We are lucky that we know someone that raises goats. April is a wonderful person and a soap making guru. In good ole bartering style, we swapped goat milk for pig fat so that we could make soap. Win Win.
Now this was our first time trying cold press soap. We are definitely still figuring things out. With the help of my soap making friend, I used soapcalc.net to determine the weights of lard, goat milk, essential oil, and lye we needed for our soap. <Warning…using lye can cause burns. Please wear appropriate gloves and goggles and work in a ventilated space. I worked at my stove and had the vent running.>
We had to buy a few things from Amazon for our soap making:
1. We bought a stick blender to mix the lard/milk/lye mixture until trace. Trace is when the mixture turns from liquid to pudding consistency. I will say that the stick blender I bought burned up the first time I used it and wont turn on again. So either 1. buy a better one or 2. don’t use it continuously when mixing. Take a few breaks with it and stir with a regular spoon.
2. Soap Mold. You don’t have to use a commercial soap mold. Some people use empty orange juice cartons or make a mold out of wood. We tried the commercial mold and a orange juice carton and my pick is the commercial mold. We don’t drink a lot of orange juice so it isn’t a “free” option for me. And it made very large bars of soap but if cut in half still seemed an odd size. And my cutter wasn’t long enough to cut all the way through so it wasn’t as pretty.
3. Soap Cutter. I used a pastry scraper because I had one already and it looked very similar to the official soap cutters I saw on amazon.
4. Essential oils. I used what I had on hand which wasn’t much. I definitely need to find a good source for essential oils in bulk. My soap recipe that used 32 oz of lard needed 1 oz of essential oils. The bottles I had were 0.3 oz. So I used as much as I had but should have used more.
5. Accurate food scale. Soap making is an exact science. Each part needs to be accurately measured by the weight. If not some of the lye could remain in the final product and cause burns!
My friend that swapped me the goat milk gave me a tip for mixing the lye into the goat milk. She said to measure out the weight of goat milk you need into a mason jar that is big enough and then freeze it. Then you add the lye to the frozen milk a little at a time and stir stir stir. This way the milk wont overheat and burn. Burnt milk soap is still usable but will be a orangey color and might have an off smell.
So I did just that. I froze the milk in the correct weight and added the lye a bit at a time.
Soap making is not for those in a rush. It probably took me close to an hour to add the lye a little at a time to my frozen milk all the time stir stir stirring.
Meanwhile I was heating up my lard because I had kept it in the fridge. One thing I realized after my first batch is that I also needed to store the lard in the exact amounts I needed. I was thinking I needed 32 ounces of lard so I just needed a quart. Well a quart of lard in VOLUME is actually less than 32 fluid ounces WEIGHT of lard. So in the middle of everything I realize I was short on heated lard and I was microwaving some to mix in. Which is not ideal. But recall that it is important to have enough oil to bind with the lye mixture otherwise the soap could cause burns.
I heated the refrigerated mason jar of lard in a pot with water. I thought that would be the gentler way to get it back into liquid form. I had a hard time getting my soap to come to trace. I believe this is because my lard was a lot hotter than it is supposed to be. I believe the lye mixture and lard are supposed to be within 10 degrees of each other around 90 degrees F. My lye mixture was around the right temperature but my lard was too hot. I think I should have gotten my lard to liquid earlier and let it cool before starting to mix the lye into the frozen milk.
It did eventually get slightly thicker but never true pudding stage for “trace”. And I mixed it for at least 45 minutes. So learn from my mistakes and have your lard liquid and near room temperature.
All in all for a first attempt at soap making I think it went pretty well. I made this soap around Thanksgiving and let it cure for at least 6 weeks (see picture below).
We have been using the bar soap now for a few weeks and we really like it. It has a small amount of lather, but is creamy and a very hard bar (which is nice because it lasts longer). A good experience and I can’t wait to improve my soap making skills. If you are a soap expert I would love to hear your tips/tricks! Below is a picture from a bar from the real soap mold.