Friday, August 18, 2017

Soapy Friday - Espresso and Another Honey Soap

Happy Friday everyone! This week I've been getting my groove back on in cold processing soapmaking and I think I've found my sweet spot.

I was SO happy to get back after my last curing wait period and crazy lye mix-up Frankensoap. BTW, all of the soaps I've made since implementing my fully melted oils have turned out spectacular. I've tried them all out in the shower and they've all been silky smooth with a great, bubbly lather. Even the rebatched Honey soap from last week was a hit! I tried it this week and it's amazing.

So, with all my new-found knowledge of oil melting practices and lye concentration, I wanted to try out my Espresso fragrance oil from Brambleberry.com to make an espresso soap.

Look how daggone cute it turned out! I wanted it to look like a cup of latte, with foam on top, and it smells AMAZEBALLS....sort of like a hazelnut espresso.

Espresso Soap...drink it up!

Yum!
I also wanted to try out ye-old Honey Soap for the hundredth time (if nothing else I'm tenacious) using different water amounts and lye concentration and I feel really good about it. I was able to unmold in LESS than 24 hours and I'm very confident this will feel amazing once it's cured.

Still, I used my original recipe and would like to incorporate another hard oil like cocoa butter in it, so it may evolve even more.

I just unmolded and cut this yesterday, which is why it has such a light color to it:

Honey Soap...batch #27

Friday, August 11, 2017

Soapy Friday - Rebatching Soap

So what do you do while you are waiting for your shipment of Sodium Hydroxide (lye) to come in and you want to make soap? Why, you rebatch some of your older soap into something new!

New old soap
I'm practically chomping at the bit to get back into real soap making. With my last Frankensoap disaster, I've had to reorder the correct lye and wait, wait, wait. I ordered from Brambleberry.com, which is an AMAZING supply company, but dang it takes FOR EVER to receive their orders. It averages anywhere from 10-14 days for me to get my orders from them, as they are on the West coast in Washington state. For this reason, I normally don't order from them unless I want something specific and even then I wait till I have a big enough order to make it worth the wait.

ANYWHO, so I'm rebatching some of my previous batches of soap where I didn't like how they turned out. Rebatching (also sometimes called milling) is where you shred-up hard soap, melt it back down using a cooking method, add a new color or fragrance if desired, and then remold it. Most home soapers use soap-only crockpots to rebatch or hot process soap.

So, if you buy soap that's been "triple milled" it means that it was made, shredded-up, remelted, and remolded three times. Milling soap is said to make it a more solid and creamier soap, but I'm no expert.

Shreddings ready for rebirth
Rebatching soap has many benefits of being able to reuse soap that didn't turn out as expected, or if you forgot to add an ingredient, or even if you'd like to add finicky fragrances that react badly during the traditional lye/oil/water saponification process. Since rebatched soap has already saponified, fragrances won't behave badly or fade like some are prone to do in cold or hot process soap methods. Some soapers do nothing but rebatched soap for this very reason. They buy bulk orders of unscented and uncolored soap and turn it into what they want.

Another plus is rebatched soap can be used right away, but does benefit from a few days-to-a-week of drying time. The only downside that I can see to rebatching soap is that it often is more difficult to make into pretty designs and it looks more "rustic".

So, I decided to rebatch some of my old Honey Soap where I didn't melt the oils down hot enough during initial processing and the soaps felt a little scratchy when used. I added just a touch more Pure Honey fragrance oil to the melted batter before molding.

Honey Soap reborn
I think they turned out surprisingly well and from the sample sliver I tried in the sink to wash my hands, they are silky smooth to use! I will know for sure in a few days.

Yesterday, I shred-up and rebatched my old Pear Lime and Cucumber Melon soaps that didn't turn out the way I wanted. I was hoping the shreds would melt down to a very light green and I wanted to rescent with "Apple Sage" fragrance oil.

They turned out adorable and I even stamped them with a generic soap stamp.

Rebatched as "Apple Sage" for fall
Rebatching is a lot of fun; I shredded, melted/cooked, molded, unmolded, and cut that "Apple Sage" soap in a single day! The good news is my lye order came in yesterday so I'm back on track...I have a lot of catching up to do.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Black Krim, Green Zebra and Gold Medal Tomatoes

It's that time of year again to taste-test and compare some of the heirloom tomatoes I've grown in the garden. Every year I like to grow different varieties to see what's-what, but very few actually make it back to take up valuable space in the garden beds.

