It’s been some time since I’ve crafted any bar soap. I did it years ago and really enjoyed it. I wanted to try my hand at goat’s milk soap and so that was yesterday’s project.
Apparently, when you make goat’s milk soap you can use fresh milk, frozen milk, powdered milk, canned milk……. I wanted to use unprocessed “farm fresh” goat’s milk. I have a co-worker who raises a few goats and makes her own soap so we made a trade. I had some excess essential oils that I would never use and she had the milk I needed. She keeps her milk frozen and suggested that I store it that way until just prior to mixing it with the lye. If you start with a frozen “slush” of milk you’ll have an easier time controlling the temperature of your lye / milk mixture and prevent scorching your milk. You do NOT want your milk to scorch. If your mixture gets too hot (above about 130 degrees your soap will turn a hideous orange and smell terrible). You want to keep your milk / lye temp from going much above 100 degrees.
The next challenge was where to get the lye. When I was making soap 10 years ago, you could purchase Red Devil lye at any grocery store. Since that time, Red Devil lye has been taken off the market as it is also used in the production of meth. Bummer for us soap makers…… My friend at work not only provided me with the milk, but told me that I could still find lye at our local farm store in the plumbing section. I bought a few extra bottles in case it gets removed as well.
Let’s go over what you need.
Oils ( I used olive, grapeseed, lard and coconut. Other oils that work well that I’ve used in the past are apricot kernel, shea butter, cocoa butter, castor and almond.)
Stainless pot (not aluminum!!!)
Stainless or wooden spoons
Plastic or glass vessel for mixing lye / liquid
Thermometer (I used a candy thermometer. Just make sure that the temp can be recorded low enough. Most meat thermometers won’t work. They don’t go low enough.)
Glass or plastic measuring cup
Scale (I use a digital kitchen scale, but an old-fashioned dial style scale will work as well.)
Rubber Gloves, goggles and an apron (Note: I don’t use any of these things because I like to live on the edge. 🙂 Seriously though….lye is a caustic chemical and can cause severe burning if it comes into contact with your skin. You really should take precaution and use the protective equipment. Do as I say, not as I do!!!)
I contemplated several different recipes and then decided to sort of make up my own. The standard ratios I used were:
2.5 lbs of oil
16 oz goat’s milk
6 oz lye
I used 12 oz of coconut oil, 4oz of lard, 3.5 oz of grapeseed oil and filled the rest with olive (pomace) oil to make 48 oz total.
First, remove your milk from the freezer and let it start to thaw a little bit. Now weigh out your solids and put them in the stainless pot over LOW heat to melt. You don’t want them to get too hot, just melt. The instructions I used said to melt your solids first, but I didn’t do that. I put all of my oils in together and allowed the solids to melt with in the liquids. I think next time I would do as they said because I think it will keep your whole mixture a bit cooler if you only heat the solids that need to melt. I had to cool mine back down in an ice bath to get back to 100 degrees. So, I would melt your solids and then just add your liquids once the solids are in liquid form.
Don your rubber gloves, goggles and apron and weigh out your lye. I just weighed mine into a glass jar. Set that aside and check on your milk. You should be able to break the milk apart into frozen “chunks”. If you can do that, you’re ready to proceed to mix the milk and lye. You may want to have an ice bath ready for this part. I didn’t think I’d need it because my milk was frozen, but I ended up running outside for some snow because even with frozen milk, the lye heats it up quite a bit.
Place your milk into the plastic or glass mixing vessel and insert the thermometer. Add a little lye at a time and don’t let the temperature climb above 110 degrees. I tried to keep mine between 90 and 105. After each addition, if the temp rises too far, allow it to come back down to between 90 and 100 before adding more lye. Repeat this process until all of the lye is in the milk and all of the milk is melted. Remember, if the temp climbs too high, just place your container in an ice bath to help keep it within range.
When both the oils and the lye mixtures are between 90 and 100 degrees, you’re ready to mix the lye / milk into the oil. Slowly pour the lye / milk mix into the oils while stirring. Continue to stir, stir, stir!!!! Some people use a stick blender or even a hand mixer. I don’t have either so I just stir. You’ll continue stirring until the mixture starts to thicken and will no longer separate. This is called the trace stage. This is the point at which you no longer have lye and oil, but soap. Your mixture will be bit thinner than cake batter and you will be able to drizzle a bit on the surface without it immediately mixing back in. Don’t let it go too far or you could run out of time to put in your additives. Keep in mind that some additives will cause your trace to progress much more quickly. Clove is one that will do this.
This is the fun part. Now you can add essential oils, dried herbs, finely ground coffee etc. Be creative. There are a billion options and this is the part that I really love about making soap. I just pour off the amount I want to scent / color etc into my lye mixing vessel (rinse it well first…you don’t want any residual lye in your soap) and add the desired oils, herbs etc. They make lots of options for coloring your soap. Micas are popular. I don’t really care what color my soap is so I generally leave it whatever colors my additives make it. I did use a bit of yellow and red food coloring in my orange scented soap this round. You want to be careful with FC’s though because they can produce odd and often undesirable results. Once the additives are mixed in, pour the soap into your molds.
The scents and additives I used this round were patchouli / cedarwood / sandalwood / basil, orange & lavender, lemongrass & clary sage and wintergeen & spearmint. I also sprinkled orange peel on the orange & lavender and a spicy tea blend on the lemongrass & clary sage.
Some fun additives I’ve used in the past are:
fine coffee grounds (this makes a great gardener’s soap)
Like I said….be creative and experiment. This is the fun part!
A few things to remember!!! Lye is caustic……it WILL burn you. I don’t recommend using “kitchen” equipment to make soap. I have segregated soaping equipment. You can pick up most of what you need at yard sales and thrift stores. DON’T use an aluminum pot. It will cause hazardous fumes when it comes in contact with the lye.