Soap!

May. 13th, 2010 07:56 pm
anarra: (Default)
April 17, 2010
We went to Old Sturbridge Village and watched them make soap. It will take fewer ashes than I thought. So here's what I think will work. Not sure when I'll actually DO it, though. I want to get notes down so I'll remember. (AEflgiva, I will not be doing this in May. It's sodium hydroxide lye and water for that. But I will write this down on a handout and discuss. Can't do this in a one hour class! I will at least bring a container of lye water to float an egg in to show everyone.)

Punch a hole in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. Fill the bottom two inches with straw. Fill it the rest of the way with ashes we saved this winter. Pour boiling water over the ashes just until a little bit drips out the hole. Let sit for 5 days.

Then pour a gallon or so of boiling water over the seeped ashes. Collect the brown lye water in quart batches. Put a fresh egg in to see if it will float. If it does, and the bit that sticks up out of the water is about the size of a quarter, then the lye is strong enough. Keep collecting lye water until it loses strength.

Add 3/4 of a pound of tallow or lard per gallon of lye water and boil for a looooong time. Stir every 5 or 10 minutes. When the soap has reduced to a pancake batter-like consistency, test to see if it's saponified. Dribble a bit on a plate and see if it feels and looks like soap. Too gray and greasy and it needs a bit more lye. Too crystalline and crumbly and it needs more fat. If it looks and feels like soap, then try dropping some in a glass of water. If it holds its shape and does not leave a greasy film on the water, then whisk briskly. If it suds up, it's ready.

If you've used lard, then stir in 1 cup of salt per original gallon of lye water. Stir until salt dissolves. This will harden up the soap almost immediately to a a gooey consistency.

Let sit overnight.

The next day, remove soap from pot and discard any lye water remaining under the soap. Cut off any obviously icky bits off the bottom. Re-melt sap in the pan and then pour into a cloth lined box (or other mold). Let sit until hardened.

If you use suet or tallow, you probably won't need to add any salt to harden the soap.

In the 19th century, housewife advice books advised burning bones and egg shells in the fire place to add calcium to the ashes. Calcium will also harden the soap like salt does. Another piece of advice was to soak your salt pork fat in water to remove the salt before using it to make soft soap, or your soap would harden due to the salt.

Salt removes water and so hardens the soap.

In the 19th century and earlier soap was mostly used to wash clothes. Also for shaving. Not as much for washing bodies. I wonder if it was used to wash fleeces? And I need to do some research into medieval soap as I have done almost none. I assume it was used mostly for clothes, too.
anarra: (Default)
Saturday March 13, 2010
I seem to have made kefir, a drinkable yogurt. Not what I had in mind.

I'll leave it heating longer; but if it doesn't behave itself by bedtime it's getting the whey drained out of it.

Not sure what went wrong. May not have heated the milk hot enough the first time. Or perhaps it was still too hot when I added the yogurt culture.

On a brighter note, Thai for birthday lunch. Yum!!
anarra: (Default)
Friday March 12, 2010
Bought plain yogurt tonight for the cultures. Milk heating now. On Sunday I should have my own yogurt!

It's got to cost less than buying little 6 ounce pots. And I can drain off some of the whey to make it Greek style if I want. And sweeten it with berries.

Lots of Indian recipes call for yogurt. Saag Panir, here I come!

Debating whether to talk about yogurt in the cheese class at the Daily Life Schola in May. Probably not. Though Roman 'cheese' included what we would think of as yogurt today. I made Roman fried honey balls for the cooking class two years ago using Greek yogurt as the 'cheese' since it made more sense than cheddar! :rolleyes:


Janet made Spanish bread last night. It makes three loaves so she did one plain, one rosemary, and one olive and walnut. This is the recipe she's going to use for the wood fired brick oven at the Schola. The rosemary was really good. Next time the plain goes into a bread pan so it makes better peanut butter toast.
anarra: (Default)
Saturday, March , 2010
Goat Cheese!
I made goat cheese a few weeks ago and it was super easy! Heat a gallon of goat milk to 170 degrees in a sterilized stainless steel pot. Dissolve 1/4 of a Junket rennet tablet in 1/4 cup water. Stir that and 1/4 cup of active culture buttermilk into the heated goat milk. Put it somewhere warm overnight. (I put it on top of my hot water heater in the furnace room.)

In the morning, cut the curds into small squares and spoon into a cheesecloth lined colander. Save the whey for cooking! It's good instead of water in breads and soups and Indian recipes.

Tie the ends of the cheesecloth up so you have a round bundle of cheese and hang it off the sink faucet all day. The longer it hangs, the dryer the cheese. When dinner time comes, put the cheese in a bowl and stir in some salt or herbs of choice or honey. I used dill this time. Store in an airtight container.

You can do this same recipe with a gallon of cow milk. Non homogenized is best of you can find it.


We also discovered low salt buttermilk. When my Mother-in-Law visits, she LOVES buttermilk, but it has a surprising amount of sodium in it and she's on a low salt diet. So we took 1/4 cup of buttermilk and filled the rest of a quart canning jar with 1% milk right off the shelf. Let sit overnight someplace warm, shake vigorously and put in the fridge. Voila! Low salt buttermilk. Shake the jar every time you take it out of the fridge.

When you start to run low, fill the jar with milk and let it sit somewhere warm overnight again. The jar in the fridge right now has been going since November and is still good. If you let it sit unused for a long time it will go bad. Just run the jar through the dishwasher and start again.

I want to try making yogurt next.

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