Friday, March 11, 2011
One of the things I like about soapmaking is the types of cold process soaps you can make. Goat milk is one that I really love.. it's so wonderful for your skin & makes a fine bar of soap. I tend to keep my GM soaps pretty simple.. only adding herbs, veggie powders or spices for colors & use only essential oils in them. I generally use fresh goats milk, but some other options are already prepared.. canned & powdered to be reconstituted gm. To me.. the natural fats in fresh milk is extraordinary in a bar of soap & yet so gentle on your skin.
All soapmakers have their own tricks to making a nice gm soap.. I've tried many.. but for me, the easiest process is to add my fresh goats milk to my already warmed & cooled oils before adding the lye/water. I split my water portion 50 % add it to my lye.. set aside the balance of 50 % what would be water in most cases... for my gm portion. Once the lye water & warmed oils & butters has cooled down to around 90 degrees .. I then warm up my room temp goats milk to about 85-90 degrees.. add it to my oil pot & any essence I will be using and blend in well. Once blended, I then add my lye water mixture while stick blending all the while to get a nice creamy emulsion type mixture. I'd then add my additives if any .. hand stir well until I come to an early trace.. which at these lower temps should be quite soon. I have my molds all readied.. so pouring is efficient & rapid.. I only cover my mold with saran wrap.. no other insulation.. and set it out in garage on cool cement floor.. or place into refrigerator.. as I don't want my goat milk soaps to come to a gel. If they gel.. they will become much darker from overheating. Sometimes.. this IS the effect I want.. so I lightly insulate.. it all just comes down too what I am trying to achieve.
Before we had our own flock of Nigerian dwarfs, I'd get my fresh goat milk from a local goat farmer/breeder friend, Mr Garth Witty. He was quite a character... full of anecdotes and philosophies..and a wonderful conversationlist, well known to most in the area as being a throwback from the 60's.. a former MIT researcher and brilliant man.. who dropped out of the rat race,for a slower paced new life. To look at him now in his suspendered trowsers, long long mid chest beard and grey pony tailed hair you'd of never guessed. LOL I just love Garth to bits!! I don't think there is a more knowledgable man in New England when it comes to raising any bovine creatures that Garth can't help you with. He has an inner sense around creatures that's just remarkable. So for farmer's market we'll be offering..our Mr.Witty Goat Milk Bath Bar formulated in honor of Mr Witty along with our Lemon Drop 'Kid' and Shea Butter and Oatmeal goat milk bars.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I just gave an herbal infusion workshop and because many folks ask me about infusing herbs,I thought I'd just include my notes here. This is the process which I am most comfortable & successful using.. so if you want to add some nice properties, texture & natural hues to your soaps you might want to give this a try too! :+)
Making Herbal Oil Infusions
I'll be talking about two methods of infusing herbs.. Hot Method & Cold Method
Materials to have on hand: Good quality olive, sunflower or almond oil (or oil of your choice) , a double boiler pan, measuring cups, thermometer, wooden spoon, 2 quart size canning jars/with lids, coffee filters, jelly bag or micro fine coffee filter, clean empty glass bottles or jars, a small saucer, blank address labels, cider vinegar, dried herbs of choice ( at least 1 cup of each) & Vit. E oil.
Though many of my own herbal infusions are made with fresh herbs & in gallon sized portions, for this class we will be using dried herbs.
Infusing oils is a pretty simple process. Make sure to have all your jars cleaned well.. run through dishwasher & completely dry.
I make my herbal infusions up much the same way I cook.. a pinch of this & a pinch of that.. so measurements will be really putting me to the test :-)
Herbal Oil Infusions & Herbal Teas contribute various qualities to the scent, texture, color & creaminess of the dense lather in soaps.
