Thursday, January 17, 2008

Soap Making

Well we had our fourth “snow day” of the season day before yesterday, and by 2 o’clock, we were all a little squirrelly. (Kids alternating between couch bouncing, coloring and fussing with each other, while I grumped around trying to organize and straighten the growing mess and Dan attempted to work from home.) The time seemed right for something new. And soap making, turns out, was the perfect something.

I’d been meaning to give this craft a try; After all, I love perusing the handmade soaps at the fair, and the soap isle at the co-op is a favorite haunt (Though, usually those cool, organic varieties are out of our price range). The stronger and stranger a soap is, the more I like it. And I also like the idea of providing our family soaps reasonably priced soaps without all those questionable additives.

So, thought I, lets give this thing a try. As I’ve mentioned before, exactitude isn’t in my nature. I’m a let’s “try it and see, looks about right” kind of crafter/baker/shepherd, etc. With me, soap making is a small leap of faith.

Way back in September/October. I made a small batch of what amounted to “easy-bake” soap from a base bought at a box store on my way home. It was easy. Really easy. The kids enjoyed pouring it into molds and embedding a few of their toys. And we did use the resulting bars. But they were, basically, made of the same stuff as any old store bought variety. Not terrific.

This snow day, we were ready for a more challenging playing field… I decided to try “rebatching” or taking a homemade, raw, base, shredding it, mixing it with milk, essential oils, and other healthy stuff, and then pouring it into molds. The kids helped, of course. First, we looked at all the ingredients I’d gathered: a bunch of oils and kitchen staples that I thought might be useful if and when I got it together and tried this rebatching thing. Then we made a list of possible soap varieties and settled on two. (Well, we were supposed to settle on two but Anna and Micah had a major disagreement over whether we should make "Chai" or "Coffee" soap. A game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” failed to end the dispute, and so Dan served as tie-breaker. Chai it was.)

The raw soap base we used was handmade from another farm. It was an already-lovely goats milk/shea butter blend. We made a tea tree variety and the aforementioned Chai (vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice) and then, with the time and base left over, we made Anna’s choice anyway: a “Mocha Soaka” with coffee grinds and raw cocoa. (I’ve heard this type of soap is great at removing strong smells like garlic. And as garlic is the main ingredient in about everything I cook, it’ll be putting to the test.)

The soap will take at least a few days to set. So now we wait.

I’m not sure I’m up for the “real” soapmaking process, the one involving lye and seemingly painstaking measurements. But on a snowy, cooped-in afternoon, rebatching rocks!

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