How to Make Chocolate

How to Make Chocolate 101

Chocolate Making in Ecuador – it’s a delicious snack that happens to have a lot of benefits. It is loaded with nutrients such as iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium, zinc and selenium, it’s a good source of antioxidants, and studies show that it can help restore flexibility to the arteries and increase blood flow.

Store-bought chocolate can be delicious but also filled with unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients like lots of sugar and milk. If you are living somewhere with access to cacao fruit or fermented cacao beans, here’s how you can do it yourself – your own healthy chocolate!

History of Cacao: born in Ecuador!

Cacao seeds after fermentation

Cacao consumption was a common practice more than 5,000 thousand years ago in the Ecuadorian Amazon Region of South America. Amazon cacao, then was taken by some mechanism toward the center of America. Once it arrived there, it acquired great cultural importance. Mainly consumed as an unheated liquid by the Aztecs and generally heated by the Maya, chocolate was the drink of choice for the elites and with the addition of hot chilies, maize, spices, peanut butter, vanilla and other flavor and texture enhancers, made the chocolate beverage a spicy and sultry drink enjoyed only by those who are able to afford it or by those who are specifically chosen to enjoy its benefits. Later it was exported to Europe during colonial times. At the beginning Spain and Portugal kept it hidden from the rest of the world. By the late 17th century, chocolate became available to most of Europe and accessible to the general populations.

Note: If you are starting with fermented and dried cacao beans, please skip to Step 4.

Step 1: Harvesting

Inside the ripe cacao pods are cocoa beans. These are covered with a soft white flesh that can be sucked. It has a sweet taste. It's similar to chewinggum.

Take a machete, and go around to your cacao trees. Harvest any ripe cacao fruits by chopping them off the branch. You can walk around and collect them with a bucket, or whatever is convenient. If you are in Ecuador, you are usually dealing with one of two varieties: cacao arriba nacional or CCN51 (hybrid). The former will be yellow when ripe, the latter will be red with yellow stripes. Talking quality the highest cacao taste will be from the nacional also called amazonico, the commonly planted hybrid obviously produces much earlier and more quantity bust is used basically just for industrial / cheap chocolate as additional fat source…

 

Step 2: Fermenting

You can build a simple wooden box without a lid to ferment the cacao. Line the box with banana leaves so that the juices don’t make a mess.

Using the machete, open your cacao pods and empty the fruit into the box. When you are finished, you can cover the box with another banana leaf.

Let this ferment for 4-6 days.

Step 3: Drying

Once the cacao is fermented, it needs to dry. Common practice in Ecuador is to lay out the cacao beans on a concrete surface in the sun. If you live somewhere where it tends to rain often, you can dry them on a covered porch instead.

It is a good idea to turn the cacao over midway through the day so both sides have a chance to dry.

Using metal changes the flavor of cacao, so if you can get a wooden rake/shovel, you’re in good hands.

Step 4: Roasting

Once the beans are fermented and dried, you have to roast them to be able to remove the husks. You can do this over a fire or the stove.

Make sure to constantly stir the beans so they don’t burn! Nobody likes burnt chocolate.

To see if they are roasted enough, occasionally take out a bean and see if the skin can be removed easily. If not, keep roasting.

Step 5: Crack the beans

 

Before removing the husks, the beans should be cracked into nibs. Here are 3 methods for doing so:

  1. For a small batch, use a hammer.
  2. For a medium sized batch, use a mill set on coarse.
  3. For bigger batches, you can put the roasted beans into a sack, and wearing your farm boots, dance away on the bags to crack the beans.

Step 6: Remove the Husks

 

Now it’s time to discard the husks by winnowing. For a small batch, this can be done by placing the cracked beans in a bowl and stirring it, so that the husks come to the top and can be blown away. For a bigger batch, you can use a fan (set on low so you don’t blow the nibs away too). Place a tub on the ground, in front of the fan. Then, with the fan on low, slowly pour the cracked beans into the tub. The fan will blow away the husks as they are extremely light.

Step 7: Grind the cacao

 

Here you can use a mill, set on fine or a food processor to grind the cacao into a paste. Heat helps this process, so we ended up first using the mill to make a powder, and then putting that in the food processor to heat up and turn into a paste. I have heard that using a Champion juicer can also do this well. Play around with what you have available.

