Wednesday, January 17, 2018

soap and cider

This fall, I'm working on two new skills. As I mentioned in the last post, we are having a huge apple year, and have already bottled one batch of cider, with a couple more planned as the next varieties ripen.

I am also trying to make soap the old fashioned way, with pig lard and wood ashes. Anyone who is familiar with the foxfire book series ( ) knows that early pioneers in the American wilderness had to make a lot of their day to day essentials, and making soap was one of those things that was cheaper than buying if it was even available.

Mix lye, water and any type of fat in the right proportions, and you can make soap. Most homemade soap these days is made with purchased lye and various vegetable oils or goat milk. I wanted to try the old school, no "store boughten" ingredients.

Here is my setup to leach lye out of the wood ashes I've been saving for a couple years.

In times past, they would have filled a hollow tree log, or made a wooden bin with a sloped collection trough underneath to catch the lye dripping out the bottom. Straw or some crude filtering material was used to keep the ashes in, but let the liquid drip past. While I used an old scrap piece of PVC pipe, I did use straw for the bottom filter media.

First, I sifted all the small bits of charcoal out of the ashes, then filled the pipe with ashes.

The last time we bought a pig from a neighbor ( We didn't butcher it, the local locker did. Maybe next time? ), I asked for the lard to be saved. Turns out there wasn't that much, but I rendered it out easily enough. Slow and easy is the trick.  Not sure if the pig was just lean, or the butcher didn't save as much as he could have.

On the cider side of things, our cider making turned out well this fall. I actually followed a recipe. For a 5 gallon batch, I first killed the wild yeast with Campden tablets, then used purchased champagne yeast and then a lot of brown sugar. Ending alcohol content was around 4.5%, but the taste was tart, dry, and had a clean aftertaste.

Here was one batch during fermentation.

We used cleaned and sanitized beer bottles we had been saving, and capped with a simple capper.

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