Posts Tagged ‘lard’

Makin’ suds

There seems to be a never ending supply of projects that capture my attention and obsession for various lengths of time. Some of them are necessary for the house and garden to operate without falling apart- fence dog out of garden, protect chickens from raccoons, plant garlic before ground freezes- and others seem to stem from necessity- how do we use up all this lard from our pig??- and then turn into the somewhat frivolous, put-a-whole-lot-of-extra-work-and-money-in, giant mess-making, kitchen- and basement-consuming tasks. This past weekend’s was making soap. Like, real soap. Like, with pig lard and lye and safety goggles!!

bars sliced and curing

bars sliced and curing

By chance I recently stumbled upon a couple articles in this blog about ditching commercial shampoo and soap and making your own. (Not really by chance- I read homesteading and DIY blogs). The author makes an aside about how she hopes to one day raise and render her own lard to use in her homemade soap– upon reading this I jumped out of my chair- Holy Crap!! That’s what we can do with all that lard in our freezer! Why didn’t I think of this before?! We’ve been attempting to use up the rendered lard from our pig frying eggs and potatoes and making stovetop popcorn- we’ve barely made a dent in a year and a half. (The story of our pig Knorr is a long blog post that I’m still gathering the courage and gentle words to write.)

So, forget all other projects on the docket and off to the store for coconut oil, avocado oil, lye, cinnamon and lavender and orange essential oils… Poor David- he tolerates so much. So much.

I used a few recipes online (here, here, and the one above) to settle on a lard percentage of 35%, with coconut (25%), olive (20%), avocado (15%), and castor oil (5%) supplying some better lathering and cleaning properties. Apparently you can make soap out of pure lard, water and lye, and you can also make soap out of pure vegetable oils, but a mixture seems to be what most soap makers online recommend. I found that lard was somewhat controversial, but its best inexpensive replacement in veggie soaps is Palm oil, which is not very sustainable/socially conscious. (Apparently most commercial, non-hippie-greenie soap contains beef tallow from factory farms/rendering plants, which I did not realize!) Without lard or palm oil, soaps can take a very long time to cure into a nice hard bar that won’t melt when wet- sometimes a year or more- compared to 3-6 weeks for soap with.

We decided on three varieties- David wanted cardamom paired with orange, and I went with lavender and rosemary oat, and pumpkin pie spice (inspiration). I won’t bore you with all the details- the links above describe the process very thoroughly- but suffice it to say that it was both easier and harder than I expected. The whole process was quite scientific- which I loved!- tweaking my recipe, calculating the exact amount of lye needed online, measuring out the lye and fat to the gram… Working with lye wasn’t too scary, but getting the melted fat and lye+water mixture to thicken took forever. I failed to realize that most people use a stick blender, which shortens mixing time by an incredible amount. Also, sometimes the combination of essential oils, and in this case pumpkin purée, can cause the mix to separate. So the orange cardamom and rosemary oat loaves set up well overnight, but the pumpkin began to ooze dark red cinnamon oil. It looked evil. Fortunately, the interwebs told me I could just melt down the failed loaf, oozing oil and all, mix it up really well, and pour it back into the mold. While doing this, I added some powdered milk to cut the now-fireball level of cinnamon fragrance coming outta that thing. Whew. Really hoping that mellows out!

I cut each loaf into bars after it sat overnight in its mold (tupperware and a loaf baking tin), and now they are all sitting on parchment paper in the basement, waiting to cure. I’ve gone down to marvel and sniff them at least three times a day so far, and I’ll turn them every week for 4-6 weeks until they’re done!

Now I am hooked and looking into making a vegetarian bar for my brother-in-law with shea or cocoa butter… they say soaping is a disease that takes over your life… and all available flat surfaces in your house for curing bars of soap.

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