If you are not adding any sweetener or flavor, skip to Step 10.

Step 8: Add sweetener

Add your sweetener of choice to the paste and mix it by hand. For example, this could be panela, stevia or brown sugar.Try to use very little, if any.

If you want to be exact, you can weigh the paste and add a certain percentage of sugar.

The important thing is that it’s to your liking, so make sure you taste it before continuing to the next step. Remember, you can always add sweetener but you can’t take away, so be mindful.

Once you are satisfied with the sweetness, grind again so the granules become fine.

Step 9: Add flavor(s)

If you want to make flavored chocolate, here’s where you can separate the sweetened chocolate into batches and add the different flavors. Mix in whatever you are you are flavoring with by hand so it is spread throughout the chocolate.

Here are some examples of what you can use: candied ginger, candied orange peel, salt, chili pepper, peanut. To candy ginger or orange peel, you bring sugar and water to a boil, then add the chopped ginger or orange peel and simmer until the syrup thickens.

Step 10: Pour chocolate into molds, then refrigerate.

Here in Ecuador, you can buy plastic containers with lids for $0.10 apiece. We used the lids for the flavored chocolate and the containers for the unsweetened chocolate, which can be used for baking, hot chocolates, etc. Once the chocolate has set, you can remove it from the mold and store it in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Liquid chocolate poured into molds which will be refrigerated  Final look of the chocolate removing the molds a few days after

Health benefits of the cacao superfood

Cacao, one of nature’s many miracles, is in fact the great super-food that many people seek. Cacao makes other so-called super-fruits pale in comparison!

Cacao is a titan of health benefits, the likes of which humanity has never known. It is the profound medicine that scientists and researchers toil to discover. If Cacao were a pharmaceutical drug, it would be hailed as the greatest medicine of all time, and its discoverer would reap the Nobel prize in Medicine. Cacao is all of that. Cacao is right out in the open, more protective than any other food, and more powerful than any medicine ever devised.

  1. Cardiovascular Health – One of the main health benefits of cacao is for the arteries in your heart and brain. Eating cacao foods such as chocolate several times per day may decrease your likelihood of having a stroke or heart attack, according to clinical studies published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” and the “Journal of Internal Medicine.” In both studies, the frequency of stroke and heart attack in human subjects declined with an increase in chocolate intake.
  2. Antioxidants – In my opinion this is the best reason to eat cacao nibs or dark chocolate in general. Antioxidants help fight off free radical damage in the body which can cause DNA damage, premature aging and even cancers. Think of antioxidants as firefighters putting out a blaze. And cacao is one of the highest sources of antioxidants.
  3. Flavonoids – They come from plants and can be responsible for giving pigmentation and colors to being involved in UV filtration. They are similar to antioxidants in that they  have a free radical scavenging capacity and have anti-cancer properties while other flavonoids show potential for anti HIV function. We get flavonoids from fruits, vegetables, teas, wine and a significant amount from cacao. Essentially the antioxidant activity comes from flavanoids.
  4. Can Fight Cardiovascular Disease – There is a positive relationship between intake of flavonoid rich foods such as cacao and lower rates of cardiovascular-related mortality. In the 1930′s to early 50′s flavonoids were actually referred to as ‘Vitamin P’ because of the effect they had on the permeability of vascular capillaries. That study linked here has shown that as little as 5 grams of cacao powder is sufficient to elicit significant vasodilation of the brachial artery.
  5. Fiber  – There is a huge amount of fiber in just a one ounce serving of cacao nibs. 9 grams! This can help control your blood pressure and blood glucose levels. This fiber can also help lower blood cholesterol as well as helping keep bowel movements regular. You and I are close now and I think we can definitely talk about that…
  6. Magnesium  – A one ounce serving of cacao nibs has 64 milligrams of magnesium making it one of the best dietary sources of it.

Brilliant Way To Reuse And Recycle Old Tires: Stairs

Driving a vehicle you know you have to change your tires every 2-3 years depending on how much distance you have been driving. Now what happens to the used tires? Here in the Amazonas region of Ecuador not so long ago they where just dumped into the biggest river … Also most of the tires now land on landfills or get burned. Which is absolutely not smart. Tires are a huge headache when it comes to waste management and recycling. Yet alone in the USA the problem of scrap tires is an estimated 300 million tires which are “disposed” of annually! It’s of  a worse issue for the so called 3rd world countries.

