Lather Up!

Learn the art and science of traditional soap making at a workshop led by Megan Bre Camp.

Join Megan Bre Camp, founder of Summer Sequoia Tallow, and learn to make traditional soaps from local, grassfed beef tallow, extra virgin olive oil, and organic essential oils. Through her business, Megan offers an artisanal line of organic tallow balms, soaps, and candles handcrafted in Oakland. The class is at Three Stone Hearth, where Megan was previously a cook and kitchen manager. Come learn to make high-quality cold process soaps, and decorate them with herbs or flowers. Take home three different soaps: lavender and sea salt, coffee or activated charcoal, and calendula and white fir. Cost: $65. Info and registration: here

Traditional Soap Making
Saturday December 2, 10–11:30am
Three Stone Hearth
1581 University Ave, Berkeley

Traditional handmade soap can be made at home, but it’s an exacting process that requires good measuring equipment, which is set in grams. It’s a craft that’s best learned from a pro like Megan Bre Camp. We share her recipe here so you can get started learning about the process.

Slow Body Care with Summer Sequoia Tallow: Cold Process Soap Making

The cold process method of mixing fatty acids and lye (sodium hydroxide) together is the most popular soap making process today. The fatty acids can be almost any oil, but I use organic and pasture-raised beef tallow from local family-owned farms.

This method combines art and science: To produce a soap that is mild and skin friendly, cold process requires exact measurements of lye and fat mixed at an appropriate temperature. When mixed properly, a chemical reaction called saponification occurs, during which the oils and lye get emulsified and become what we call soap.

Soap makers who use the cold process method to manufacture soap first look for the saponification value of the fats being used on a saponification chart. This value is then used to calculate the appropriate amount of lye. If there is excess unreacted lye in the soap, it will result in a very high pH and can burn or irritate the skin. If there is not enough lye, the fats will not fully transform and your soap will be greasy.

After the lye and fat have been properly mixed, pour the mixture into molds and keep in a warm, dry place for 24 hours. After that amount of time, your soap can be un-molded, set on a flat surface, and stored in a cool, dry place to properly cure. The cold process method takes approximately 4–8 weeks to complete.

Soap produced by the cold process method has a hard, long-lasting quality. Depending on the oils used, and the balance of fat to lye, the soap can be incredibly mild and very moisturizing.

Yields 42.2 ounces / 1196 grams

700 grams rendered and melted grass-fed beef tallow
200 grams extra-virgin California olive oil
117 grams lye (sodium hydroxide)
297 grams distilled water or rainwater
20 drops essential oil

Apron and protective, long-sleeved shirt and long pants
Protective gloves
Protective eyewear
Protective face mask
Cold water (for any spills)
Heat resistant spatulas designated for soap
Soap making thermometer or temperature gun
Glass measuring cup for dry lye (sodium hydroxide)
1 heat-proof glass bowl for lye/water mixture
1 bowl for ice water to cool lye/water mixture
Food grade container for melted tallow
Food grade container for immersion blending
Immersion blender
Tray for molds
Soap molds
Organic essential oil(s)

Work in a well-ventilated area away from pets, children, and food. Put on apron, gloves, mask, and protective eyewear. Organize all equipment and ingredients for easy use.

Melt tallow and pour into designated food-grade container for blending. Add olive oil to the tallow and allow to cool to a temperature of 130°. Make an ice bath in designated water bath bowl.

Measure out dry lye and distilled water. Pour dry lye into distilled water. A chemical reaction will occur, which produces caustic fumes and generates a significant amount of heat. Use caution and keep away from face. Stir mixture until dissolved, then cool to about 110–120° in an ice bath.

Double check the temperatures of fat/olive oil mixture and lye, making sure your fats and water/lye mixture are within 10–15°F of each other. Once they are at the appropriate temperatures, pour the lye/water mixture into the fat. Place your immersion blender directly on the bottom of the container and slowly start immersion blending to emulsify the fat and lye mixture and start the saponification process.

Add essential oils, herbs, etc., as desired and do one last blend until “trace” or a pudding-like consistency is achieved (anywhere from about 10–20 minutes of nonstop immersion blending). Quickly pour into soap molds. Tap molds down on table if needed to level the soap. Allow soap to harden in mold for 24 hours.

Clean your area thoroughly, and keep lye in a safe area away from children and pets. Un-mold soap, cover with cloth, and put on a tray to cure for 4–8 weeks in a cool, dark, well-ventilated, and dry place. After a minimum of 4 weeks, you can test your soap on your skin.

Happy soaping!

Photos: Paige Green.