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Monday, January 24, 2011

Makin' Soap

I was once told that you should never throw out bacon grease. It has a million different uses in both the kitchen and elsewhere, apparently. I took this advice to heart and decided to stash all of the bacon fat we produced into a large canning jar. I put it above my stove with the salt and pepper and let it sit in the airtight jar until it was nearly full.

I used it here and there for cooking, but there was just no way I was going to use it all as quickly as we made it all. We eat BLTs on cold Sunday nights when I don't want to cook, which honestly made the majority of this fat.

I went looking for a use for all my bacon grease and found this at Instructables. I had heard of bacon soap, but I was always too terrified of the lye to try it. It always seemed so chemically complicated!

I purified my fat and went through all the motions described in the Instructables. I wasn't going to put my soap into bacon molds and color it like those guys did, but I did want usable soap!

So here's the thing, and I think I screwed it up pretty good. My scale, after being zeroed out, did not match what my measuring cups were telling me. I think this caused a problem in the combination of lye and fat ratios. When the soap was blended to trace, it looked just fine. I poured it into molds, and within a few minutes, you could see a clear separation - a transparent liquid and the solid fat.

I'm kind of irritated with the result, which is why I've hesitated to write about it here. I read someplace that if the separation occurs, you probably screwed up either the tracing or the ratios. I used a lye:fat ratio chart but I think there was an issue in my measuring. Either way, I left the molds out to try for the next few weeks. A lot of the liquid has disappeared, but not all of it.

All that bacon grease, possibly gone to waste! This won't deter me, though. If anything, it encourages me to try again. I will go out and buy solid block of lard for a few bucks just to practice with. I would really like to perfect this just so we don't have to buy crap soap anymore.

I should mention that I'm an asshole and didn't use gloves while doing all of this. That's because I think I'm tougher than I am, and that I can handle lye burns. Honestly, the lye didn't burn a bit (when I accidentally touched the fat/lye combo while mixing) but I'm starting to suspect I really did something wrong because I had left a little bit on some aluminum foil and the fat/lye mixture ate right through it. And it destroyed a cheap muffin tin that I was trying to use as a mold for extra fat/lye mix. So I dunno.

We'll have to wait another week or two for this soap to "cure," which I guess means the pH will come down to a more neutral level. The lye on the soap as it is now is enough to burn your skin, they say. I don't think my soap will burn anything right now, as it is. But we'll see. We'll see.

I'm most excited about finding a way to use the things I would usually discard. This pleases me to a level that I can't describe.

1 comment:

Kate! said...

You ARE brave! Not just the gloveless part, either! I don't think I'd ever try soap making on my own- I'd have to do it with and instructor or something.

Just keep trying, and I'm sure you'll perfect it!