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17 May 2010

I seem to be collecting URLs about soapmaking — I looked up at my bookmarks bar the other day and saw three of them up there. I think I’m trying to tell myself something.

About ten years ago I bought a book on soapmaking as part of one of those catalog book clubs. I remember that although I enjoyed the idea of making soap, and loved all the recipes the author provided for different hand-milled soaps, I felt intimidated by the concept of using lye (caustic!), and stirring until you saw trailings in the soap (difficult to gauge!), and rendering tallow (stinky! and meaty-smelling! [which is a definite turn-off for this vegetarian]). So I put the book on a shelf and went on with my life.

Web pages and online tutorials sure make it look easy, though. Many people recommended The Complete Soapmaker, by Norma Coney. My library doesn’t own it, so I figured I should dig up that book, if I still had it. I did! And you know what book it is?

The book all those online soapmakers were praising.

I think I can get most of the equipment I need from garage sales. I’m planning to make a castile soap (olive oil, not tallow — yahoo!), and I can certainly get my hands on that easily enough. The one thing I’ll need to purchase is a kitchen scale. We have one of those mechanical ones, but even though it *seems* to be accurate enough, I think I’d really rather have a digital one that can weigh more than just 2 pounds (and even though a block of butter will read out at 1 lb on that thing, I’m not to sure I can trust it at the ounce-level).

I find it funny that on the one hand the book and the Web articles all harp on the importance of accurate measuring. But they also wax poetic on soapmaking as a lost housewiferly art — how everyone used to make their own soap. I can’t envision pioneers, immigrants, or peasants using accurate scales when making their soap, and they all survived just fine (sure, maybe a few lye scars now and then, but still.)

We shall see. First I need to collect some pots and pitchers.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 18 May 2010 12:30 pm

    My grandfather made soap – harsh smelly animal fat soap made with lye – I remember it with not much fondness, but a certain admiration.

  2. 19 May 2010 7:24 am

    I really love homemade soap but to me it’s like risotto — I will never make it at home. That’s what the paid professionals are for.

  3. 20 May 2010 9:01 am

    Ever since I found several years ago, their handmade soaps are the only soaps I’ll buy. No move Dove or Dial or any of that mass-produced store stuff.

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