Granny's lye soap redux

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Arthur Dent

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I have been talking to some of my aunts and cousins, and have discovered that my grandmothers on both sides of the family both made lye soap, something I never knew as I was a somewhat late addition to the family. We have all been digging through boxes looking for the recipes, but it looks like they were never written down, or if they were they have been lost. The upshot of all this is that now some of the aunts and cousins want me to make them some "lye soap". I know it won't be quite the same as grandma's, since I'll be doing standard CP versus the old fashioned cooked soap, but it's more for the nostalgia factor than anything else.
I'll be using 100% lard, either Armour or SnowCap, possibly a combination of the two.
My question is, what sf should I use? I intend this to be a body bar rather than a laundry bar. With my 80% lard bars I have been using 7% sf with no dos problems in nine month old bars. The aunts are in their 70's and 80's, I'm thinking that they might appreciate the higher sf over a lower sf that might be more authentic to the old fashioned soap. Does that make sense, or am I over-thinking this?
 

Obsidian

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I've made 100% lard soap with 10% SF and it never went rancid, I have dropped it down to 5% though and its still nice. I use armour brand, snow cap smells too piggy for my liking.
 

Arthur Dent

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snow cap smells too piggy for my liking.
Oh rats! Thanks for mentioning that! I thought I had read that SnowCap was as clean smelling as the Armour so I bought some last week since it was on sale. I guess I'll save it for something that will get scented.
 

lenarenee

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The amount of scent from the Armour or Snowcap is really only the luck of the draw. Either brand can have zero scent, mild scent, or atrocious scent. (I threw the atrocious one out) I've had them all. It depends on the hogs that were processed, their diet, age, percentage of lard from specific areas of the hog, etc. (This info comes from Fannie and Flo, lard processors extraordinaire)
 

Susie

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I agree with lenarenee. Odor is a random event for each tub of lard. I've had each reek on me, and each have been odorless. The only benefit of one over the other is that the Snow Cap does not have an inner lid. So you can check it.

Aurthur- I would do a 5% SF with 100% lard. It is going to be so rich and creamy that you should not need a higher SF. I would, however, think strongly of a 95% lard with 5% Castor Oil and add 15 g sugar PPO to boost those bubbles. There is no real benefit, IMHO to making a soap that does not take advantage of what we have learned since then.
 

FannieFinch

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Arthur Dent; I know it won't be quite the same as grandma's[/QUOTE said:
And that's not necessarily a bad thing!
We saved old cooking grease for soap making. Whatever accumulated in the grease can was made into soap - pork, beef, bacon, chicken etc. No one I knew had a "recipe" written down, as the amount of lye needed would depend on the fat you happened to have as well as your water (the water used to make the soap, and the water you use the soap to wash with). If you have rustier water the amount will be different than if you use the rainbarrel water. Some batches came out nice and sudzy while others could peel the bark off trees. And you never share soap! What your neighbor makes may clean no better than a bar of wax or strip off a few layers of skin if your home water is much different.
 
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topofmurrayhill

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And that's not necessarily a bad thing!
We saved old cooking grease for soap making. Whatever accumulated in the grease can was made into soap - pork, beef, bacon, chicken etc. No one I knew had a "recipe" written down, as the amount of lye needed would depend on the fat you happened to have as well as your water (the water used to make the soap, and the water you use the soap to wash with). If you have rustier water the amount will be different than if you use the rainbarrel water. Some batches came out nice and sudzy while others could peel the bark off trees. And you never share soap! What your neighbor makes may clean no better than a bar of wax or strip off a few layers of skin if your home water is much different.
Good to see you here. :)
 

Ruthie

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I'd vote for the 7% at least. I don't go lower unless I'm making laundry soap. But maybe that is because I have that "older" skin. As for the piggy smell, I'd go for it anyway. As FannieFitch said, so did my grandma. The fats were all saved together and sometimes the finished soap had a definite "smell." So that may make it even more like grandma's.
 

