Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rosemary Castille Soap (by Kat)

Alright, I've pretty much given up on my first batch of soap. The dendrochro-soap still site on my desk, but I'm ignoring it. I don't know, for instance, that the centers are still squishy, the outsides are crumbly, and that the bars lost their citrus fragrance and instead smell kinda like supermarket birthday cake frosting. I don't know none of that, ya' hear?

So, it was a leap of faith last night when I decided to do another batch of soap. I knew that my second batch would be a castile soap--I'm drawn to the simplicity of the recipe, the hardness of the soaps, and the gentle nature of the finished product. True Castile soap only comes from the Castile region in what is now Spain, and is made from 100% olive oil. Today, the term castile seems to apply to ANY soap with olive oil in it, no matter how small the percentage of the total fats the olive oil comprises. I've even heard Palm-Olive referred to as a castile soap, even though it's no longer manufactured with palm and olive oils, nor is it even a true soap any more, but rather a detergent.

Tangentville, there, eh? I'm still working on mu first cup of coffee...

My biggest concern about making a castile soap was the length of the cure--several weeks to a few months longer than typical soap recipes. But you know what? The time I spent worrying about that was time that the cure would take. Yeah. Duh. So, last night I jumped in.

This recipe, like the last, comes from Little House in the Suburbs. I cut the recipe in half, which can be iffy in the world of soap making, but I couldn't' bring myself to commit to such a large batch. Because soap relies on extremely careful measurement, a smaller batch will be more significantly effected by a miscalculation than a large batch will. I deal with this in my lab at work as well, and have page after page in my lab's procedural notebook describing remediation for this problem. We don't need that detail here, but just realize that bigger batches are safer and smaller batches are more fragile.

Instead of heating the fats on the stove, I simply stuck my large bowl of olive oil in the microwave. A few minutes was all it took to bring the temperature up to about 100 degrees F. I'm not going to tell you how much of the warm oil I spilled on the floor. And really, don't handle lye with an oily floor underfoot...

So, after mixing the warmed oil and lye (bringing to trace), adding a few drops of rosemary essential oil, and slipping around a bit on the floor (oh right, I'm not mentioning that), I poured the mess into my very fancy soap mold--a converse shoebox lined with plastic wrap! Wrapped up in towels for insulation, the baby soap slept in its cradle overnight on the kitchen counter...

...until I unceremoniously dumped it on its head this morning and sliced it up. I'm cruel before coffee.

And here they are--18 bars of olive oil rosemary soap. They smell so tasty, and I can't wait for them to grace my kitchen sink.


  1. Those are truly beautiful!

    Lye-handling and an oily floor. Yeah - no. I'm impressed by the level of danger in these enterprises of yours. I guess you're now a Daring Soapmaker.

    There should be like a Crafts Olympics or something.

  2. Well done Kat, the soap looks great. I've also been thinking about making soap but that's the trouble, I think about it way too much! I really appreciate you sharing your experiences though because it gives me added confidence. Like you say, its a bit of expense to commit too if it flops. The shoebox looks like it was a good idea.