This year, I grew "Black Krim," "Green Zebra," and "Gold Medal" along with my standby ultimate favorite heirloom "Brandywine Sudduth's Strain".

Black Krim
"Black Krim" is a deep purple beefsteak tomato that is supposed to have a deep, rich, almost smoky flavor. This heirloom wins tomato-tasting contests all the time, so I had to give it a try.

"Black Krim" tomato
The plants were productive and the fruit beautiful; however, I wasn't impressed. I found it to be mild, slightly sweet, lightly acidic, and it did have a very slight smokiness to it. This is a good tomato if you have issues with eating acidic foods. I think "Black From Tula" is a better-tasting purple beefsteak.

Green Zebra
"Green Zebra" was a wonderful surprise this year!. It's a small, plum-sized, green-striped tomato that is said to have a bright, high-acid, almost "citrusy" flavor profile. I've read that this tomato is amazing sliced on top of a crab-cake sandwich.

"Green Zebra" tomato
It's flavor description is spot-on, as well as having a nice depth of all-over-tomato-flavor. Since this is a green tomato, I was confused/concerned as to when to know when to pick it. Luckily for me, the variety that I grew turned its stripes yellow when it was ripe.

The only issue with this tomato was I noticed it had a tendency towards blossom-end rot, even when given bone meal at planting. I've never had this issue w/my other tomatoes, so it's something to keep in mind. The 2-3 plants I had only had a few fruit that got BER, so it wasn't too bad.

This is a keeper tom for sure. We loved it.

Gold Medal
"Gold Medal" tomato is a hearty, yellow/blush, beefsteak tomato that is quoted to be "the sweetest tomato you've ever tasted," and boy were they right! It's definitely sweet...almost too sweet and I prefer my tomatoes to be on the more savory/acidic side. It's a mild (almost watered down, IMO) tomato, lightly acidic, and would be great for people who are watching their acid intake.

But talk about being super fun to grow! Check out this 2 lb. monster I picked from one of my plants!

A 2 lb. Monster Tom

2 lbs and counting...
Almost all of the fruit from this plant were this size. In fact, I'm going to enter my tomato in our local paper as the largest tom and see if I win!

As far as yellow beefsteaks go, I much preferred last year's "Mr. Stripey" for flavor.

More and More Tomatoes
This summer has definitely kept us busy. Our late, cool spring allowed our plants to set extra fruit and I think we are at about 150 lbs picked so far. I'm done with canning tomatoes for the season. No more!


After this, it will be Herbed Roasted Tomatoes, Tomato Basil Butter, and giving what's left away to friends and neighbors.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday

It's blissfully raining this Monday morning, with the occasional thunder. That means both cats have disappeared and are hiding - they hate thunderstorms and Chaz doesn't even like the sound of rain.

It's been a while since I wrote a GKM post, as life has been hectic, but fortunately the kitteh life has been mostly boring...

I'm cute and I know it!
Miss Thang is still on Prozac, although just the tiniest amount possible (2.5 mg). We have found it's just enough to help her manage stress/anxiety, but not be a recluse. She seems happy and balanced. Time will tell if we will keep her on it.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Soapy Friday - The Story of Frankensoap

I'm convinced that if you think you've figured something out and get a little cocky, God says, "Here, hold my beer. Watch this!"

Well, do I have a doozy for you! Please, sit down and pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea...


So last week, I was pretty sure I had this whole lye concentration, oil, and water thing figured out and I was anxious to get back to my trials. I wanted to make my friend Mary a batch of Patchouli soap because I know she loves Patchouli.

Well to make a very long story short and after making a big-ol' hot mess (literally), I present to you the first batch of soap that I had to throw away...Frankensoap:

A big log of sticky gunk

Yuck!
Ultimately, what happened was instead of ordering and using Sodium Hydroxide, which is used to make HARD soap, I accidentally ordered Potassium Hydroxide, which is used to make LIQUID soap. Both containers look the same and I did not check the label.

I didn't realize this HUGE, HUGE, HUGE screw-up until after I had wrangled with this once cold-process, then hot-processed to save, rebatched and whipped soap into the mold. After cleaning up, I sat down on the couch and was wracking my brain to figure out what I had done wrong.

I scrolled through all my Pinterest pins and blogs and websites for info and something stood out...earlier I was reading about how to make shaving soap, which is made with both Sodium and Potassium Hydroxide, and I thought, "WAIT A MINUTE....did I? NOOOO!"

