on the wood stove instead of a burner.
I often do not know exactly how I am going to design a piece of jewelry until I have everything in front of me, including all of the beads I have to use in those colours. Sometimes I will re-do a strand many times before I am happy with it but that is the nature of designing. I like to look at other jewelry designs on the internet to get ideas for new and unusual things to do with the beads. Most jewelry designers are just stinging the beads together and focusing more on their usual beads. It is rare to find a different way of putting the beads together.
Jewelry making is fun! Once you get started it is hard to stop. Handmade jewelry made with your own rose petal beads will make a great Christmas present too!
Friday, October 16, 2009
I have finalized my seed trading list. You can see my post on Saving Seed if you want more information on how to save your own seed for trading.
As you can see, I grow a lot more flowers than vegetables right now. I find them much more fun and interesting. There are a lot of crafty things you can do with flowers. A lot of these are great for cutting!
If you are interested in a seed trade and have some things that will interest me, please send me an email. I especially like those plants that bloom all summer long and reseed prolifically.
Here is a list of the seeds that I have to trade:
***FLOWERS - all op
four o'clocks pink
four o'clocks yellow
penstamon nain 'Pygmaeus'
zinnias tall mixed
zinnias candy cane
zinnias tall pnk
**** VEGETGABLES (squash are hand pollinated)
nutty delica ebisu hybrid winter squash - hand pollinated (This squash is a hybrid, some seeds may revert to parent)
These are things that I am looking for, but I am open to all offers of interesting and unusual things.
gourds - small brightly coloured fancy
brugmanisa, not pink or white
cannas - fancy, striped and red leaves
callas - pink/puple colours
dahlia, large- any kind except 'Keri Blue'
datura - dark colours and doubles
four o'clocks, broken colors only
frittilaria - all kinds
hibiscus - tropical, mixed or dark colour
hellebore seeds, Fresh, right off the plant
ligularia 'Brit Marie'
blue rose of sharon
japanese lilac tree
oenothera - pink
salpigliosis, painted tongue
I use my herbal infused oils for soap making more than anything else. We do use them some in cooking but tend to prefer the fresh herbs for that purpose. A week prior to your planned soap making day, you can make your own herb infused oil.
Right now I want to make oil infused with oregano and thyme for their antibiotic and antiseptic properties. Many people have raved about this herbal soap and how it has cured their acne and other skin problems. I think it is the natural antibiotic properties of the thyme and oregano.
First a trip to the herb garden. Needless to say, if you plan to make soap in the middle of winter and want to use herbal oil you had best make the oil now and freeze it for winter use. You can also grow your own herbs in a pot on the windowsill through the winter.
I am clipping some oregano and some thyme, a mason jar full.
I will rinse the leaves then crush them in the jar. You could probably speed this process by blending them in a food processor before putting them in a jar. Mine are crushed then covered with oil. Because my house is cold at night and this has made the oil cold, I will warm the jar, without the lid, in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just until the oil is slightly warm. The lid is put on and I will shake the jar several times a day whenever I pass by for about a week or until I am ready to make soap.
I let the herbal oils intended for soap use sit out at room temperature. If I were going to take them internally or use in cooking, I would keep them in the refrigerator and discard after a few days. It is not safe to use herbal infused oils kept at room temperture for any internal use without heating them to pasteurize them or sealing them in a pressure canner.
This herb infused oil has more uses than just soapmaking. If you keep it in the fridge you can add it to your cooking. You can do this with garlic cloves too, not the soap part, just the cooking, but don't keep it indefinitely in the fridge, as there can be the possibility of bacteria growing in there. Hmmmm, garlic is good for you. I wonder how garlic soap would be if made with garlic infused oil. It may be something to try in the future. I hear it is suppose to help restore circulation. I do remember a very elderly gentleman asking me if I made garlic soap, as he was diabetic and wanted to try it. This was many years ago and I had not heard of it before. An interesting idea...
I use tallow to make soap. It can also be used to make candles. Beef fat is called tallow, pork fat is called lard - prepared in exactly the same way. Tallow is harder than any other common fat and will make a harder soap. Shortening can be used to make vegan soap but the soap won't be as hard as that made with beef fat.