The ecological effects of tires can span a long time due to their slow decomposition, but they can be used in a great number of ways thanks to that the longevity of the material. There are various clever DIY ways that each of us can reuse and recycle them and save them from entering the environment or taking up space in our landfills.

Stairs

For our use at finca PermaTree we came up with one real simple and very practical use for the tires. We make stairs out of them. We have already used tires as main construction material for many 100 meters of outdoor paths on the property.

DO IT YOURSELF tire outdoor stair

It’s no rocket science. Very simple Do It Yourself work. First we dig a round and flat hole with the size of the tire. Then the tire is filled with soil and finally the soil is reinforced with some heavy duty tool like a big hammer so it really compacted and there is no air. Ready is the first step. Living on a hill we depend on good stairs to get from one place to another.

Video of the construction of another outdoor stair at finca PermaTree in Ecuador.

Erosion control

Another use we have found is for erosion control of a water damm.

tires_14257515_10153658133846627_1402813785483538588_o tires_15384462_10153888613586627_7018090095342970133_o tires_15391311_1193701637382525_5803979818333091423_o tires_15403596_1193701714049184_8791077925789126291_o tires_15774753_10153941249021627_7259203758072212293_o tires_img_20161222_060027

 

 

Shishi Odoshi

How To Make A Shishi Odoshi Fountain

Hands On Experience: How To Make A Shishi Odoshi Fountain In Your Garden or Home

Shishi Odoshi, ”Deer Scarer” in Japanese is a beautiful artcraft designed straight from bamboo and a bit of rope or string depending on what you prefer.

shishi-odoshi-fountain

 

How Does It Work?

  • During the rest period, the heavy end of the hammer is laying on the stone or concrete.
  • Water starts dropping from the faucet into the hammer and the light end fills up.  It thus becomes heavier forcing it to fall down and let the water out.
  • After the water has drains out, it returns to its original position making a loud noise on striking the stone or concrete.

shishiodishi

How To Make One

  • Select a site with firm soil to hold the shishi odoshi steadily for a long time.
  • Select the bamboo sticks to use (Better if they are strong and fine with no scratches).
  • Cut the surface of the hammer to give it a spear shape on one side as in the picture on the left.
  • Make another duplicate of the hammer. This one will be used as the faucet. Connect the water pipe to one end that is not sharpened and let the water flow through the other end when installing the fountain.
  • Also, cut through the supporting bamboo a rectangle. The length (depth) should be about 2.5 times that of the width to enable easy movement of the hammer. (You could decide to use two bamboos for the support and not have to cut through any of the bamboos.)
  • Drill through the supporting bamboo (or bamboos if you choose to use two), slightly above the middle. This allows for the lower part to be placed into the ground and still remain high above the ground.
  • Also drill through the hammer, slightly above the middle on the section of the spear headed side. This allows the unshaped end of the hammer to be longer and thus heavier than the other.
  • Paint the bamboo now with polish so it does not easily get eaten by wood insects and moistened during winter and rainy seasons.
  • Now, the different parts are ready to be assembled.
  • Dig the ground and place the supporting bar or bars. Then, pass a smaller bamboo stick, or metal rod through the drilled holes on the support and the hammer. The hammer should be in the middle of the two holes on the support bar or bars. The heavier end of the hammer should be lower and the sharpened end higher when in rest position after being assembled.
  • Now, place a rock just below the heavy end of the hammer. This way, it can make a crashing sound when the end is raised and returned to its original position as will be the case after it is filled with water.
  • Place the water outlet (faucet) on the opposite side of the hammer so that water dripping from the faucet falls directly into the hammer end. You could place the faucet on top of a bamboo table or support bar so it remains horizontal or diagonal.

Congratulations.. You just made yourself the first shishi Odoshi. Now you can help make others for family and friends, or even start a small scale project. The shishi-Odoshi will now work as aforementioned at the top of this article.

Uses Of A Shishi Odoshi Fountain.

  • Oxidises water in the pond or swimming pool
  • Scares away animals from the garden such as vultures and bears.
  • Meditation due to its continuous relaxing sound.
  • Adds beauty to your garden.
  • It reduces the velocity of water and thus prolonging the period between pond or swimming pool maintenance.

