|According to the dictionary, Castile is a former kingdom comprising most of current day Spain. There is a special soap variety that originated in the Castile region called … (any guesses) Castile soap. This soap only uses olive oil and sodium hydroxide. This soap was originally made because there was a greater supply of olive oil rather than tallow.
The most commonly used method to make castile soap started with burning plants in the salsola genus (like saltwort or tumbleweeds) and then combining the ashes with water to create the alkaline solution that would convert fats to soap. Olive oil was added to the pot and was boiled. The soap was then forced to float to the surface of the pot by adding a brine to the pot. As the soap was floating, the soap was easily skimmed off and left excess unwanted materials like lye, coloring and other impurities to settle to the bottom of the pot. This created a white colored, hard bar of olive oil soap.
Whoa! Wait just one minute! White soap? I thought last time I looked an all olive oil soap was a dirty green in appearance. The coloring of the soap can depend on the the olive oil you use. Did you know the color of olive oil can vary due to the content of chlorophyll and other similar materials. The color of the olive oil depends on factors such as the fruit ripeness, the olive variety, the soil and climate conditions, as well as the extraction and processing procedures.
Today, I’ll be sharing my experiences with making Castile soap. Not just my good experience, but my not so great experience too!
My first attempt at making Castile soap was about 8 weeks ago during mid-August. I heated my olive oil to about body temperature. (It was probably around 95deg; Fahrenheit.) My lye was about 120° Fahrenheit. I mixed the soap for about 3 or 4 minutes and then decided it was done. I left the batch of soap in the mold overnight. When I came back, I was expecting to have a hard log of soap that was ready to cut. To my surprise, that was not what I encountered. My soap was very soft and cold.
When I asked our Technical Support Team what had happened, I received the explanation along with some chuckles. According to their response, my soap stalled during the saponification process. It did not help that I had only made a one pound batch which does not have enough thermal mass alone to prevent the stalling of the soap. Combining this new information with my low soaping temperatures, I now knew that I hadn’t made my soap well. I asked what I would have to do with my soap. I was told to hide it somewhere and then promptly forget about it for 6 to 8 weeks. I did so by placing the soap (in the mold) in the cupboard above my blog kitchen sink. I programmed an alarm into my phone to check it during the first week of October.
Fast forward to October 4th. I removed the Castile soap from the cupboard and I was very excited to see that it had hardened enough for me to cut the soap easily. I cut the soap log and set it out on a sheet of cardboard to have some more airflow to allow the remaining water to evaporate. By October 6th, the soap was hard enough that I could package it for shipping samples. I promptly packaged the soap for samples and then moved on to analyze my successful batch of Castile soap.
Collect needed items:
I was determined to make sure my second batch of Castile soap succeeded. This time, I increased the temperature of the Olive Oil to about 130° Fahrenheit and my lye solution was about the same temperature. I used my immersion blender and mixed until everything appeared to be mixed completely. Once I reached this state, I let the raw soap sit for a moment and spent 1-2 minutes cleaning the kitchen, packaging samples or formatting other recipes. I did this several times until the temperature of the raw soap increased and seemed to be holding at a steady temperature. At this time, I poured the raw soap into a wooden mold lined with a plastic bag. I thought that the wood mold was going to be my best friend for its insulating properties. I used a different style of the Guerrilla Mold from Dirk’s post. Allow to sit until soap is firm.
The next morning I was able to cut my soap into bars. Stack to allow good air circulation. Allow to cure for several days before using. Longer curing will result in a harder bar.
Lots of various information has led me to think that Castile soap is like good wine or cheese. Most of the time it needs aging before it is a fantastic product. I have been told that Castile soaps can be slimy and snot-like in their first year, but the texture and lather improves after a year of dry storage. A year? I don’t know about you, but anticipating soap sales a year in advance seems impossible. I think a 100% Olive Oil soap is nice, but Coconut or Palm Kernel are great additions to making a good soap better.
Remember, if your Castile soap is soft after 24 hours, you will have to leave it in the mold and wait 6 to 8 weeks! This thought alone is enough for me to increase my soap temperatures and use a wood mold. Then again, sometimes I want to poke things when I’m supposed to leave them alone!
The Castile soap samples have been sent to the Shipping Department to send out in orders. I really want to hear your comments about this or any of the other recent soaps. I hope that anyone wanting a sample soap will request one and if we have any samples we will send them to you.
This has been a very interesting process and I think I’ll probably try it again. I hope this was as educational for you as it has been for me. This is one soap that I wonder if a Hot Process Castile soap would be any easier. Have you tried this before? I’d love to hear what you have to say!