I picked up some beef fat scraps from a butcher nearby and have put them into a pot to render. Rendering is cooking the fat scraps until all the fat has been liquefied, straining it and letting it cool and harden. This separates the fat from other impurities. The fat rises to the top and can be taken off in one hard chunk after it cools. The fat will simmer slowly in this pot for awhile, until I am satisfied that it has cooked long enough.
When it is finished I will strain it through a colander, then through a fine strainer before letting it cool outside on the front porch. If you are cooling it outside, a lid is important. Otherwise you might find little racoon prints in it or you might even find it completely gone! The smell will draw the surrounding animals. I will leave it there throughout the day and bring it in at night. The next morning it will look like this in the pot.
Now that it has cooled I can separate the fat and give the rest to the chickens. They will love it! This is the bottom layer under the pure fat. You will need to make sure none of these impurities get into the tallow.
While the fat simmers, I will go through the rest of my things and make sure I have everything I need to make soap. Tomorrow is a holiday, after all, and there will be nowhere open to buy ingredients.
This is the pure tallow. Isn't it beautiful! It looks just like lard or shortening from the store!
If you have especially smelly fat to render, the addition of a potato to the simmering pot will help to remove odors. A few teaspoons of white vinegar will also help remove odors from the fat.
It can be boiled twice if it is not clean and pure enough the first time. A tablespoon of salt added to the boil will help make it cleaner.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Now that I have all the ingredients I need and a long weekend (it is Thanksgiving here in Canada) I am going to make soap. I will weigh the tallow to see exactly how much I have. I will weigh all the other fats going into the soap as well. This includes coconut oil, castor oil and the herb oil I am making. It is important to know exactly how many grams of each kind of fat you are going to use in order to figure out how much lye to use. Don't mix the fats together. Weigh them and record the weights separately. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Make sure you are using a digital scale. Nothing else is precise enough to make sure you use up all the lye added. You do not want soap with even a trace of lye left in it. Fluid measures are very, uh, fluid. Not nearly precise enough for soapmaking.
The herbal oil is ready. I am straining it so there are no bits left. I am only going to use half of this today. I will freeze the rest for use later. I am using this specific amount because its what I have. It doesn't take much to impart the properties of the herbs into the soap and too much oil will make the soap softer. You can add fresh herbs to soap but the lye will just burn them and you will end up with dry, dead and very scratchy bits in your soap. Herb teas or oils are much better. Even with those you won't get scent, just properties. Saponification (the soap making process) kills all scent. We will discuss scent later.
This particular oil is canola. You will need to know exactly what fats and oils you are using in order to calculate how much lye to use. The herbal oil and rendered tallow are the most time consuming ingredients. Neither are really necessary. You can make soap with lard or shortening and without the herbal oils and still have good soap. It won't be as hard made with other fats and it won't have antibiotic and antiseptic properties. Now for the other ingredients.
Coconut oil is expensive and unnecessary. I have it because a friend gave it to me. She bought it for another use and had this left. It is suppose to add a lot to the richness of the lather but I have not been able to tell the difference, myself. However, I have not used it without changing several other things as well, so I can't be sure that it doesn't help. I have it and it was free, so I will put it in. It does make the soap harder. Coconut oil should be about 30% or less of the total fat content and no more. Too much will make the soap drying.
Milk is the next ingredient. A really good soap can also be made with water and no milk at all, but I use milk for its soothing qualities. Sadly, I don't have a milk goat, unlike my hero Suzanne McMinn. If you are not familiar with her "Chickens In The Road" blog (http://suzannemcminn.com/blog) you should read it. Its highly entertaining and informative! Fortunately for me, goat's milk can be purchased at the grocery store. Its a bit more expensive from the store than from your own goat, but it is still goat's milk. Cow's milk will make a good, soothing soap, as well, but goat's milk is suppose to make a richer lather. Again, I haven't noticed a big difference between soap made with goat's milk and soap made with cow's milk but customers ask for goat's milk soap, so I make it. Its like the difference between brown and white eggs. The inside is exactly the same. Its the breed of chicken that makes the eggs different but the public has this misconception that brown eggs are healthier. Perhaps because, in the past, brown eggs were only bought fresh from the farm and white eggs were what most people bought from the store. Farm fresh eggs are a lot healthier than store bought eggs but that is not because of the shell colour. On day I want to raise a few Araucana chickens for their blue and green eggs.