 

About Author: 

permatree-kitchenDigital Nomad, Bright Geofrey Kata is the founder of KataTimes.Com and WorldForPhotos.Com. He is also the co-founder of HeenasMessyKitchen an online blog that blends African and European cuisines. Follow him on his aforementioned blogs for updates on his world travels and more.

”We are all designers in our own ways. That’s why we can learn and adapt to almost everything” – Bright Geofrey Kata.

HowTo Make Raw Energy Bars

Making Raw Energy Bars & Why We Should Eat More Raw Foods

Today we would like to share a new recipe with you, which is very simple to make and does not require any baking or cooking. These raw energy bars are the perfect snack on the go, providing you with a combination of complex carbs, healthy fats and proteins. So let’s get started!

energybars

First thing you do is building the base made with

  • Rolled oats
  • Banana
  • Peanut Butter

Optional add-ins could be

  • Raw chocolate
  • Shredded coconut
  • Some walnuts
  • Raisins or other dried fruits
  • Raw cane sugar honey
  • Chia seeds, flax, sesame
    OR
  • whatever you have on hand! Feel free to get creative ☺

Now all you have to do is mash the bananas, mix it with the peanut butter (best thing is to use them ~ 1:1), and then add the dry ingredients until you reach a sticky consistency. This might take some time and some testing. Make the test by rolling the mixture into balls, then it should be ready to be used. Spread the mixture into a baking pan and flatten it. Leave it in the fridge overnight to make it stick together. The next day, take the pan out and cut the mixture into bars.

Enjoy!

raw energy bars DIY

 

Now, what does raw food mean exactly and how do we benefit from eating it? Technically, raw food means that it is not heated up above 48° C. Uncooked, unprocessed food, or let’s just say food, in its most natural state. Although there are several types of raw diets (like raw vegan, raw vegetarian, and even a raw meat diet), they all share the same idea: consuming aliments, which are “alive”, as heating food up above 48°C destroys many of its beneficial components like vitamins and nutrients. So, just to name a few of the main advantages of eating raw:

  • Heating up your food destroys its nutrients and natural enzymes. Enzymes support your digestive system and strengthen your immune system which is essential to fight chronic diseases. Eating raw food therefore helps with digestion, provides good skin appearance and prevents diseases like diabetes, heart attacks, etc.
  • Helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body as raw foods normally contain less saturated and trans fats than packaged and processed foods
  • Saving costs and energy: As no cooking is required, you save a lot of energy which also makes your wallet happy ?
  • Less packaging: main components of a raw food diet are vegetables, fruits and whole grains. You can find most of these on local markets, where they are not packaged, which means less plastic trash and therefore, less garbage. Just make sure to take enough bags with you, as sellers always try to put products into plastic bags (especially here in South America)!

One important thing when eating raw food is to make sure the products you buy and use are organic and of good quality. Sadly, fumigation and the use of huge amounts of pesticides and other chemicals is widespread in our modern world. Consuming contaminated aliments can damage your system and lead to serious illnesses. Don’t be one of those people who is senseless about what they eat and put into their bodies.

Start taking care of yourself, as health is the most important thing we have!

energybars

 

“By eating live foods you create a live body. Live foods contain essential nutrients the body needs to create and maintain energy. Dead foods speed age, decrease ability, and decrease energy … they are useless when dead…” quote Charles de Coti-Marsh

 

About Author: 

heenas-messy-kitchen-logo @ Verena Lippok

Verena Lippok is a passionate vegetarian food blogger, cat lover and world traveller. She is the co-founder of HeenasMessyKitchen.Com. Follow her creative works around healthy foods on Pinterest, instagram and her blog

”Everything you do to your body today affects your future life. So let us give some love to our bodies by living a healthy and fit lifestyle.” – Verena Lippok

Growing seeds in sustainably with origami paper pot

Here is a sustainable Do It Yourself way to plant seeds in paper bags instead of plastic bags!

We try to use as little plastic as possible and produce the less amount of plastic waste. This is why we have been trying to find smart ways to replace all the plastic “things” we are using to grow fruit trees from seeds.

When it comes to self-sufficiency, the ability to grow one’s own food isn’t just an asset—it’s a key pillar of a smart framework. Fruit and nut trees are invaluable additions to any food forest, and can add luscious variety and nutrition to your diet.

