The clock was seriously ticking on my soap making endeavours. Soap made with lye needs to cure several weeks before it can be used or it will burn your skin, which is not exactly what one wishes for when looking to be clean. So I made my do-or-die batch.
First, I decided to skip the high falutin' olive oil and go 100% traditional. Pure lard. Or saindoux for the French speakers among us. It was worth buying this if only for the look on Fin's face when he saw it on the kitchen counter. "Mom, you know this made from animals, right?" Whaaa? I looked all innocent. A day later..."Mom, you know that lard is animal fat, right?" I like to think there was a protective note of concern in his voice.
In the end, however, I couldn't bear to use the lard. It's made from animal fat you know! So I checked and rechecked the various recipes found online until I found the absolute best thing - the Lye Calculator. Indie rockers take note: best band name EVER! My new BFF, the Lye Calculator, had all sorts of fat options for soap making and it encouraged me to set aside my box of lard. I used a combination of coconut oil, sunflower oil, and yes, that right fancy olive oil.
BUT - and here is where everything changed - I also used (ahem) a scale and a kitchen thermometer. Funny how different things go with chemical reactions when you measure the ingredients. Somebody alert the scientists!
See? Here I am actually taking the temperature of the all the oils (they need to be between 90 -100F). Just prior to this photograph I could be seen measuring the weight of said oils and of said lye. I know, I know, crazy talk but I did it nonetheless.
Further, I followed blogless Janine's advice and slooowly added the oil to the water/lye solution (which also was at the proper temperature). This looks a little more like whatever it is supposed to look like! No weird curdle-y things. The idea is that you achieve a process called saponification. My mixture was still not looking exactly like what the recipes said it would look like, but I poured it into the mold anyway and crossed my fingers. When I checked on it later that evening, it still wasn't looking textbook perfect so I was ready for another caustic disaster. (Second note to indie rockers - hello? Caustic Disaster? Great band name!)
But yesterday morning...
We have achieved soap! Saponification rules! Those little beads of liquid on the surface are lye that is leaching out of the soap, which is something that is supposed to happen.
And there they are - my first ever bars of soap. I had even taken the liberty of adding some lemon essential oil to the mixture so they have a lovely citrus smell to them. They will cure on the rack until it is time to head to Saskatoon. And then they will cure in the car. I hope they will be ready for use when the festival begins. It is definitely not my goal to have people contemplating utopia while scorching their feet with caustic soap. At least not for this project.