You can substitute milk for water, gram for gram, but it is wiser to use 1/2 of the liquid needed as water and 1/2 of the remaining liquid needed as milk instead of using all milk.
You will need to dissolve the lye crystals in water and let it set until it cools somewhat before adding the milk. I do this all outside. Lye crystals added to water make terrible fumes!
The wee bit of castor oil in my previous recipes is just used as a stabilizer and is not really necessary. I am not going to use it here, simply because I don't have any. The bit of sugar is used to enhance the lather but I am not convinced of its usefulness. Its almost free and readily available, so I will put it in. You can make a wonderful and natural clean soap with just water, tallow and lye. The bit of salt in the recipe is to make the soap harder. Too much will make it drying and it should be completely dissolved in the hot lye water.
Color can be obtained in several ways, if you want to color it. I like the creamy ivory colour of pure natural soap. It looks nice with raffia tied around it. I do colour soap from time to time. You can use baby food spinach to get a mild natural looking green or comfrey leaves. I would dry the leaves, crush, mix in oil and strain before adding to soap. Paprika will make a salmon colour. Experiment and see what you can find that is organic to colour your soap. These should all be prepared the same as the comfrey leaves.
You can also get great colour using crayons and the extra wax will help make a better soap. Beeswax can be added to soap to give it more hardness and stability. I don't use it in my soaps but it is in some recipes I have seen. Using crayons means that you cannot call it all natural. The possibility exists that the colour in the crayon is synthetic. Until you know for sure, its not all natural soap. Cheap, dollar store crayons work better for this purpose than the brand name crayons, as they are softer and easier to chop. To use crayons, peel the paper off, chop the crayon in fine pieces and melt in a double boiler method or in the microwave without a lid. When I am using crayons, I will put the tiny pieces in one of those little jam sample jars with the metal lid. Add a bit of oil to the crayon pieces and, with the lid removed, microwave on high for 1 minute at a time, if the jar is full. You can also put a little water in the bottom of a small pot and set the jar full of crayon pieces in the water.
Boil this gently until the crayon is fully melted. Make sure all the pieces have completely melted and it is all liquid before adding to your soap. Also be sure to add this to the soap when the soap is still very hot or the crayon pieces will harden before you get it mixed in. Sometimes that effect is good and looks marbled.
Real, lasting, usable scent in soap can only be obtained with fragrance oils. Essential oils are nice and have properties that you might want to add to the soap. This is fine. Go ahead and put them in, but the scent will not last. Usually the saponification process will destroy all scent so any kind of oil used for smell needs to be added after the soap is made but is still liquid enough to mix in just before pouring into the mould. Essential oils are volatile and will evaporate quickly. You might get a week or so of scent, but then it will disappear. The only thing that leaves a lasting smell in soap is fragrance oil. Unfortunately, most fragrance oils are synthetic or they have some synthetic ingredients, added to the essential oils to make them stronger and longer lasting. It is the only thing that will leave a lasting scent in soap, period.
Basically, you can keep your soap "all natural" and it will be good soap, but it will have mild, natural colour (which I like) and no lasting scent. If you want to make a great smelling, pretty bath soap, you will have to go with synthetic scent and colour. Fragrance oils do come in "natural" scents like cookies baking, various herbs and things like vanilla and lavender that smell completely natural. I found one last year that was called "Tomato Plant and Basil" and it smelled just like that too! It was fabulous! You know how a tomato plant smells, the plant not the tomato? That's exactly what it smelled like with a hint of basil. Good enough to eat, but synthetic.
Lye is needed to make real soap. Any soap you buy has been made with lye and it is a natural ingredient. I have considered making my own with all the oak leaves we have here but I just don't have the time or the ambition to do so. Lye is sodium hydroxide and is usually listed on the soap label as just "sodium". You will have to use lye to make your own soap. That's just the way it is. This is not "melt and pour" soap that someone else has already made for you. I have made soap for years with lye and have never had a problem. Just remember to be careful with it. Dissolve it in water with good ventilation, wear gloves, don't inhale the fumes, etc. Wear an apron over good clothes. The lye is caustic, as is the raw soap and some ingredients might be very hot. Keep all children and pets away from it. Making your own soap from scratch is not an activity for children.
