It was my first year working in the North Shore School District Science department and the last day of school in June. Working a summer calendar was new to me. I had the whole summer off and I was excited about how I was going to spend it. I was going to make my first soap.
On my way home from work I stopped at the Bethpage Library, my favorite place to be before I had my soap studio. I made my first soap in 1999, before YouTube existed and Google was a common word. The only way for me to learn soap making was to read a book. The library had a copy of “The Complete Soapmaker” by Norma Coney, and it was now mine for a month.
I read the book thoroughly and made a list of what I’d need to get. I thought the hardest part would be finding the lye, but I was wrong. Since I had decided my first soap would Norma’s “Homesteader’s soap”, I needed to find enough beef fat to boil down to 106 ounces of tallow. I went to many butchers and grocery stores before I finally found a female butcher who would save me the fat I needed for the promise of some of the soap from my first batch.
To render the fat into tallow I had to cut it into small pieces and boil it down. The tallow is the oil that rises to the top. Every day I boiled that pot and every evening I put it into the refrigerator. In the morning I’d scoop off the tallow and start again.
After about a week I had enough tallow to make my first soap. I suited up with goggles and gloves, carefully mixed the lye with the water, measured temperatures, and poured the lye water into the melted tallow. I stirred by hand for about a half hour with a wooden spoon, looking to see if the solution was mixed enough. Stepping away, I washed some dishes and went back to stirring. Another 30 minutes passed and I put down the spoon and did another chore. This went on for about 4 hours. I finally decided to say a prayer it was ready and poured it in my mold. Norma said to keep the soap warm, so I wrapped the mold in a blanket and put it in a cooler with a cover.
I’ve never forgotten that magical moment and the feeling when I opened the cooler and saw the soap I created. Now I use a stick blender instead of a wooden spoon, and oils and butters instead of tallow. I have multiple molds and curing racks and a soap visor instead of goggles. I have customers who love my soap. Every time I take the top off a mold, my heart sings a song and I smile. I’m grateful I still feel that way because that’s what keeps me going on this soap making adventure.
In case you’re wondering, I do have a few bars of 20 year old soap from that first batch.
What are you grateful for this week?
Yours in Gratitude,
Emily Palermo says
Thank you for sharing about your first soap. I’m impressed about the tallow and the lye. I’m so glad You stuck with it because we have reaped the benefit.
May you continue to enjoy many more years of soap making and may you be as thrilled at the end product as you were at your very first
Angela Carillo says
Thank you Emy, I’m so happy you like my soap!