So we had these pigs… two sweet American Guinea Hogs who wandered onto a friend’s property. Someday we’d planned to grow our own pork, so we put up a pen and started feeding…and feeding…. and feeding. The butcher I originally asked about this breed told me to get rid of them! Research told me they’re foragers and best to grow them slow – unfortunately we didn’t have a fence so they couldn’t graze. We got creative, and apparently we did something right because the gal I bought Mr. Brown from (yes, the steer is officially named) said they did Guinea Hogs and got almost NO meat. 13 months later, my freezer is stocked with almost 200-lb of teeny but yummy pork chops, savory sausage, and the best bacon ever (thank-you T-Bones!). Even with free piglets, borderline OCD scrap-saving, trays upon trays of sprouted yellow field peas, and minimal commercial feed the pork cost around $3 a pound. Hmmm… pork is pretty cheap when it’s on sale; not really feeling really frugal with that price. Luckily I saved the lard and there was a LOT of LARD. The belly fat has made EXCELLENT cooking lard (subbed for Crisco). But how to use the rest? SOAP, of course!
100% amateur, I scoured the internet for recipes (my Pinterest Soap board is sooo full). Bramble Berry proved a great resource, so I got their book. I ordered a lot of my supplies (cheaper) on Amazon. I’ve linked/indicated in parenthesis where I found the cheapest price in my lists below. On Amazon I tried to link to the most cost effective option, but just in case, use Honey to check you’re getting the best deal (I love this app, saves me loads).
The first soap-making
attempt adventure was a exfoliating orange body soap (I’m addicted to citrus scents). Here’s how it went:
First I crock-potted the lard and strained it. This was the longest step but it made enough lard for about 3-4 batches of soap. I used a coffee grinder to turn the dried mandarin peels into powder for exfoliation or what I prefer to call “scrubbiness”.
I used the recipe calculator on Bramble Berry because I couldn’t find any recipes I liked with the ingredients I had (I’ve since discovered SoapCalc which I like better – it gives me more of the geeky numbers for my inner nerd). Most soap bloggers it seems don’t use lard or tallow, but there are a few who swear by it (read ‘The Chemistry of Soaps and Why it Matters‘ and ‘Why I Use Lard or Tallow in my Soaps and Why Yous Should Too‘). I also couldn’t find any recipes that used as much lard as I wanted to, and because it’s the **free** ingredient I felt it was worth trying to bump it up in my own recipe.
We made this a homeschool science lesson for the day, and boy we learned a lot (er, is it at trace now?). The exothermic reaction of the lye in the water was impressive and I think the kiddo enjoyed the gloves and mask as much as anything else.
My ultimate goal now is to see if I can replace all my shower products with my own lard-based ones. Since then we’ve made poison oak (Jewelweed & Oatmeal) soap, a facial bar (Charcoal w/Matcha, Lavender & Turmeric), a bug repellent balm (Citronella & Tea Tree), a shampoo bar (Rosemary Mint w/Aloe) and
cold hot processed shaving pucks (Strawberry Limeade for the gals and Coconut & Cedarwood for the guys).
Check out the full list of what we have available on our Soaps & Salves page.
The orange bar smells great and works better. Lots of lather, and I feel clean. The orange peel is a bit too “scrubby” for me, but I think I can grind it into a finer powder next time. I do think the actual orange peel keeps the scent strong.
I’ve used the poison oak soap but it was so long after I started seeing the rash it didn’t make much difference (the point of the active ingredient is to remove the urushiol oil and it was too late). The tea tree did feel super soothing on the rash though. I think a tea-tree aloe soap for sunburns would feel amazing.
I feel like the charcoal bar is FANTASTIC even if it is a bit ugly. I’d like to think it’s my recipe but it’s probably because I don’t use fancy facial products and have never used charcoal soap before. Anyhow, my face feels so clean and skin so soft when I’m done! I’m sharing some around with friends to see if the results are universal.
Next we’ll make some more scented body soaps because, well, I kinda went crazy at Bramble Berry on fragrance & essential oils (don’t tell TM).
Okay, so I want to sell these on the farm, but I also want to encourage other homesteaders/DIY’ers so I’m gonna be transparent about what things cost. I crunched all the numbers, and was pleasantly surprised that even with some of the fancy essential oils I bought most of the bars are under $1 to make. I’d be happy to share my spreadsheet (I’m an excel nut) if you want to customize it for your own use – just ask me in the comments. Now you do have to wait 30-days to use the cold press soaps, and spend the time getting ingredients, and making them (and fixing them in some cases). If that’s not your bag; buy some of mine and help turn a homesteader into a full-time farmer so you can have fresh produce and handmade products in your neighborhood 😉
So far (not too much giggling please if you’re a seasoned “soaper”, some of these prove I didn’t retain what I read in the book very well):
- Splurge on the IR gun – washing multiple thermometers and finding places to set them down sucks
- Cold process means NOT HOT – for some reason I thought temps for combining the liquids was about 30 degrees higher than it should be. The first batch turned out fine, but as soon as we got creative we had all kinds of issues (no volcanoes, thank goodness)
- No alcohol based extracts (duh, this was totally in the book)
- When you use half a recipe – don’t do it in your head!
- The blogs were right – beeswax doesn’t ever really come off…anything
- Tea tree overpowers most other scents
- A rectangular silicon mold without a wood frame will bow – so get a wood frame unless you want trapezoidal vs. rectangular bars
- Make sure your crock pot is big enough to salvage your entire batch if your cold process accelerates too fast!
If you make soap or are interested in trying some of our soap in your shower, comment below! I definitely need ideas for my next batches!