The other additives you might choose to add should be kept in small amounts and ground or dissolved in oil or water before adding. I make oatmeal soap that is very good. I have made a sea salt scrub soap for feet that turned out well. I have made coffee soap to remove strong smells and I have added olive oil to make castile soap. I have added all kinds of things to soap over the years and I have found that simple is usually better.
This covers the main ingredients needed to make soap. Stick to glass or stainless utensils. Lye and raw soap will eat other materials, metals included.
You will need a hand blender. You can stand over a pot and stir all day if you want to, just like our ancestors did, or you can make the soap in less than half an hour with a hand blender.
The soap making process itself does not take very long, once you have all the ingredients ready to use at hand. If you are making a small amount of soap, you can probably put it all in a blender, run it for a couple of minutes and pour it into the mould. I prefer to make bigger batches and use a hand blender. Oddly enough, the raw soap and lye does not seem to eat the blender, even though its hard plastic.
Just a note here about washing up your utensils after making soap. Do not put them into the dishwasher with soap on them. Your dishwasher is made to be used with dishwasher detergent which produces very little lather or foam. What you will have on your dishes is soap, real soap and much of it will cause a problem in the dishwasher.
In addition to the stainless or glass pots and containers, a digital scale and the blender, you will need a thermometer. You can use digital or a glass candy thermometer. I find that a digital thermometer will work faster. You will also need a large spoon, stainless not wood, various little dishes to weigh small amounts, and the mould.
You can use anything for a mould but it should be either lined with wax paper or flexible and you will need to grease the flexible moulds with petroleum jelly. Do not use organic oil to grease a mould. The soap will absorb it and you will not be able to get it out of the mould. You will not be able to get the hard soap out of anything else in one piece. Flexible moulds can be flexed to pop the soap out, much like an ice cube tray. I like to use small cardboard boxes lined with wax paper and taped in place. Rub a light coating of vaseline on the waxed paper. The entire block of hard soap can be just lifted out and cut.
My soaps are not exactly all the same size so I price each one by weight, wrap raffia around it and tie on a small tag label where I can write the price of that particular bar along with other particulars about that soap. Here is my mould, prepared and ready to use. It is important to keep the sides and edges as smooth as possible. Every little wrinkle will show in the soap when it is removed. I use cheap masking tape because it is so thin the lines can usually be rubbed out or easily shaved off. I have considered making a mould out of wood, but have not had the ambition to do that yet. I don't really see the need for it. Small, flat and smooth boxes are always available and can be used over and over again since they are lined.
When you have your ingredients ready you will need a recipe. Making your own recipe from the fats you are able to obtain and the amounts that you have on hand is always the easiest. The first thing to do is the math to determine how much lye to use for the amount and variation of fats that you have decided to use. There is a very good lye calculator here: http://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php. Scroll down, enter the weight in grams of the various fats you are using. The calculator will tell you how much lye and how much liquid, to use.
If you are using coconut oil, it should be 30% or less of your total fats. You will also need very little castor oil. I make a large recipe and only use 30 grams of castor oil. I am not adding any in today's soap.
First I am weighing all the fats and oils I am using. 1763 grams of tallow, 113 grams of canola and 64 grams of coconut oil. If I were using castor oil I would enter it in, as well. I know the coconut oil amount is not EXACTLY 30% of the total fats but that is the amount I spooned out, so I am using it. Its close enough!
If you want to do your own calculations, I have put the instructions and fat saponification tables at the bottom of this post.
I am going to use the lye calculator at the link above. After imputing the three fats, in grams I see that I need 261g of lye. Always round the lye down. It also tells me that I need 485 ml of fluid. Since one ml of water equals one gram, that is also 485 grams of water. I will use my digital scale for that too. I always use the least amount of liquid called for.