It’s cool to grow fruit tress and eat a lot of organic healthy fruits and vegetables but doing this without the use of plastic is way much cooler don’t you think? Read more

DIY Soap Making Natural From Scratch, Part 2

How to Make Lye out of Ashes

making-soap

img: www.naturalhandcraftedsoap.com

Before discussing how to make lye, it is important to note that lye is very dangerous and extreme caution should be used when making or handling lye – whether commercial or homemade. Lye should never come in contact with aluminum, as it will react with the metal. Lye can cause chemical burns if it comes into contact with skin, and blindness if it gets in your eyes.

There are numerous ways to make lye from wood ash. Some instructions suggest that you mix ash with hot water and let it set before filtering out the ash. Others will tell you to drill holes in the bottom of a barrel, cover with straw, and then fill with ash. Water is poured over the ash and lye is leached as the water filters through the barrel and is collected by a pan underneath the barrel. This works, but your lye is likely to be discolored by the straw. When lye reacts with lignin in the straw, the bonds are broken down and the fibers are left behind. After enough leaching, the remaining straw fibers work as an effective filter, but will no longer discolor the lye.

Regardless of the method used, the more times you run the lye solution through a bed of ashes, the stronger the lye will become. Instead of successive leaching, you can also boil the lye to strengthen it. The water will evaporate but the lye will not, so the solution will contain a higher percentage of lye.

One of the difficulties when making lye is determining proper strength. One traditional method of determining strength is to see if a chicken feather will start to dissolve when placed in the lye water. A more accurate measure is to float an egg (still in the shell) in the lye solution. If the lye is of proper strength, the egg will float but only a quarter sized circle of the egg will be raised out of the water. If it floats too high, the lye is too strong. If it doesn’t float high enough, then the lye is too weak. Discard the egg after testing; it is not safe to eat. Source

You need:

  • Ashes from wood (3/4 of your bucket)
  • Rain- or distilled water (fill your bucket up to the “top”)

Instructions:

  1. Make wood ashes. Your wood should be burned in a very hot fire to make very white ashes so the wood has to burned hot and complete. You can burn dried palm branches, dried out banana peels, cocoa pods, kapok tree wood, oak wood and other wood trees – no pine. Hardwood trees will result in better quality lye than if you use ash from soft woods or conifers.
  2. When the fire is out and cold, gather only the finest of ash. Avoid any wood chips.
  3. Place 3/4 of ashes in a bucket or barrel. Do not use metal. Use wood, glass, or plastic containers.
  4. Slowly, fill up the rest of your bucket with (boiled) rain water or a ”soft water” (distilled), because it does not have metallic or acidic chemicals in it which will interfere with the soap making chemistry. Do not add the water too fast, don’t allow the ashes swim/float around.
  5. Let this sit over night or even longer.
  6. Continue with separating the ash from the brown lye water, by using mesh to strain it very finely.
  7. Do the egg (fresh) test, if it sinks you have a weak lye water which means you need more ash to raise its strength. Do this by continuing the steps above by using more ash. Add the lye water to the new mix and again let it set over night. If the egg or a potato floats, then your lye water is ready. Be sure the egg doesn’t rise too high (less than half submerged) as this is an indication that the lye is to strong. Add soft water until the egg doesn’t float that high.

Source 1, Source 2

Alternate Instructions for Making Lye from “Rogueturtle”

  1. Fill your lye-making barrel or drum with ashes to within 10cm of the top.
  2. Boil 1/2 bucket of soft water (5 liters) and pour over the ashes.
  3. Slowly add more cold soft water until liquid drips out of the barrel.
  4. Close the tap or block the drain hole.
  5. Add more ashes to the barrel, adding water as needed to fill it up. Don’t let the ashes “swim” in the water.
    Source

A nice shown video about making lye. With the difference that ash and water are heated up together.

Preparing fats from animals
Cut away the fat without any of the meat still attached. 100% pure fat! This cleaning of fats is called rendering. Fat obtained from cattle is called tallow while fat obtained from pigs is called lard. Then, place the fat in a cast iron frying pan or a big pot.