Calendula, Comfrey, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Sweet Annie, Mints, Lavenders, Sage, Rosemary, Rosehips, Dandelions, Marshmallow root, Nettles, Parsley, Rose petals, Thyme, Yarrow, Mullein flowers, Scented Geraniums, burdock root, St John’s Wort flower, Chickweed
Measure out about a cup of the herbs or more you would like to infuse and place into your canning jar... the more you can get into your jar the better! I like to have my jars filled at least 2/3rds. I then add 2 oz. Vit E oil and just a smidgeon of cider vinegar (approx 1/2 tsp) to my quart of olive oil to help minimize any unwanted molds from growing. Now gently pour this oil mixture over your packed dry herbs into jar, making sure that there is about a good inch of oil above the botanicals. Once filled, take two coffee filters and invert it over the top of the jar. This seems to help keeping down air exposure to the herbs. Then put your lidded ringed cover on tightly directly over the coffee filter and apply your label to jar. You should always label your infusions with: materials used, herbs( fresh or dried) , oils, date. I then store my my jars in a cool dark cupboard or closet, sitting on a small saucer or plate for 4-6 weeks..Give your jar a shake once or twice a week. When you are satisfied that your infusion is strong enough to use I pour my infusions thru a micro screen for coffee filtering.. as it works great catching all the tiniest pieces of botanical. The remaining botanicals I then squeeze through a jelly bag or if you don't have one of these.. doubling more coffee filters and tightly squeezing out all the goodness into your cleaned infused oils.
Then the process begins again.. whatever I have left behind in my original infusion jar.. I add yet more herbs packed in & topped off with oil, covered & stored til needed.
Depending on the size of your double boiler (I use a one & two quart) fill your top pan 2/3rds full with herbs of choice & cover with olive, almond, sunflower (or oil of choice). Gently simmer oils for 3-4 hours on lowest heat. I try to maintain my oil temps at around 120-140 degrees If I am planning to use these infused oils in a soap recipe I would leave them to set overnite...on stove, rewarming the next day & strain all botanicals as we did above using the COLD Method .. then measuring out my oil portion for use in my soap recipe. To store unused portions.. I prefer not to strain out my botanicals and only do so just prior to usage.
** Some are successful 'sun infusing' herbs for two weeks, but I have found this to have a higher chance of bacterium growing within 72 hours & oils going rancid. Personally, I'd never recommend this type of infusion. ** About the closest I would get to sun infusing is during our northern winter months is lining my bay window with jars of infusing herbs..... letting the sun
(when we see it LOL) catch them with it's light. Calendula petals are glorious while decanting.. the showy orange/yellow petals look so warm & inviting in the middle of winter. With Spring on it's way.. see if you can get your hands on a nice violet patch.. collect these flowers & olive infuse them .. the color is radiant in jars... (but won't remain when soaped) that also makes a wonderfully healing skin cream/lotion formula.
I’m also not fond of crockpot infusions either.. but this is my own personal preference again.. my feeling is… there is always a chance of ‘frying’ the goodness right out of what you are trying to accomplish with so much variable temperatures. If speed is what you are looking for, try this method by all means.. but keep a close watch on it. :+)
When I want certain qualities in the smooth lather the soap produces the best way to get that is using special oils or waxes I'd sub the olive or part of my olive for
( avacado, jojoba, sunflower, rice bran, shea etc ) and infuse certain herbs that would apply to my formula.
Many herbal balms can made effectively using hot infused oils, especially spicy herbs such as ginger, cayenne & arnica prepared as a balm to help relieve arthritic pain, improve local blood flow circulation & relax muscles. Other leafy herbs such as comfrey, rosemary speedwell, & chickweed healing ointment may also be produced.
Comfrey infusions are my favorites. I think every garden should have a comfrey patch!
Some of my favorite infusions are:
Comfrey leaf & root, ginger root (just a smidgeon), plantain leaf & calendula
Rosemary, Lavender, chamomile
Lavender, chamomile, comfrey leaf only, rosemary, calendula, horsetail, yarrow,
oakmoss, plantain, rosehips, spring violets & their leaves.
Lovely blend in soaps & shampoo bars.. fabulous! & balms too!
Ground Nettle , comfrey & rosemary leaves
Or try some green tea, sea kelp, calendula petals, rosehips & mints! The possibilities are endless :-)
I really enjoy adding oil infusions to my soaps, balms & ointments for their skin care qualities & color that they impart to the soaps. I seldom make herbal tea infusions for my soaps, as I feel the benefits of the herbs are lost when substituting tea water for water/lye mix.. and, you'll get no color when adding tea water except when using calendula or madder root... or murky greens/browns at best with most others. . But.. I DO love using infused herbal teas in my lotions & creams and the color that they can impart in them naturally.
Have fun infusing your herbal oils.
I've posted up some pictures of some of my herbal infusions for you to see along with some base formulas here. Herbal joys.......... Jady