Sunday, June 14, 2015

Green Tea (Good for my Skin) Soap : 2015 Redux - Hot Process

This is one of my staple soap recipes. I started making this soap back in 2000 (15 years ago) when I was diagnosed with Rosacea (Thanks to my fair-skinned Irish and Polish ancestry). It's quite a process to make this soap recipe--one for the SLOW Movement.  In my old cold-process method, it could take up to 4 months to make a batch.  My family loves this soap, too.    Making this soap for so many years, my methods have evolved and refined over time--for the better, I hope!

With the wonder of Pinterest, You Tube, and the Internet in general, it is so much easier to share info and new techniques.  I recently discovered hot-process soap-making, which uses a crock pot to significantly speed up the saponification process-- so much so that I could make this soap in a weekend, if I wanted to.  I thought it was time to properly update this recipe with my new discoveries. 

Green Tea (Good-for-My-Skin) Soap - Hot Process Method
14 oz tepid Water (or strong Green Tea, if you prefer)

5.9 oz Lye

12 oz. Coconut Oil
6 oz Palm Oil
10 oz Castor Oil
8 oz Olive Oil
4 oz Wheat Germ Oil

1) Prepare the molds. (This amounts to lining a wooden tray or shallow cardboard box with plastic.
Alternatively, you could also use a PVC pipe lined with freezer paper, end taped or stoppered.)

3-inch diameter PVC pipe cut to 18 inches long.  Lined with freezer paper and secured with painter's tape.  
2) Combine the H20 and lye using ALL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS!

3) In the crock pot / slow cooker, melt the coconut and palm oils.  Blend in the castor, olive, and wheat germ oils, and either heat or cool to 100 degrees F.

4) Once the temperatures match, blend the lye solution into the oils with a stick blender.
[Actually, they say you don't need to worry about the temps matching for this process.  The whole thing gets heated up and cooked together anyway.]

 5) Stir the mixture until the soap traces.   At this point, it will have a creamy consistency.

Light Trace

Heavier Trace

6) At trace, turn the heat to LOW.  Let it cook on low for about 1 hour and 15 minutes in total.
Check at 15-minute intervals.

At 15 minutes

At 15 minutes, after stirring.
At 30 minutes.  I think this is the applesauce stage?

At 45 minutes, it's light and fluffy.  Easy to stir.  (Very different than trying to re-batch and melt it in a double boiler, where it always remained clumpy and heavy.)

At 60 minutes, I think this is the "gel" phase (?), sometimes called the Vaseline phase.  It's translucent.

Let it cook another 15 minutes (just to be sure the saponification process is complete).  In my batch, it did not appear to look any different than it had at the 60 minute mark, so I took that as a sign it was ready.

Turn the heat off, and let the hot soap rest for 10 minutes.  

At this point, mix in the following (still in the crock pot) :

3 oz Chickweed and Plantain-infused oil (See recipe below)
1 tsp Green Tea Fragrance Oil (or other essential oil)
(Please do not suggest Tea Tree Oil to me--Tea Tree Oil has been a major irritant to my sensitive skin, though it may work for other people, it doesn't for me.)

Here the infused olive oil has been incorporated into the cooked soap.  

Pour the hot soap into the box mold,
OR spoon it into the PVC-pipe tube mold.   Be sure to pound the tube on the counter to work out any air bubbles.    Leave the soap to set for 8-14-24 hours, or until the soap is solid and firm to the touch.

Release from the mold.  In this case, I undid the taped freezer-paper stopper at the bottom end.  Then I used a smaller tube to push the soap column through the other end.  It was remarkably easy to get out with the freezer paper liner, and easier to clean up!  I had visions of raw and solid soap getting stuck in one of these pipe molds, and never being able to get it out.  That didn't happen at all!

Here is the released, unwrapped column of soap, ready to be cut into rounds / bars. 

The beauty of the hot-process soap-making method is that it's ready to use as soon as it cools.  (I know--amazing!) The heat speeds up the chemical reaction between the lye and the oils (the saponification process), and alleviates the need to cure the new soap for 3-4 weeks to allow the ph levels to neutralize.    I did do a lather test on the first bar, and found no sign of alkalinity (the battery to the tongue test--just tastes like soap) nor skin irritation.

These bars may look a little rough, but you can see they shine up nicely with the first washing.  It's said this method creates a more rustic looking bar of soap.

That said, you may still want to cure the soap for a week or two, just to allow excess water to dry out of it.  This will create a harder, longer-lasting bar of soap. 


Infused Oil - in the Crock Pot / Slow Cooker
3 oz dried Chickweed (I have to get this dried as I don't see this weed much in my parts)
3 oz dried Plantain (9 oz. chopped, if using fresh -- It's all over my back yard, lush and green like salad!  I like to harvest the first crop in late May when it looks so lush and clean.  It gets tired-looking later in the season.  )
2 pints (or 4 cups) extra virgin Olive Oil

Note : Plantain and Chickweed are very common weeds. Collect them in your backyard (if you go organic), or contact an organic farmer in your area. You can also order them from dried herb suppliers. Fresh (and even fresh dried) herbs lend a rich dark green chlorophyl color to the olive oil. You can tell it's full of goodness and healing properties! 1 batch lasts me about 5 years.

I've since discovered a slow-cooker method that I like best for making this infused oil.  This can be done in 1 day, vs. 2 or 6 weeks of previous methods. 

 Fresh Plantain from my back yard, chopped ...

 and ready to be weighed and thrown into the crock pot.

 Fresh chopped Plantain and dried Chickweed in the slow cooker with extra virgin olive oil.  
Looks like a salad!

*  I had so much "volume" with the fresh herbs, that I put everything into the usual slow cooker pot, and did not use the towel, water, or mason jar.   I did use a thermometer to keep a tab on the temps, since should stay between 100 - 120 degrees F for the duration of the infusion process.

*  For my particular slow cooker, it worked well to set the temp to low until it got up to the desires 120 degrees F.  I checked on it every hour.  When it got up to about 120 degrees, I turned off the heat, and covered the pot with towels to insulate it and keep the temps where they needed to be.
Note :  If I insulated while the crock pot was on, the temps got too warm.  

*  Stir every hour or so during the infusion process.  This is also a good time to check on the temps.  If the temps get near 100 degrees, turn the heat back on (without the towels and insulation, or it will get too warm.)

Here it is after it's cooked down for 10 hours in the slow-cooking process. 

*  Once infused, allow the warm oil and herb infusion to cool completely.   I let it sit overnight to cool.  Strain the herby oil through a fine mesh filter and/or cheesecloth.  Discard the spent herbs.  Store the newly infused oil in a glass jar.   Once the oil is strained, it's ready for use. It will keep indefinitely in the jar, if tightly sealed.

 Strained once through a sieve.

 Strained a second time to catch the finer bits and particulates.

 See what the first straining missed?

On the left, is the Olive Oil I started with.  On the right is the rich dark green infused oil.  
It's so dark, you can't even see through it. 

 Here it is in sunlight, still darker than the original.


I first found this recipe in a book called Country Living's Handmade Soap. They called it "Green Herbs Baby Soap," meaning it's gentle enough to use on a baby's tender skin. The book is now out-of-print--another reason to not let this recipe die.  The original used a cold-process soap method; I have adapted it for Hot-Process Soap-making here, which saves several weeks of time from start-to-finish.

To give credit where it's due, this is the video I watched to learn about the Hot-Process Soap-making method.  Mountain Scentaments also uses a tube mold, that seemed to release simply and easily.  Something I've been wanting to try.   So 2 new concepts this season!

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