Cook it on really low heat! Don’t burn the fat and also don’t overcook it so it becomes rancid. Let it fully render until it turns to liquid. Stir it from time to time. This may take about to 3-4 hours. When it’s done, there are these hard pieces left which are called crackles. They are quite hard so you can tell all the soft parts have now become liquid. Strain the liquid through a cheese cloth for purifying it and it is best to do so directly in to a glass container. If the fat cools down, it will get hard again but it can be melted up if needed. You can store the fat in glass containers for quite a few years in a dark and fresh room. You can also use the fat as a candle, with a wick in the middle. Source 1, Source 2

For more details of rendering and melting fat, watch this video.

Making Soap – Final

Too much lye will cause the soap to burn the skin! The lye mixture is added to heated fat. You can also use a lye calculator if you use different fats and Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) or Potassium Hydroxide (KOH). Source

How to video from “Mike Reed Outdoors”
4 gallons (15L) wood ashes (in a 5 gallon (19L) bucket)
2 gallons (7.6L) of hot water
1 pound (500g) of lard
3.04 oz (90ml) lye
6.67 oz (200ml) water

Saponification Calculator

To find the right measurement, depending on which fats or oils you use, the value of Potassium or Sodium has to be valued. SAP for Saponification and the value in milligrams of Potassium or Sodium means X ml Potassium or Sodium required to saponify 1g of fat. Source

For example with Coconut Oil
1g Coconut Oil needs 6 mg Sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
1g Coconut Oil needs 8 mg Potassium hydroxide (KOH)
You can find a whole list (US measurement) here
Or use an online calculator

Please let me know if you have experience with making soap out of lye and which measurements worked for your soap!

DIY Soap Making Natural From Scratch, Part 1

Control of Your Ingredients

soap_natural

img: www.fotolia.com

If you make your own soap, you have direct control of what kind of ingredients you like to have in it! In today’s commercial soap, there are many chemicals used, which causes skin irritation or even cancer! Industries find their way through, to make even more profit out of a cheap, chemical product which ends up in our drinking water, while we’re using it – running down the sink. As we know, water is essential for life, therefore – stop buying industrial soap!

So, to break it down, I was looking for a recipe on how to make soap from scratch. Even if I know that I could buy the ingredients right away, I was wondering what a recipe from our ancestors would look like. I found pretty interesting material and got excited about it! And now I would like to share it.

Two Main Ingredients for a Soap Base

redandoney_ingredients_soap

img: http://redandhoney.com

First, I want to tell you how to get a soap base. For that, we need two main ingredients which make soap out of a chemical reaction. You need these two main ingredients, otherwise you can’t make soap! One is fat (animal fats or vegetable oils) and two is an alkaline (Lye created from wood ash is potassium hydroxide (KOH) whereas commercial lye is composed of sodium hydroxide (NaOH)). Once these two are combined, you have a chemical reaction called saponification, which makes your soap base. Once those two are together, there is no more lye in it. But, you can’t make soap without lye! When you get a bar of soap there is no lye in it because the saponification has already taken place. It’s important to know that, because in the beginning I thought, there must be a way of making soap without lye, but actually – no! You can buy the finished soap base and melt it down for your own soap production. But for me, I’d like to do it all from scratch. Source

Soap in World War One

Fettlose_edeltonseife

img: www.seifen.at

I found an article about soap from World War One (Germany), when they replaced the fats with 90% clay and 10% white sand. “An alternative for soap“, they called it, to save raw resources back then. But as I mentioned above, without fats and lye there is no soap! And people realized, that this soap of clay must be a joke! 7 million kilos of clay were washed down to the water system, per month and the clay soap did not have any properties like normal soap. Source

A Brief History of Soap

The history of soap making goes back to the Sumerians (modern-day southern Iraq). They burned date palms or pine cones and out of the ashes, made lye and mixed it with oils to have soap. They also used this soap base as a remedy for injuries. Greeks and Egyptians adopted that recipe and refined it. For example, Egyptians added bicarbonate and also used it for skin problems. Back then, lack of hygiene was the main cause of skin irritation. In the first stage, Romans used soap only as a beauty product, for example only for their hair. Soap as we know it today, exists since the seventh century (period from 601 to 700).

