Mike and I went down to Los Gatos over the weekend to make soap with one of Mike’s friends. It was fun! We brought vegetable shortening, lard, and some cocoa butter I had purchased on general principles and never actually used. It turns out lard doesn’t make good soap, so we borrowed a bit of palm oil from Mike’s friend, and made:
Cinnamon-scented oatmeal cocoa butter-vegetable-shortening soap
Floral (gardenia and musk rose) scented cocoa-butter-vegetable-shortening-palm-oil soap
About eight bars of the first and five of the second.
Vegetable shortening is soy and cottonseed oil and thus likely to make a softish soap (the hydrogenation doesn’t make much difference in the saponifying properties of soap, so we might as well have started with liquid oil), but cocoa butter apparently makes hard-as-rock soap if you add too much of it, so I’m hoping the two balance each other out. Palm oil is somewhere in between.
Anyway, the soap needs to air cure for two weeks before we can use it, so in two weeks we’ll find out whether we have nice bath soap or laundry soap.
Soapmaking was fun and easy: measure out lye, mix with water; measure out and melt fats; mix fat and water-lye mixture together and blend together with an immersion blender until it thickens. Add essential (fragrance) oils, and pour into molds. Wrap molds in towels to keep in the heat and encourage the saponifying process.
Anyway, it was fun, and easy, and I am trying very hard NOT to take up soapmaking as a hobby. Given my proclivities, I would in short order have half a cubic yard of soap from my many experiments, and there’s only so much soap that I, Mike, my immediate family, my not-so-immediate family, friends, acquaintances, hapless coworkers, random strangers accosted on the street and handed soap, etc. can actually use.
Nonetheless, it’s tempting: it was FUN. I highly and enthusiastically recommend trying soapmaking: it’s easy, and it’s cool watching fats and lye transform into soap. Something magical about it, sort of like tempering chocolate.