|Demonstrator Vicky Culley, left, and Blount 4-H Coordinator Wendy Ulrich prepared herbs and fragrances to mix in homemade goat milk soap.|
Old timey lye soap may have a bad reputation. It seems somebody’s grandma always has a story to tell about grabbing a bar for a quick bath, only to have her skin left burned and itchy.
Others say goat milk soap, made with lye but using goat milk instead of water, makes you "smell like a goat!"
Neither perception is true!
Blount homeschooled 4-H members and a few interested adults learned in a recent all day seminar at the Blount County Extension Office, that goat milk soap is one of the purest soaps you can use, because it is not petroleum-based as are many of the "soaps" you might buy at the store and because it has most of its natural glycerin intact.
|Vicky Culley added coconut oil to her crockpot goat milk soap recipe.|
But those reading this article, just like those who attended the one-day Blount seminar, should be forewarned: goat soap-making IS addictive!
While soap-making can be traced back to the writings of Pliny the Elder in AD 77 and there was an extensive soap factory discovered among Pompeii’s ruins, most folks’ perception of homemade soap is of colonists (or reenactors) stirring the fats and lyes in large, black wash pots over outdoor fires.
But Blount students quickly learned that while the old time way of leaching water through ashes to form the caustic lye and then combining that with the fat of a pig or cow can still be done, using recipes and formulas from the Internet and help like digital scales and electric crockpots make the process easier while still giving you a pure, homemade product.
The seminar, hosted by Blount 4-H Coordinator Wendy Ulrich, gave attendees two perspectives. Because lye is a caustic substance, the 4-H members "milled" soap; that is they carefully shaved, weighed, measured and remelted already-made goat milk soap before adding fragrances, herbs and other items in several different types of molds.
Blount goat farmer Vicky Culley provided the goat milk soap and gave a demonstration of how to make crockpot goat milk soap from start-to-finish so students could try it later in the safety of their homes.
|Cody Wisener grates soap before milling with his mother, Lenette, in the background.|
Highland Lake resident Katie Richards, who has now graduated homeschooling and 4-H and will be attending Wallace State this fall to become a nurse, said Culley’s demonstration was her favorite part of the day.
Culley’s crockpot soap, where the mixture is heated, is different from "cold process" soap-making, in that the lye "cooks out" of the mixture while in the crockpot and the soap is then ready to use or give as gifts. Seventh grade home-schooler Cody Wisener presented his grandmother, Judy Wisener, one of the bars he made on the very day he made it at the seminar!
(Cold process soaps require "curing" for four to six weeks OR MORE!)
Culley used a mixture of olive oil, coconut oil, lard, goat milk she had frozen from her Straight Mountain herd and lye.
The lard and coconut oil were melted in the slow cooker (not getting above 115o) and then the olive oil was added.
The lye was then sprinkled on the broken up frozen milk until it melted, with Culley stirring constantly.
|Katie, left, and Laura Richards display some of the finished soap they made.|
When the lye mixture and oils/fats were about the same temperature, 90 to 100o, she slowly poured the milk and lye mixture into the oil in the crockpot.
While stirring by hand can take hours, a stick mixture can be used to hurry up the process of thickening, as the process of saponification takes place.
Cody Wisner and homeschooled ninth grader Katie Richards watched as the mixture turned to a "pudding-like" consistency in about 30 minutes.
Cody, whose favorite school subjects are math and science, was pleased to learn the entire soap process is based on a chemical reaction!
Culley pointed out the importance of measuring ingredients precisely. Adults discussed how leeching lye made it hard to determine the correct amount. Culley reminded them that even when measuring closely mistakes can happens, as with the batch of soap she’d made the previous day which didn’t have enough lye, making it too oily.
The availability of "lye" is different in many communities now, since that substance was used in illegally making drugs. It can be ordered from soap-making sites on the Internet and is also available in some "box" stores, but labeled as sodium hydroxide.
As Culley worked, she explained, "This is just like taking flour, sugar, oil and eggs. You start out with different things and can be making bread or cake. With this you start out with different things but your end result is soap. It comes out a totally different product than what you started with."
As the students checked their crockpots for the consistency of the soap they were "milling," Ulrich reminded them it is vital to get essential oils or other organic items so they would be safe to use on the skin. Some "fragrance" oils, like those used in candle making, would irritate skin.
Katie and Laura used orange tea, orange extract and dried thyme, which they stirred into their soap just before they poured it carefully into plastic molds which they had sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
As soon as the soap hardened enough to remove from the molds, it was ready to use!
Laura said she, Katie and their 15-year-old brother, Andy, have three dogs, two cats and fish but she’d love to one day live on a farm—and she’ll definitely be making more soap in the future!
"It’s just so nice to be able to give somebody something that you made; that is special," Laura said.
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County.