Lather up DIY soap

Jean turns from cheese to soap-mak­ing and dis­cov­ers a new ob­ses­sion.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS JEAN MANS­FIELD

his year, have be­come soap­maker and dis­cov­ered it’s just as ad­dic­tive as cheese.

I went along to an evening soap-mak­ing work­shop held in the Whi­tianga Mu­seum. Tu­tor Lisa Pee­hikuru has been mak­ing soap for many years sell­ing un­der her Soap+ la­bel at coun­try mar­kets and re­tail out­lets (www.soap­

That night we made three dif­fer­ent types of soap: a laven­der with crushed buds, a rose clay with a de­light­fully heady scent, and a lively green kawakawa.

First, we donned safety gear of aprons, gloves and safety glasses. We took turns weigh­ing in­gre­di­ents – get­ting mea­sure­ments right is very im­por­tant – mix­ing, tak­ing tem­per­a­tures, adding colour­ing and scents and other ad­di­tives to give tex­ture, and then pour­ing into moulds. It was so like cheese­mak­ing, I felt right at home. I was en­thralled.

The scary part when you read about soap-mak­ing is han­dling the caus­tic soda, but once you have over­come your anx­i­ety about us­ing it, it’s simple to do.

The other thing hold­ing me back was sourc­ing the in­gre­di­ents and fra­grances and colours. Lisa very kindly supplied me with my first ‘go it alone’ in­gre­di­ents and I have since found good sup­pli­ers in Auck­land and Tau­ranga. There are many more all around the coun­try that will sup­ply by mail or­der. Caus­tic soda (sodium hy­drox­ide) is avail­able from hard­ware stores.

The next day we all went back to Lisa’s to cut our loaves of soap. What a de­light see­ing the swirls of colour in­side the loaves. Just like cheese­mak­ing, you then have to be pa­tient and let the soap cure for a month be­fore us­ing.

I hus­tled home with my al­ready-formed soaps and in­gre­di­ents and as­sem­bled all the equip­ment. I needed to make my own soap. That meant: • raid­ing hus­band Dave’s garage for safety glasses and mask; • res­ur­rect­ing a very old apron • get­ting some gloves from the su­per­mar­ket • find­ing some sturdy plas­tic con­tain­ers • sourc­ing a large stain­less pot, dig­i­tal scales and ther­mome­ter.

The key piece came from my daugh­ter-in-law, an un­used, hand-held stick beater. I even had some sil­i­cone cup­cake cases and lined a sin­gle wine box with bak­ing pa­per to use as moulds.

This is a very ad­dic­tive hobby. I had to buy another lot of in­gre­di­ents, but sub­sti­tuted frozen Jer­sey cow milk from the farm in­stead of wa­ter. The re­sults were beau­ti­ful. With the help of some old books and the ‘soap queens’ on youtube, I have now added to my suc­cess­ful recipes.

I had started with some re­fined recipes con­tain­ing ex­pen­sive oils. The next step was to go back to the be­gin­ning and look at soaps made with drip­ping and lard, like peo­ple would have made 100 years ago. It turns out, drip­ping makes a very us­able soap.

Next was straight olive oil and caus­tic soda which made a good hard white soap called ‘castile’ but it doesn’t lather much.

Just as my cheeses get names, so now do my soaps. My Jer­sey milk recipe is so mild that it would suit even a baby’s com­plex­ion so I named it ‘Milk Baby’ and it’s go­ing to be a gift for my ex­pec­tant niece. It will be cured just in time for my grand-niece’s birth.

A caus­tic soda and frozen goat milk mix went a fright­en­ing yel­low colour and smelt strange. I had to work hard to get that quick-set­ting mix­ture into the moulds.

Con­se­quently things went a lit­tle awry. The set soap went up the sides of the bak­ing pa­per. But when I un­moulded it, it looked re­ally cute so maybe that’s a new way of shap­ing goat milk soap.

I also got a great lit­tle soap ‘stamp’ on­line so it’s now called ‘Jas’ and has a de­light­fully mild scent and creamy beige colour.

I’ve made a swirling Ar­man­istyle fra­granced soap for Dave with tal­low, co­conut oil and olive oil. It’s slightly muddy blue swirls re­mind me of the Waihi River in flood so I am call­ing that one ‘Ohine­muri’.

My rose pink and petal flower soaps are ‘blush’ made with mostly olive oil and a lit­tle co­conut oil. This turned out beau­ti­fully mak­ing a hard tex­tured flo­ral de­light.

There are so many prod­ucts on the mar­ket to use as in­gre­di­ents or shapes and even with a lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion you can cre­ate some­thing won­der­ful.

Al­though I have no in­ten­tion of mar­ket­ing soap, it is sur­pris­ing how many vis­i­tors I have who go home with a lit­tle soapy some­thing.

The key piece: an un­used, hand-held stick beater

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