Making Goat Milk Soap
By Tracy Houpt
I thoroughly enjoy making goat milk soap. There’s something satisfying about being involved in the process from start to finish; I milk the goat, freeze the milk, make the soap, package it, and sell it to people who discover, as I have, that goat milk soap (GMS) is one of life’s little-known pleasures. When fully cured, GMS is moisturizing and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s nice to hear that many people who try it, like it. It’s also gratifying when people who have trouble with other soaps report that it is kind to their skin.
I made my first batch of GMS because I needed to find uses for the daily gift of milk from our dairy goat. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I do! Goat milk contains several vitamins, proteins and beneficial acids, and its pH is close to that of human skin. When added to soap, those elements nourish and moisturize.
I’ve tried a few GMS recipes the past few months, and I got lucky with the first one I found. It uses lard, coconut oil and olive oil. For people who are vegetarian, palm oil can be substituted ounce for ounce for lard. I’ve also used a vegetable shortening recipe with success, and it produces a very creamy lather.
This post is not intended to teach anyone how to make soap. There are many books and Internet resources for that, and it’s a great idea to take a class from an experienced soaper, if you can. I took a three-hour class from a local man before I tried my first batch. He didn’t use milk, but watching the basic process first-hand was an invaluable boost to my confidence.
Cold process (CP) soap is made by combining oils with a solution of lye dissolved in liquid, and any desired fragrances, colorants or other ingredients are added. It’s a magical thing to bring together the two mixtures and get such a gentle and useful result. The lye saponifies the oils, thus yielding soap. (That word has been known to impress people.) Properly made, no free-floating lye remains.
In the old days, people made lye by mixing wood ashes with water, and I imagine results were less than consistent. Today, commercial lye and careful weighing of ingredients can yield reliable results. It’s also important to use fresh oils. I used old olive oil from the cupboard in my first batch, and the bars developed “DOS,” which stands for “dreaded orange spots.” Not dangerous, but also not very pretty.
The last step in making CP soap is to let it rest, or cure, for four to six weeks. This allows excess moisture to evaporate. This makes a harder and longer-lasting bar, and it also ensures that the pH has moderated to an appropriate level. It’s tempting to cut that process short, but don’t. (One reason to wait is that your soap curing area will smell heavenly while you wait for the finished product.) It’s also a good idea to use a small piece yourself before giving or selling it to others, to make sure it feels right. Uncured soap can be drying at best, and caustic in the worst case.
For fragrances, the options are essential oils (EOs) and fragrance oils (FOs). EOs are natural, because they are distilled from plant parts. FOs are synthetic, so there are many available at reasonable prices. I prefer EOs, although I couldn’t resist trying a vanilla FO and one that smells like oatmeal and honey. The scents are very nice. The downside I’ve found to FOs is that some of them make the soap thicken quickly. That makes it challenging to get the soap batter into the molds easily. EOs are much more predictable, in my experience, and allow me plenty of time to pour the batter easily into the molds.
A family-owned grocery store in our town, Baeslers, likes to carry local products. They recently began stocking Goat Haute Soap. We had a table there one Saturday to promote it. Much of it is cream-colored, and Mr. Baesler kept stopping by to say that it looked like delicious fudge! Hmmm, a fudge and soap business … but I digress. So far it’s selling well. I also take direct orders, and have set some modest production and sales goals for the holiday season.
It’s gratifying to use a resource from our little farm and turn it into something beautiful, useful and profitable. And, it’s just good clean fun! (I couldn’t resist … )
For more information about Goat Haute Soap, contact Tracy at email@example.com.
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