SOAP(O) USENET Cookbook SOAP(O)
SOAP - A nice body and face soap
This is a luxurious and gentle handmade soap. It's a lot of
work to make, but it's also a lot of fun. It is a good use
for huge quantities of fat left over from cooking something.
One of the main ingredients in soap is lye (sodium hydrox-
ide, NaOH). Lye is extremely caustic even at room tempera-
ture, and in this recipe it is heated. Because of this, you
need to exercise extreme care when you make soap. You
should always wear shoes (not sandals), long pants, a long-
sleeved top, and gloves (I use rubber gloves). Also, be
sure to wear eye protection. If you get lye on your skin,
you can quickly run to the sink and wash it off with LOTS of
cold water; if you get lye in your eyes, rinsing it off may
involve going to the emergency room. You should make cer-
tain that children and pets are somewhere else and will not
interrupt you. There is no room for mistakes when dealing
INGREDIENTS (6 pounds of soap)
9 pounds suet (this is also called tallow or beef fat)
lye (see note)
3 cups water
2 cups lemon juice
1/4 oz volatile fragrance oil (optional; see note)
You will need a large pot (metal or ceramic), at least 2
gallons, with a lid. This is for rendering the fat.
One long wooden spoon (at least 10 inches). This should be
a spoon that you can sacrifice, because the lye will eat
away the wood.
You will need a large ceramic or glass bowl. This must be
capable of holding all the water, lemon juice, and fat with
some room to spare. I use a ceramic tub that is about 6
inches high and 24 inches in diameter. FIdo not use metal,
as it will corrode. Even stainless steel will corrode.
Finally, you will need some glass, ceramic, and/or wooden
molds to pour the soap into. I use glass baking dishes; two
8 1/2x14-inch glass pans will make bars of soap that are
about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick Again, DO NOT USE METAL CON-
TAINERS, as they will corrode.
(1) Render the fat. To do this, cut the fat into
hand-sized pieces and place in a large pot and
cover it. Heat on a medium heat until all the fat
is melted. You should stir it occasionally. You
should probably plan to turn the fan on high or
open your kitchen windows while you are doing
this. (Note that if you are starting with a pure
fat, such as coconut oil or olive oil, you don't
need to do this. Skip to Step 4.)
(2) Cool the fat so that it is below the boiling point
of water. Add an equal volume of water to the
fat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and
let cool over night.
(3) Take the fat out of the pot. I find the easiest
way to do this is to slice the fat in half with a
knife and then cut wedges. You can push the first
wedge down into the water and then lift its neigh-
boring wedge out. Scrape all the non-fat gunk off
the bottom of the fat (the side of the fat that
was at the fat-water interface).
(4) Measure out six pounds of rendered fat (be accu-
rate with this measurement). Cut the fat into
small pieces (about the size of a tennis ball, but
squarish, not round) and place in a bowl.
(5) Set up your soap-making work area. It should be
outside, in a very well ventilated area. It's
supposed to help to do it on a warmer day rather
than a cooler day, but I've never noticed the
difference. Also, clear your stove top and open
the window in the kitchen before you start making
On a table, put your ceramic tub, the bowl of fat,
the opened container of lye, a container with the
water, and a container with the lemon juice. If
you will be adding scent, keep its container
nearby. Also place your soap mold containers
Put on all your safety gear.
(6) Make the soap: Pour the water into the ceramic
tub. Very carefully pour the lye into the tub.
This is an exothermic reaction: it gives off
heat, which is used to melt the fat. It also
gives off odors which you don't want to breathe,
so keep your head back. Stir the lye to dissolve
it in the water. Then start adding the fat to the
water/lye mixture, stirring with the long wooden
spoon. Add the fat a bit at a time and stir until
it's all melted. Then stir in the lemon juice,
scent (if you are using it), and pour into molds.
When the soap is firmer but not yet hard, cut into
bars with a knife. It should be hard in an hour
or so; you can test it with your finger.
(7) Wrap in clean cotton rags and store in a cool,
airy place for 3-6 months.
(8) When you clean up the pan that you made the soap
it, be somewhat careful as there is probably still
some unreacted lye in the pan. The only time I've
had a problem with this is when I've tried to
scrape the dry soap that lines the pan off with my
fingernail and then a few minutes later I notice
that the skin under my fingernail is burning. The
easiest solution is just to wear gloves when
you're cleaning the pan. It probably also helps
to wash with extremely hot water so that the
remaining soap (and fat if there is any) melts and
dissolves in the water.
In the U.S., Red Devil lye comes in 12-oz containers. In
Europe it generally comes in 350-g containers, which is
about 3% more. You don't want to measure lye-you want to use
the whole container. If your container is not this size,
then scale the recipe up or down accordingly. Leftover lye
is a serious disposal problem.
Where to buy 9 pounds of fat? If you're using an animal fat
(beef or pork), you can buy it from your butcher. What I
find I have to do is reserve it, because they normally don't
keep the fat after they've cut up their cow. Sometimes they
will charge you for the fat (I've paid anywhere from 10 to
45 cents a pound); sometimes they won't. I've only ever
made soap with beef fat; this makes a hard, mild, slow-
lathering soap. The recipe will work equally well with other
animal fats to produce a similar result. Coconut oil yields
a softer, quick-lathering soap. Olive oil and other veget-
able cooking oils yield a very soft soap that never com-
pletely hardens. Unfortunately, these oils are sensitive to
air and light, and soap made from cooking oils will spoil in
a few weeks unless it is refrigerated.
Volatile fragrance oils, also called essential oils, are
highly concentrated scent ingredients. You can usually buy
them at health-food stores, and you can sometimes find
exotic fragrances at specialty food-and-spice shops. The
amount that you should use depends on how fragrant you want
the soap to be. A few drops of musk oil is enough to scent
an entire batch of soap; less-potent fragrances such as a
fruit oil might require a teaspoon or two. Soap scented
with herbs is also popular; herbs like lemon thyme or
verbena or lavender work well. To scent with herbs, make an
herbal oil by packing a 1/2-cup container with herbs and
then filling it with a pleasant-smelling vegetable oil such
as almond oil. Let this mixture sit for a few weeks, stir-
ring it every day, then heat in a double boiler for 10
minutes, then cool and strain the oil.
The soap works just fine with no fragrance at all, and many
people prefer it that way. I certainly do.
You may run into problems at the stage "Add the fat and stir
until it's all melted." I almost always do. What happens
is that the water/lye mixture runs out of heat before all
the fat melts. What you have to do is add heat somehow.
The way I do this is to grab the tub (which now contains all
the fat), go into the kitchen, put it on top of a burner,
and turn the burner (and the fan) on high. (Make sure the
windows are all open too.) When all the fat is melted, I go
back outside and continue, adding the lemon juice.
The lemon juice lowers the pH. The finished soap will have
a pH of about 9; you can lower this by adding more lemon
Difficulty: challenging. Time: Day 1: 30 minutes prepara-
tion; 1-2 hours cooking. Day 2: usually about 1 hour.
Precision: Be precise. Also be careful.
Santa Cruz, CA
Excelan, Inc., San Jose
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Hendler)
Subject: RECIPE: Irish soda bread
Date: 18 Sep 87 03:09:01 GMT
Organization: Aiken Computation Lab, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Mass., USA
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