The sugar should be 1 tsp per pound of fat and the salt should be 1/2 teaspoon per pound of fat. I am using a total fat weight of 1940 grams which converts to 4.2 pounds. So I am going to add 4 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt.
You have a little leeway with everything EXCEPT THE LYE CALCULATION! Never use less fats than you need to completely saponify 100% of the lye you use!! A little extra fat is ok. Its even very good if you want superfatted, moisturizing or slightly greasy soap, depending on how much extra fat you have in your soap. Be careful, it doesn't take much to make it greasy. If you want extra moisturizing soap, add something like shey butter to the finished product before pouring into the mould. Don't use much. A little goes a long way! I am not going to do this today. I am considering adding some ground oatmeal to some of it and I may do that just before I pour it into the mould.
Here is the recipe I am making today:
1763 g tallow
113g canola oil (herbal infused)
64 g coconut oil
485 g water/milk
261 g lye
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Fragrance oil - 1/3 - 1/2 a 30g bottle. I am using "French Vanilla" today. Its what I happen to have. I bought a few bottles from another crafter who didn't want them last year.
I am not going to colour this batch. I want it a natural vanilla like color.
The first step after you have your recipe is to weigh the water and put it into a stainless bowl. I weigh the lye crystals then add that to the water. Stir this until it is completely dissolved. Make sure you keep your face away from the fumes and don't inhale them. Turn on a fan, open a window or do this outside. You will need lots of ventilation. You can dissolve the lye crystals in milk but it will cook the milk, turning it a bright orange. This will, in turn, make your soap a darker tan rather than a very light ivory, which is preferable. Only the colour is affected, however. You will still produce a great soap. The amount of liquid used is flexible, a bit. Too much water will take much longer to cure. Too little will make the soap crumbly. Use only distilled water, like you would buy for your iron. Hard water will not measure correctly and can cause problems with the lye. That said, I have used my well water, which is quite hard but has no chlorine, and not had a problem.
When you have the lye disolved, add the salt and stir that until it is dissolved also. You can warm up the fats while you are doing this but it will take awhile for this mix to cool enough to use. The lye dissolving will cause a chemical reaction that will make it very hot. You can set the stainless bowl in a little ice water to help cool it faster. You can even do this step the day before, then transfer the lye liquid to a glass bowl and heat it up gently in the microwave until it is just the right temperature. I heat it up in increments of 20 seconds. Be very careful doing this. It is NOT SAFE and you will need to watch it very carefully. It is not a good idea to handle the lye mixture any more than you need to. Wipe up any drops and splatter thoroughly.
When the lye is at about 115*F you can add the milk. It will curdle and turn a bright yellow. That is normal. It will all mix well with the blender. If it turns a bright orange, you have partially cooked the milk. It will still work very well but will just make the soap a bit darker. The colour of your soap while you are making it will be darker than the finished product. Soap will lighten considerably as it cures.
To make a very light soap with milk you can add the milk after adding the lye mix the fat. You can also use powdered milk added to the mix after the lye has been added to the fat.
After you mix the lye and are letting it cool, you can be warming up your fats. I just put them all together in a big pot on the stove on LOW. There is no water in this so be very careful heating it up. If you scorch it, it is ruined. You will never get that scorched smell out of the fat. When the fats are approximately 112*F turn off the burner and move the pot.
When both the fats and the lye mixture are about 110*F it is time to mix them together. If you let the fats get too warm, you can cool them down in cold water in the sink. If the lye is too warm, you can cool it down in cold water in the sink. The cold water cooling method works very fast, so keep a close eye on the temperature.
Sometimes it takes awhile to get them both approximately 110*F. They both need to be about 110*F and within 5* of each other before you mix them together. This can be the most time consuming part of the job. I like to give them a few degrees to spare as the mixing together and blending will introduce air into the mix and cool it down a few degrees.
When they are both around 110*F, very gently pour the lye mixture into the fat mixture, stirring while you do so. This is the time to introduce the hand blender. Blend it all together in the pot on the stove. Put all the utensils used with the lye into the sink and rinse them well.
