Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Make It Myself: Soap

I made soap with two friends today and they said, "you're going to write this down, right?" 

So here is my "I make it myself" post about soap making.  Nothing fancy here, you can find several well-done videos of the process, but I will tell you how I do it.

First I clean all dishes out of my sink and move all food, salt and pepper shakers, appliances, etc. to the other end of the counter so that I have a large clear area to work in. 

What you will need:

A large bowl, a small bowl, a plastic bucket, a large pot, a large spoon with long handle, a plastic long-handled spatula, a digital scale, a stick blender, goggles, gloves, and a mold of some sort.  I also keep an instant-read thermometer handy in case I want to check the oil and lye temps. 

You will need a soap recipe and the ingredients associated with that recipe.  I like recipes that don't call for a gazillion ingredients, so I am not continually running out of this obscure oil but still have plenty of this other oil. You should know, in soap-making, that the oils are not interchangeable.  If you are out of something, you cannot just substitute another.  This is chemistry, not cooking.

If you google recipes,  you can find many, many soap-making recipes.

Here is the soap recipe we used today:

16 oz Olive Oil
16 oz Palm Oil
16 oz Coconut Oil
15.8 oz frozen goat milk (or distilled water)
6.9 oz sodium hydroxide lye

Here's the recipe I used for the shampoo bars I am making in the pictures. 

I have another basic homemade soap recipe that I use when I have collected sufficient lard from my bacon rendering. 

Let's get started.

Measure everything carefully!  If you are off by .1 of an oz, it is no big deal, but overall inaccuracy can lead to all kinds of issues!  

Measure your frozen goat milk or distilled water into the LARGE bowl.  Freezing the milk keeps the chemical reaction from the lye from getting too hot and keeps the milk from curdling.

THEN PUT ON GOGGLES AND GLOVES and wear long sleeves!  

Measure lye into the OTHER SMALL metal bowl. I bought this lye from, great prices, expensive shipping.   I believe you can use "Roebic" lye which is available at some local hardware stores.  Make sure it says 100% lye.

Note picture is wrong type of lye!  Buy SODIUM Hydroxide.

Pour LYE INTO/ONTO FROZEN MILK a little at a time, stirring to melt milk and dissolve lye. I usually go outside to do this because the smell can get overpowering inside.  
Set aside where no-one or nothing can get into it. 

NOTE:  DO NOT pour liquid into lye!  Pour lye into liquid.  

Measure your oils into plastic container.   I zero out the scale after adding each oil. Microwave enough to melt solid oils - about 1 - 2 minutes in my microwave.  Oils and lye mixture should be within 10º  of each other (about 90-100º each).  You can also put the oils in your pot and melt on the stove.

Pour oils into a tall metal pot (I find this prevents splashing out) and then slowly add lye mixture and stir with metal spoon.  Begin using fully-submerged stick blender to mix until mixture reaches "trace" (pudding like consistency).  This should take 15 min to 1/2 hour with the stick blender, longer if something is wrong. :)   In this picture I kept the oils and lye in the plastic container because the shampoo bar recipe uses less ingredients and I wanted to make sure the blender was fully submerged.  It still splashed quite a bit.  Keep your goggles and gloves on!   No one cares how goofy you look, it beats burns and blindness.

This is serious trace!  I realize now that I was sent the wrong type of lye, that's why this picture is chunky.  I'll try to take a different picture next time I make soap.   

I figured out why this is like this.  I had the wrong kind of lye!

Once you reach trace, you can add your fragrance oils or essential oil for scent.  Mix in well with the stick blender.  I have lots of scents....and hopefully lots of sense too.

Pour into lined molds or silicone molds.  

 I found these nifty silicone loaf pans on Amazon.  You can also get long ones, specifically for soap making through essential depot (for 3x the price + shipping....I am not so into this that I can't just use bread loaf pans. ) I also have wooden soap molds that I line with freezer paper.  

Put plastic wrap over the top and wrap in an old towel or blanket to keep it warm.  

Cut into bars after it sets up, after about 24 hours.  You should put your gloves back on for this as it is not cured yet and can be quite stingy to the skin.

Line up cut bars in a box or on a shelf a little distance apart from one another to saponify. The chemical process is NOT done yet!  After about 4 weeks, your soap will be ready to use.  

Clean up your mess.  

I try to keep all of my dangerous lye-laden utensils confined to a single paper towel.  Then that is all I have to clean up.  I wash all of my pots, utensils, bowls and buckets in my empty sink with my gloves and goggles still on.  I do wipe down my counter carefully, but at least I know that my mess was pretty confined to that paper towel.

 Well, that's it!  

UPDATE!  (same-day update):  The reason my soap didn't set up was because Brambleberry sent me a POTASSIUM hydroxide bottle with my order of 5 SODIUM hydroxide bottles! I didn't realize it until I looked at my lye label to write this blog to remember where I had purchased it.  Potassium Hydroxide is used for liquid soap (more complicated) and Sodium Hydroxide is used for making bar soap.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

I Make It Myself: Elderberry Syrup

For several years now, I have been buying "Berry Well" elderberry syrup from I saw their price going up each cold season (and I see now that it is out of stock!) and ordered another brand from Vitacost.  I noticed that taking the syrup at any sign of sickness either keeps me from getting sick at all, or at least cuts the length of the illness dramatically (could be other factors, I suppose, but I have noticed a difference with taking elderberry.) 

