We're exploring some of the many things we can make with our olive oil and last month we made soap with Helen Coxan our friend and Terra CSA colleague. Making soap from fats is an ancient process and has been occurring at least since Roman times. Here's a excerpt from Gladheartacres.com's 'The history of soap':
The "soap" that is commonly found in the grocery or discount store aisle is actually a detergent and a relatively new product, coming into use about 1916. But soap has a long history and as legend goes received its name from Mount Sapo. Animals were sacrificed upon the mountain and the melted fat would mix with the wood ashes and be washed by rain down to the Tiber River. Along the river's edge women found that their wash was much cleaner.
And what could be more Ancient Rome than making our own from olive oil!
The process is very straight forward; gently warm olive oil, meanwhile add sodium hydroxide (lye), to water. This causes a strong reaction which heats up the water - hence the safety specs!
When the water has cooled and is the same temperature as the gently warmed oil, mix the two together and whisk like the wind! We used a stick blender powered by our solar system.
Olive oil takes a long time to saponify, which is to convert from the raw materials into the final product, sodium oleate, or olive oil soap. Our blender was getting rather warm after about 45 minutes of continuous work!
But eventually we ended up with something like custard which we poured out into a shallow tray to 'cure'. This drying and hardening process takes at least a month and 'Castille' olive oil soap isn't sold for at least a year!
Anyway, ours is looking lovely after a month and should continue to improve and cure with time. This may well become a Terra CSA product in the future!