Blend the mixture until it begins to thicken and get waxy. This stage is called "trace". It is called "trace" because when it is soap, you should be able to trace a line dripped from a spoon on the top of the soap. True "trace" is the beginning of saponification. If the mixture is too cool when you put it together or it cools too much when mixed, it will not "trace". It will thicken as it cools since the fats will start to harden again as they reach room temperature. If it is still greasy and not waxy, you don't have "trace" and will need to warm it up again. This is why I like to mix them together in a large pot on the stove. If the temperature drops below about 95*F and you still don't have "trace", warm it on the burner on low until it reaches approximately 110*F. Keep blending until you are sure you have saponification. I have made soap a few times and poured it into the mould, only to find that it was just a box of soft fat the next day and not soap at all. This is because I let it get too cool. After you have seen true "trace" a few times, you will be able to tell the difference.
I have often mixed the fat and lye together at a slightly higher temperature, blended it very well for several minutes and just poured into the mould without even looking for trace. It saponifies as it cools in the mould and makes a good hard soap much faster then all the temperature adjustments and waiting for trace. This is the way I always make cold process soap now. Occasionally it doesn't make soap and I have to heat it all up and do again but that is rare, provided it is made correctly and I have followed the recipe.
While you are blending it you can add the colourant and blend well. When saponification takes place, it will start to harden up quickly and you will have to act fast.
After saponification takes place and you have a pot of soap, quickly stir in the fragrance oil or essential oil, if you are using it. Pour the soap into the mould as fast as you can, before it hardens in the pan. Sometimes the addition of the fragrance oil or essential oil will cause it to harden even faster. If you want marbled soap, stir in colour after it is in the mould and swirl it with a knife.
Lay a sheet of waxed paper on the top of the soap to keep a film of ash from forming. If you do get some ash formed on the finished soap, just shave it off. You must remove the ash as it will be caustic and irritate the skin. Wrap the soap mould in a towel or blanket and let it cool, gently, overnight in the mould. The next morning it should be hard and can be removed from the mould to cure.
Cut the block of soap into pieces the size that you want. I use a ruler to mark them as close to the same size as possible, but I don't go overboard with this. They will be different sizes. Since I price by weight, it doesn't really matter and it looks more "natural" and "hand made" that way. You can make large soap balls using your hand, with the shavings and left over pieces.
Put the cut pieces of soap in a dry place to cure for 4-6 weeks. I use a closet shelf for this. It will scent an entire room and make your clothes smell really nice if you put the soap to cure in your clothes closet or in one of the drawers in the dresser where you store your clothes. A coat closet is a good place also. Anywhere you have shelves or drawers to set them in will be fine. Set them on waxed paper spaced apart and not touching one another.
In 4-6 weeks you will have amazing, hand made soap! It makes great Christmas presents!
Above is the French Vanilla I just made. I have been told that it is an excellent scent for men and women.
I also made vegan soap today, cold process. Just a small batch. Here is the recipe:
1 lb (454g) shortening (mostly soybean)
45g coconut oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
I used a bit of pink crayon and some lavender/waterlily fragrance oil. It turned out quite nice.
My hand blender didn't work when the vegan soap was ready for it today. I got out the regular blender and used it for this soap. I don't like to use that device as it doesn't come apart so that I can wash the blade. It did, however, work for this small soap batch. I will have to get another stick blender before I make more soap.
I am planning on making a larger vegan batch on the weekend. This one will be a healing earth soap with thyme, oregano and aloe in it, vegan, 100% natural and chemical free. I am playing with organic green colourants right now. There are several that will work, I think, to give me an Earthy muted green shade. The easiest being kelp or spirulina algae, both dried fish food from Walmart. I haven't decided on a scent yet, but it will have to be an essential oil to be all natural and organic.
Soap making is addictive. Once you make a few different kinds your imagination will take over and you will be making various soaps all the time, whenever you have a little extra fat and some new ideas to try.
If you want to do your own lye calculations, here is the formula with the fat saponification table. Multiply the number of ounces of whatever fat you would like to use, times the number in the chart beside that fat. The answer is the number of ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide) required to saponify that much fat.