A few years ago, I made Very Berry Tincture (from but I just could not stand the alcohol taste so I did not take it faithfully.  I still have the mix of herbs left, so I may try to make it again as I made the syrup. 

I bought organic elderberries through Amazon.  $12 for a whole pound. 

I found a recipe online to make the syrup, but as usual, I made my own adjustments.  Here's the recipe I found: 

This is what I used: 

4 c. water

1 c organic dried elderberries
2 - 1" chunks of ginger root, sliced into pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp whole cloves
1 c raw honey

Pour water into a pot with berries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Simmer on the stovetop for 1 hour.  Let cool and pour through a sieve.  I also put the berries through a food mill, because I didn't like the idea of wasting any of that goodness.  I think it also added a little thickness.  After everything is cool and processed, add the honey.  

This made over 24 oz of Elderberry syrup.  

If you do the rough math:

$6 for 1 c. berries.
$8 for 1 c. honey.
$4 for herbs.
= $18 for the equivalent of 3 - 8oz bottles.
= $6 per bottle.

You can find straight-up Elderberry syrup on Vitacost for about $8 a bottle.
If you want added goodness, like bee propolis and raw cider vinegar, like in Berry Well, it will cost you $22.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Make It Myself: Mayonnaise

Another, "I make it myself" opportunity came up more quickly than I thought.  I make salad dressing for my husband (oh, there's another one...) and I needed more mayonnaise for the recipe, so tonight I made mayonnaise.  It is so easy and cheap to make, never will I spend nigh $4 for a jar of it again.

I know this is not new for many of you, but it hasn't been on my blog, so here goes.

I got my recipe from my Fanny Farmer cookbook, but I made a few alterations.

You will need: 
1 c. olive oil
1 egg (preferably fresh from your own chicken)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 1/2 T. vinegar or lemon juice
1 T. whey - (see update at the bottom of this post)

In a food processor place:
egg, salt, dry mustard, about 1/4 c. of the olive oil  

Turn on the processor and leave it going. 

SLOWLY drizzle in 3/4 cup more olive oil in a very thin stream (do not get impatient and dump it all in at once at any point!) 

Keep drizzling.....

I know your hand is getting tired, but don't dump the oil in, just KEEP DRIZZLING!

Once you have drizzled in the last drip of oil, you should have a nice creamy emulsion.

Now with processor still going, add 1 1/2 T. vinegar or lemon juice (I prefer the vinegar flavor). You can also add more salt if you like. 

Voila' Mayonaisse!  This will keep as long as the egg would keep in your fridge.  Since I am using a fresh, fresh egg, I would consider it good for a month, but it doesn't last that long anyway.  

UPDATE:  I had read somewhere that whey will increase the life of your mayonnaise and I finally researched it (since I routinely have gallons of whey!)  Just adding 1T or so to the mayonnaise and letting it sit for a few hours lacto-ferments the mayo making it last for 6-8 weeks!  Here's the link:    I basically use my own recipe and add 1 T. whey, since her recipe is about double mine.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Make It Myself: Deodorant

I got a private message this week asking me how I make my own bread.

I got a private message about 3 weeks ago asking how I make my own soap.

I got a message about a month ago asking me for my recipe to make my own mayonnaise.

So, I decided to start a new blog series called: I make it myself.  I don't know how consistently I will post, but I hope to write the posts as people ask me whatever it is I am currently making myself.

Yesterday I ran out of deodorant and was scraping the last of it out of my container this morning, so I said, I MUST make some more deodorant today!  So, even though no one asked, I will write about making your own deodorant.

I started making my own deodorant because I read somewhere about the connection between aluminum and Alzheimers and breast cancer.  It got me to thinking about smearing aluminum in my armpit every day, maybe several times a day since puberty.  That would be already about 35 years now!

So I googled how to make my own deodorant.

I found: A Sonoma Garden

I have adjusted the recipe somewhat.  I use less baking soda because it can scratch the skin and leave a rash.  Some people prefer to use all organic ingredients. You can use also arrowroot instead of corn starch.  I am cheap, so I am currently just using corn starch, but I will probably switch eventually.

Homemade Deodorant

3 T. shea butter
2 T. cocoa butter, grated fine (a micro-planer works well.  I grate a bunch into a plastic container for future use.)
1 t. olive oil or coconut oil (for a softer, spreadable texture. Omit for jamming into a "bar" dispenser.)
2 1/2 T. baking soda
2 T. corn starch or arrowroot
5-10 drops of vitamin E (or 2 gel caps squeezed in)
3 probiotic pill-powder (open capsule and mix in)
1/4 t. essential oil of your choice for fragrance (I am currently using fragrance oils because it is what I have.)

All these amounts are rough.  I grate the cocoa butter fine; I mush the shea butter into a tablespoon; both I would consider heaping tablespoons.  Melt butters and oil in a glass bowl or measuring cup in microwave (or on stove), add baking soda and corn starch.  Stir until completely combined. When no longer hot to the touch, add vitamin E, probiotic, and scented oil. Makes about 1/4 pint.  Put in fridge to set up, then keep on shelf at room temp for easy application.  I take about a dime size amount and smear it on with my fingers after I shower.  I do know some friends who make it harder (probably with more cocoa butter) and mash it into an old deodorant container to apply.)

Keeps me smelling.....or rather NOT smelling all day long, even without reapplication!  Aluminum deodorants never worked so well.