The second class in the 2019 series of how-to-homestead was a fun day for all. We had a full class and much laughter and fun was had by all.
We made Honey-Castile Soap. It's a simple cold process with three main ingredients: Olive Oil, Lye Crystals and Distilled Water. While it's simple to make, it's also a little risky business because lye creates a chemical reaction. It's a controlled experiment in kitchen chemistry. Safety measures should always be taken, gloves, safety glasses, long sleeves and aprons are a must.
The class was a real blast because of our wonderful guests, Jean, Carol, Marie and Donna. This is a delightful bunch of ladies. There were many great questions and lots of laughter. Carol won the door prize and went home with an Aloe Vera in a coffee cup, a basket with a garden trowel, gardening gloves and ten packets of seeds saved from Windy Thistle's garden this year. My co-host/photographer was Raven.
The first thing we had to do is line the loaf pans with parchment paper. There can't be any cuts or tears because the soap batter will react with the foil, so it can't leak. How to do that? Origami - we fold the paper to make it fit the pans.
Once we got the pans lined, we also added a layer of bubble-wrap with the bubbles to the inside. When the soap is unmolded, it will have a honeycomb texture. When we were happy with how the origami went, it was time to go on to the real kitchen chemistry part.
We carefully measured out the ten cups of distilled water into a #5 recyclable pitcher and then we carefully measured two and a half cups of lye crystals into a glass measuring cup and measured ten cups of oil in a large pot. The pot went on the stove on a very low temp and was checked periodically until it was around 140 degrees and then the pot was turned off to allow the oil to cool down. Raven and Marie stayed inside and watched this oil with a thermometer.
Note: Never mix your lye into water in a glass bowl because the extreme change in temperature will shatter the glass.
Everyone else went outside on the deck and slowly poured the lye crystals INTO the water. Never do this the other way around, you'll create an explosion. The lye water heats up pretty quickly. In about two minutes, our candy thermometer had shot up to 180 degrees and the mixture fumed as it mixed. This is why you always do this outside and try to stand out of the fumes. If you get a sniff, step away. Some people wear masks but I just mind the breeze. You do need to wear your safety glasses, gloves, long sleeves and apron for this step - better safe than sorry. if something does spill, rinse with cold water right away.
Once it stopped fuming, it was time for it to start to cool down. It was a pretty cool day but still it was taking the lye water too long to cool down. We took a walk around Windy Thistle's gardens while we waited and it was still taking too long. We put the pitcher into a sink of cold water and ice to bring temp down a little more quickly. Once we had the lye down to 100 degrees and the oil was within 100 to 110 degrees, it was time to do the mixing. We poured the oil into a #5 kitty litter bucket (yes, it was scrubbed clean first) and that brought the oil's temp down to the right range. We carefully poured the lye water from the pitcher over a spoon into the bucket of oil, to prevent splashing.
Then it was time to get to stirring. We used an immersion blender for this part. We'd turn it on for about 15 seconds and then off and just use it to stir the mixture for another 15 seconds. Everyone took turns repeating this step until our soap batter came to soft trace. We added 2 tbsps. of honey and 4 ounces of lavender fragrance oil at this point which filled the room with a lovely perfume. We mixed that into the batter until the batter came to a medium trace. It took between twenty and thirty minutes to get to that stage. It would have been longer without the immersion blender.
It was time to add the amendments. You can add lots of things to your soaps, dyes, exfoliants like coffee grounds, or oatmeal, or some kinds of flower petals. I measured out three cups of soap batter into large #5 mixing bowl, one for each of us.
And then everyone added the amendment of their choice. For this class, we used Dried Calendula Petals for dry skin and Dried Coffee Grounds for oily skin and Vitamin E Oil as a moisturizer. Not everyone used every amendment. We stirred again until it came to a hard trace and then it was time to pour it into the molds.
Everyone folded the top of their bubble wrap down over the batter and then we wrapped them in towels to allow them to cool down slowly back at everyone's home. We wrapped up the class with a great question and answer period and some lovely chatting.
I enjoyed myself so much and our students went home with their soaps and instructions on how to finish up their soap at home - when to unmold, when to cut and how to cure. A fun time was had by all. Special thanks to Raven, my co-host who put up with proofreading instructions, listening to me ramble for weeks about recipes and amendments. She knew what to hand me before I knew I needed it and took these great photos. Thank you so much, Raven!
The next class at Windy Thistle will be Saturday, November 16th and the subject will be Pies, Pies and All Things Pie. We'll be making Pumpkin Pie from real pumpkins and Sky High Apple Pie. We'll be making a great flaky butter crust and everyone will go home with their own pies. We still have two openings on this class if you'd like to try your hand at baking pies from scratch.
Be looking forward to December's class - Christmas Crafts for Gifts.