Soap Making, our cure for winter boredom
When the winter starts to seem like it will never end, and it’s a little too early to start your seeds, we often search for new skills to learn. It is a great time to focus on a new adventure without all of the distractions of other times of year. Last winter while digging deep into the chest freezer we came across several bags of pig, bear and even beaver fat. We had been interested in trying soap making, so we began by doing some online research. We also asked friends both at home and on the internet for advice. The internet homesteading community is strong and soon we not only felt confident, we also received a wonderful handmade soap mold in the mail.
We began the process by rendering down the fats of the various animals. We kept them separate, because who would want pig mixed into their beaver. To start we cubed the fat and put it over low heat. This caused the house to smell a bit like bacon, and we are not complaining.
It took a long time, but once the solids turned brown we strained the liquid, and put it into mason jars.
We also took some of the liquid and mixed it with beeswax to make some lard candles. We discovered that they burn very evenly and are great for power outages. We would suggest adding some type of essential oil, because they smell a bit like an old fryer.
Then we started to make our cold process soap. Of course our first choice was beaver soap. Who could resist all of the risque jokes that would follow? Also who else has beaver soap? We like to be cutting edge here. We mixed the beaver lard with coconut oil, olive oil, and beeswax. We heated this mixture over a low flame until all were melted. We then took some of our homemade beer, which was made with hops that we grew here, and added the lye to it. The lye was easy to get through Amazon. We were sure to wear proper safety equipment when dealing with lye. One day we would like to make our own lye with ashes from our wood stove.
Once the lye mix and the oil mix were around the same temperature we mixed them together using a hand held mixer. We also added coffee to give the soap some scrubbing/exfoliating ability. At this point, we also added the essential oils that would give the soap its scent.
The final mix was poured into that lovely soap mold, then covered and left in a cool place to set up.
The next day we removed the soap from the mold. We then cut the soap into equal pieces and left it to cure. This can take from 4 to 8 weeks.
The curing period seemed to take forever, but when we finally were able to try it, the soap exceeded our expectations. We even sent some to that helpful homesteader, soap expert friend, who gave it a big thumbs up. We had the only beaver soap in the county, maybe even in the state, and the hashtags on social media alone were worth making it. We then made bear and pig soap with similar results.
Like anything else we experimented with different ingredients like Himalayan salt and honey from our hives. Making soap is a lot like making sausage, a little tweak here or there can make all the difference. We are so thankful to everyone who helped us with advice. Making use of another homegrown ingredient from our homestead made us feel even better about this soap. I also think Tracy was happy that I was washing more often. When we see a years worth of soap lined up on the counter it gives us a sense of pride that we never got from Irish Spring. It’s funny how the simplest of things can give you such happiness. So if the winter has got you down, or if you are just looking for a new challenge, check out soap making. You and the guy next to you in the elevator will be glad you did.