.136 almond oil, sweet almond oil, Prunus amygdalus oil
.135 apricot kernel oil, Prunus armeniaca oil
.136 arachis oil, peanut oil, earthnut oil, katchung oil, maize oil
.133 avocado oil, Persea americana oil
.175 babassu, Brazil nut oil
.069 bayberry or myrtle wax
.139 bear fat, bear tallow
.141 beef hoof oil, neat's foot oil
.140 beef tallow, beef fat, beef suet
.136 borage oil, Borago officinalis oil
.175 Brazil nut oil, babassu oil
.162 butterfat, cow
.167 butterfat, goat
.136 camelia oil, Camellia sinensis oil
.124 canola oil, rapeseed oil, colza oil, rape oil,
.069 carnauba wax
.128 castor oil, ricinus oil
.138 chicken fat
.137 China wood oil, tung oil, nut oil
.135 Chinese bean oil, soybean oil
.137 cocoa butter, theobroma oil
.190 coconut oil, Cocos nucifera oil
.132 cod liver oil, banks oil, morrhua oil
.130 coffee-seed oil
.124 colza oil, canola oil, rape seed oil
.136 corn oil, maize oil
.138 cottonseed oil
.135 Chinese vegetable tallow
.139 deer tallow, venison fat
.136 earthnut oil, peanut oil
.135 emu oil, emu fat, ostrich oil, ostrich fat
.136 evening primrose oil, Oenothera biennis oil
.135 flax seed oil, linseed oil
.134 Florence oil, olive oil, lovvu oil, Glotrnvr oil, olium olivate, sweet oil
.133 gigely oil, sesame oil, teal oil
.139 goat tallow, goat fat
.136 goose fat
.123 to .135 grape seed oil, grapefruit seed oil, Vitis vinifera oil (varies widely)
.136 hazelnut oil, Corylus avellana oil
.1375 hemp oil, hemp seed oil
.136 herring oil, fish oil
.137 java cotton, Kapok oil
.069 jojoba oil, Simmondsia chinensis oil
.137 kapok, Java cotton oil
.128 Karite butter, shea butter
.136 Katchung oil, peanut oil earthnut oil, arachis oil, maize oil
.135 kukui oil, candle nut oil
.074 lanolin, sheep wool fat
.138 lard, pork tallow, pork fat
.136 linseed oil, flax seed oil
.134 loccu oil, olive oil, Florence oil, olium olivate, sweet oil
.139 macademia nut oil, Macadamia integrifolia oil
.136 maize oil, corn oil
.135 menhaden, fish oil. pogy oil, mossbunker oil
.140 mink oil
.123 mustard seed oil
.138 mutton tallow, sheep tallow
.069 myrtle wax, bayberry wax
.141 neat's foot oil, beef hoof oil
.135 niger-seed oil
.134 olive oil, loccu oil, Florence oil, olium olivate,
sweet oil, Olea europa oil
.134 olium olivate, olive oil, loccu oil, Florence oil, sweet oil
.135 ostrich oil, ostrich fat, emu oil, emu fat
.141 palm oil
.156 palm-kernel oil, palm butter
.136 peanut oil, earthnut oil, katchung oil, arachis oil, maize oil, Arachis hypogaea oil
.136 perilla oil
.135 pistachio oil
.138 poppy-seed oil
.135 pumpkin seed oil, Cucurbita pepo oil
.128 rice bran oil
.124 ramic oil, canola oil, rape seed oil, colza oil
.128 ricinus oil, castor oil
.136 safflower oil
.135 sardine oil, Japan fish oil
.133 sesame seed oil, gigely oil, teel oil, til oil,
teal oil, Sesamum indicum oil
.128 shea butter, African karite butter
.138 sheep fat, sheep tallow
.074 sheep wool fat, lanolin
.136 shortening, vegetable shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oil
.135 soybean oil, Chinese bean oil, Hellanthus annuus oil
.134 sunflower seed oil
.137 Theobroma oil, cocoa butter
.137 tung oil, soybean oil, China wood oil, nut oil
.138 venison fat, deer fat, deer or venison tallow
.136 walnut oil, Jugulans regia oil
.092 whale: sperm whale, body, blubber oil, train oil
.102 whale: sperm whale, head
.138 whale: baleen whale
.132 wheat germ oil, Triticum vulgare oil
.074 wool fat, lanolin