Arthur Dent

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Lots of great information here, thanks.
I have considered giving the aunts some of my 80% lard bars and calling it good because it is a really great soap, but that itch in the back of my head will never go away until I go "whole hog".
(I have been waiting for a chance to say that!) Susie has a good point though, I'll use 5% Castor and the sugar, might as well give it a little help since we can. I can live with "95% hog" :mrgreen:.
As far as the smell, I guess I have been lucky so far with the Armour, have never gotten a stinky tub yet. I used a tub of Field lard once and it was very smelly, and made smelly soap. I swore off Field brand ever since, perhaps unfairly. Looks like I got lucky with the Snow Cap, all four one pound boxes smell pretty much like the little dab of Armour that I have left.
My maternal grandmother was a great cook but never wrote anything down, and unfortunately none of the aunts bothered to learn how to cook things her way. Over the last couple of decades we have all tried in vain to reproduce her dinner rolls, none of us can quite get it right. On the other hand, when my parents got married my mother spent a lot of time with my dad's mother learning how she cooked so she could cook for my dad. She was very detail oriented, and wrote everything down, her notebooks are priceless to us now. Too bad she never learned to make the soap, it would be fun to know how they did it though I take the point that the results were variable based on the fats, water, etc.
 
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penelopejane

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A friend's dedicated son is writing down his grandmothers recipes. As she cooks she throws in "a pinch" of spice. He has to be there, make her put it in a bowl, measure it, write it down and continue on.

They're Indian and the food is to die for and amazingly reproducible with the "a pinch" and taste method. Can't wait for the recipe book!
 

Susie

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I wrote down many of my grandmother's recipes exactly that way. Stop her hand, scoop it out, write it down, then repeat.

Arthur, you have my sympathies on trying to replicate rolls. I struggled for several years to try to replicate my grandmother's rolls. I finally found a recipe that is amazingly close. It is actually a french bread recipe. Which rather makes sense, since my grandmother is Cajun.
 

lenarenee

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A friend's dedicated son is writing down his grandmothers recipes. As she cooks she throws in "a pinch" of spice. He has to be there, make her put it in a bowl, measure it, write it down and continue on.

They're Indian and the food is to die for and amazingly reproducible with the "a pinch" and taste method. Can't wait for the recipe book!
I heard an Indian chef speak about how their culture seasons their food by smell, never by tasting?
 

dibbles

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My Grandmother cooked the same way. When asked to write her recipes down, she would. They included 'a pinch', 'a dab', 'until it looks right', 'until it feels right', etc. Uffda! My mom and aunts did learn how to make her lefse though, so I can make that like Grandma did.
 

Arthur Dent

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One of the aunts declared success a few years ago, but when I tried her rolls they just didn't match what I remembered. I'm sure that some of what's missing is grandma's kitchen and everything that went with it.
 

MySoapyHeart

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My Grandmother cooked the same way. When asked to write her recipes down, she would. They included 'a pinch', 'a dab', 'until it looks right', 'until it feels right', etc. Uffda! My mom and aunts did learn how to make her lefse though, so I can make that like Grandma did.

Lol, it was so fun to see you use the words 'uffda' and 'lefse' in a scentence. I am very familiar with those terms, haha : )

Great, now I want a piece of lefse... Nam nam! (you know that one?)
 

Arimara

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The only recipe I saved was the recipe for my grandma's fruitcake. Other than that, I'm trying to learn to make biscuits. My mom never passed that down. I can make cornbread easy peasy but biscuits are a mystery. You just can't have biscuits and gravy with crappy biscuits. :(
 

galaxyMLP

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On the subject of passed down recipes, I have been trying for at least 6 months now to get my Abuela to give me the secrets of her Cuban cooking. She also does the "pinch, dash" explanations except that trying to translate from Spanish back to English became nearly impossible.

During my visit to see my family for Mother's Day, I was asking my great aunt (same age as my Abuela) for recipes and she was quite a bit more helpful and gave me actual amounts to go by like "10 cloves of garlic for 2 lbs of beans" and "1 teaspoon of sugar". But then I would ask her for other things and she would say "that's to taste" and "hmm, I don't know, maybe 2/3 cup?" After about 20 minutes and me trying to get everything that she says down, she says "you know, I have a cookbook with a bunch of Cuban recipes".

Dear lord lady! You had a cookbook and the entire family didn't know about it?! Turns out this book is written by a woman who is considered "the Julia Child of Cuban cooking". If there was such a thing. Her name is Nitza Villapol. My mom and I tried to find the book online but we only found used copies for over $250!

Thankfully, she said I could come by her house and take pictures! So I did that. I'm making a cookbook (for my family) that compiles the recipes from that book and also includes my take on our families versions of those with actual amounts of everything. No one knew she had this book. We've been trying to get family recipes (or something close) for years. Of course, now her granddaughter has claimed it...

Im sure you'll be able to get something wonderful with your lard soap even if it's not the exact recipe your grandma used. I like the idea of the 95% lard, 5% castor and sugar. I've made 100% lard soap though and it's actually quite nice though so if you decide to go that route I don't see anything wrong with that either!
 

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