Soap Spreads Through Europe

In 1791, Nicolas Leblanc, a French chemist, found out how to produce the chemical lye, which had previously been extracted laboriously from ashes. This milestone allowed people to produce soap more easily and in higher quantity. Sicily (Italy) was one of the first European places to do so and still today, you can find traditional small soap making factories, with soap made out of 90% extra virgin olive oil. After Genoa (Italy), followed by Marseille (France), they made potash with the dried plant species Salsola soda, in combination with olive oil. “Marseille soap”, with its characteristic cube shape was popular back then! They used it mostly for washing their clothes and for cleaning. In the process of the “Marseille soap”, they cooked the base ingredients for ten days. To remove backlog from the fat, they washed it out with the addition of salt. The basic substance was olive oil.The “Marseille soap” has been used for skin problems too and was even recommended to sleep with a sopa block if you are struggling from leg cramps at night. The use of salt in soap making gives the soap a hard shape in the end and you can even keep the soap stored longer. For the special “Savon noir” soap, they used glycerin, from the decocted soap base, and potash with olive oil, which is an old recipe from North Africa. Source

Glycerin

If we mix lye and fat together, the substance of glycerin will stay in the soap and this glycerin has a skin caring effect – therefore good for our skin. A basic recipe for making clear glycerin soap base here
Source

Careful, Lye is Acid! Can Burn Skin

Be carful when handling lye! It’s a very dangerous chemical that can burn skin on contact and is fatal if ingested. Cover work surface with newspaper. Always use gloves and safety goggles when handling lye, and wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself. Handle lye without disruption or children and animals around you! Have vinegar on hand in case lye spills or splashes occur.

The Soapwort

saponaria_officinalis

img: http://4.bp.blogspot.com

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis), was mostly used for washing delicate fabrics. It can be used as a very gentle soap, usually in a diluted solution. It has historically been used to clean delicate or unique textiles; it has been hypothesized that the plant was used to treat the Shroud of Turin. The plant has a toxic substance in the roots and contains levels of up to 20 percent when the plant is flowering. An overdose can cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. In excess, it destroys red blood cells and causes paralysis of the vasomotor center. It produces a lather when in contact with water. The plant grows in cool places at low or moderate elevations under hedgerows and along the shoulders of roadways.

The lathery liquid has the ability to dissolve fats or grease. It can be procured by boiling the leaves or roots in water. Take a large handful of leaves, bruise and chop them and boil for 30 minutes in 600ml of water; strain off the liquid and use this as you would washing-up liquid. In the Romanian village of Sieu-Odorhei, natives call the plant “Sǎpunele”. It is traditionally used by the villagers as a soap replacement for dry skin.

Despite its toxic potential, Saponaria officinalis finds culinary use as an emulsifier in the commercial preparation of tahini halva, and in brewing to create beer with a good “head”. In India, the rhizome is used as a galactagogue. In the Middle East, the root is often used as an additive in the process of making the popular sweet, halvah. The plant is called ‘irq al-ḥalāwah in Arabic, çöven in Turkish, and is utilized to stabilize the oils in the mixture or to create a distinctive texture of halvah.

Instruction for soapwort solution from “the herbgardener making”

  1. Add 2 cups soapwort leaves and stems (1 cup dried) to 1/4 (distilled or rain water) boiling water and cover the pan. For Shampoo just use 3 Tablespoons soapwort to 1 Cup of water.
  2. Continue simmering for 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and cool.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Include any additives, like lavender for washing fine handkerchiefs, lemon juice to lighten stains on fabric.
  6. You can keep the liquid up to a week in the refrigerator.

This can cause eye irritations. Better not to use it for shampooing your dog, just to exclude any lapping of the toxicity.
Source 1, Source 2

The hot process

The lye must be added to the water, not the other way around. Otherwise it can inadvertently cause a minor explosion. Next, the lye mixture is added to heated fat. The mixture is stirred for a while before adding any desired extras. The mixture is then stirred a bit more so everything is evenly distributed before being poured into molds.

The cold process

The cold process is very similar. The fat is heated, but the lye, water, and fat mixture is not heated. Some people claim that the cold process produces a soap that is softer on skin.

Both the cold and the hot process rely on lye. Many people have tried to find a way to make soap without using lye, but this is impossible. Even the soap in the melt and pour soap kits was processed with lye, although people using these kits do not have to handle the lye themselves. Children, beginners, and people who have a healthy fear of caustic chemicals are probably better off using the melt and pour method.
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