Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Soapmaking Joys

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog. The days of summer have been speeding past like the blur of a 300 mph race car roaring down the track – you try to watch its every move, but you miss out on all the details as your head turns to follow it. Summer is a treasure in the Midwest. It’s the time when all things happen out of doors: grilling, gardening, festivals, swimming, floating, fishing, fairs, and Farmer’s Markets.

The Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market has been my place of residence on Saturday mornings this summer, and it’s been a wonderful new experience. Big Fat Soap Co. has been well received by the community. What I mean is, generally speaking, people are excited to see handcrafted, natural soap being made and marketed locally. Creating soap from scratch and being able to offer it to others really does bring me joy. It’s the perfect business for a person like me who gets antsy and bored easily. There is always something new to learn and there is always a variety of work to be done. For example, yesterday I made three batches of lip balm and this morning I labeled them. I have five batches of soap ready to be labeled and I just received some raw materials that are in need of sorting and organizing. I will be making a batch of soap with some of the new sage and tomato powders I received. It’s always a bit of an experiment when working with natural ‘colorants.’ That’s actually the part I enjoy most though, not knowing exactly what will occur – it is both science and art. It’s like an unveiling every time I uncover the newest batch to prepare for cutting the bars. It’s the reason I say, “Every bar is made with love,” because it really is. My latest discovery in soapmaking is the hot process method for creating liquid soaps. It has become my new passion; I can hardly wait to make the next batch when one is finished knowing how I will tweak the recipe to continuously improve it.

The method that I’ve been using to make my bar soap is called the cold process method. It basically means that I don’t use additional heat to encourage the chemical reaction called saponification. I combine a lye solution with melted oils and stir/mix until it reaches a certain point called ‘trace.’ Then I pour it into large molds and the natural chemical reaction (saponification) slowly occurs over time. Whereas the hot process method is a little different. The lye solution is combined with the melted oils and then heat is added - either on the stove top, oven, or crock pot – to speed up the saponification process. This is the method that is used to create liquid soaps, in a nutshell. The soap paste is cooked for a long while on top of the stove until fully saponified and then is melted down and diluted to become wonderfully moisturizing and pleasing to the skin, liquid soap. I’m in love with the process. So once again, I can say that every batch is made with love.

Now I must get out of doors to enjoy a little summer before it speeds all the way past me in that race car blur.