Yep, I used the wrong lye and ended up with a big log of sticky gunk. So, the moral of the story is...

Yes, a bitch indeed.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Soapy Friday - More Tomatoes and Masterbatching Math

Happy Friday everyone! We're finally going to get some rain today, but first, a tomato windfall.

I went outside this morning to pick "Oh, 12-or-so tomatoes" and this is what I came back with...



Oh well, no rest for the weary or wicked.

On to soap, shall we?

It’s been an exciting week of sorts in the soap department. First, I finally was able to try out my “Summer Melon” soap and it was perfectly smooth and silky to use…no grit or scratchiness at all and it smelled wonderful! This is the green light I was waiting for to go forward.

"Summer Melon" measured up 
I’ve also been using my “Lovespell” soap and it is amazeballs; I’m so happy!

"Lovespell" soap and bath bombs...coming to a friends and family soon!
Secondly, I am going to geek out a little and talk about science. Specifically, soap science. So, if your eyes start to glaze over, you won't offend me. :-)


I’ve been curious about what is called “masterbatching” in soapmaking, which is not to be confused with Masterblaster from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. But wouldn’t it be fun if these two made soap?

Let's go make soap!
Anywho, masterbatching is where you pre-mix large amounts of your lye water solution and oils in separate containers and set them aside for when you need to make soap. If, say, you want to make soap, instead of individually weighing and combining all your ingredients each time, you’d have them all pre-mixed in separate “masterbatches”. All you’d need to do is scoop/measure out what you’d need from each and be on your merry-little-way. This saves a TON of time in prep-work!

Specifically, I wanted to learn about masterbatching lye water. I didn’t really know you could do this and could set it aside at room temperature. Traditionally, when you mix lye with water, it heats up to about 180°, and then you have to wait till it cools down to around 100° before you can make soap. This can take about an hour or more. I often mix my lye water solution first and then I have to go find something else to do until it’s ready.

If you masterbatch your lye water, it’s always ready when YOU ARE, instead the other way around. The tricky part about this is you often have to calculate, based on your recipe, how much lye water solution to add to your oils to make soap, as the lye and water are no longer two separately measurable ingredients.

For example, if you make a 50/50 masterbatched lye water solution (meaning 50% of that solution is lye and 50% is water) and your recipe calls for 4.61 oz. of lye and 9.15 oz. of water, how much of the concentrated lye water solution would you need instead of the 2, separate ingredients?

To go even deeper, if you needed to add MORE liquid to that 50/50 lye solution to make your recipe, how much would you need to add?

Ummm....

This is me in real life
IKR? It sounds like one of those annoying math word problems on a test. And believe me, I've been banging my head around trying to understand this, BUT I'm pretty confident I've got a handle on it. 

You see,  through this I've learned there are two types of people in the soapmaking world: Those who calculate their recipes based on water as a % of oils and those who calculate their recipes based on the lye concentration requirements for each recipe. 

Most "newbies" (including myself) and casual crafters have used the former. In fact, most DIY and craft websites use the "water as a % of oils" approach to calculate a soap formula. It's the easiest and most forgiving to understand and grasp, but it's not consistent and leaves room for error, as it assumes that ALL oils are the same and saponify at the same rate.

You see, each oil has it's own separate saponification requirements...some oils (such as olive oil) need more lye to turn them into soap, and some oils (such as coconut) need less. When calculating a recipe basing the water requirements as a % of  the total amount of oils, it assumes that all oils in the recipe, regardless of what they are, need the same amount of water/lye amount. 

If you are calculating your recipe based on the lye concentration requirements necessary for all the different oils in the recipe, it's more precise and reliable. I REALLY could go into nerdom and talk to the different percentages of lye concentration mixes and how they perform in soapmaking, but I think this is enough for now.  In fact, I'm probably not explaining what I have explained exactly right...it's complicated.

I've run some of my previous recipes back thru using the lye concentration vs. water as a % of oils approach and have been shocked and validated on the results and my hunches. This is why some of my recipes haven't been doing what I've wanted them to do and I'm confident that things will be going in a MUCH different direction from here on.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July Canning

Since I'm taking a small break from soapmaking, I've turned my attention back to the kitchen. Tomatoes are coming in, so it's time to get busy!

This week I've made Annie's Salsa, Dill Pickles, Crushed Tomatoes, and some Sour Cherry Jam. I also whipped up a batch of Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, which was pretty amazing!

Plus, it's too damn hot to be outside!

It's been a busy week in the kitchen!

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