My original plan for this week was to make the soap I call “Hint of Mint” which is made with mint leaves infused into the water as the liquid, and mint leaves imbedded in the bars as well. This all changed when I announced to my husband “I’m going to make soap tomorrow”. As I mentioned this to him he was in the midst of moving a hops vine that had been hanging and drying in our backroom for several months. “You could make hops soap” he said.
I began pulling the dried flowers or seed cones off the vine, I crushed some up on a plate, I smelled them and I said “why not?”. I decided to infuse the hops into the liquid that I would use to make the soap, so I heated some water and put the crushed hops flowers in it. I let them infuse overnight.
I then went to the internet to do a little research. I really didn’t know anything about hops except that they are used to make beer. I found many articles such as this one, http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/surprising-benefits-of-hops-for-skin-hair-and-health/#gref that tell of the potential health benefits of hops. I found that hops are being used therapeutically in the forms of tea, tinctures and essential oils. They are also added to skin and hair care products. I felt good about this experiment.
Before making the soap the next morning I strained the hops flowers from the liquid and set them aside in case I decided to put some in the soap. The hops infused water was bright yellow and smelled like hops. While I was pretty certain the scent would fade away, I thought this liquid would give the soap a yellowish color.
I occasionally have people tell me that they are allergic to specific ingredients in soap, and I like to be able to offer alternatives, so for this soap I decided to leave out the olive oil. I decided to use coconut oil, sunflower oil and tallow. With that in mind I went to this soap calculator, one of my favorite online tools http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp to formulate my recipe. To use the soap calculator I enter the amount of each oil or fat that I want to use and the calculator will tell me the correct amount of liquid and lye that I need to use. It will also give me an idea of how my soap will turn out, using a numeric scale to rate the degrees of hardness, cleansing, conditioning, bubbliness, and creaminess the soap will have. I adjust the amounts of each oil/fat until I am satisfied that the soap will have sufficient amounts of each of these properties. I really do love this soap calculator; it has allowed me to successfully formulate all of my own soap recipes. It is a free online tool and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to create their own soap recipes.
It was no surprise that when I added the lye to the liquid the smell of hops was no longer present. I was, however, surprised when I added the lye liquid to the oils that the yellow color also disappeared. The soap turned white. I decided to add some of the hops petals to one tray (half the batch). I didn’t want to over do it, a lesson I learned from making soap with clover blossoms in it (too many blossoms make a big mess in the shower). I thought maybe I could just have some on the top layer of each bar. Since the soap gets poured into the bottom of the mold I put a layer of petals down before putting in the soap. Even though I tried carefully spooning the soap onto the petals they still floated up into the soap. Oh well you can’t win ’em all.
After two days in the mold the soap came out easily.
These are a hard bars of soap evidenced by the way the edges cracked when I cut them into bars. In about six weeks we will test this soap and discover what else we like or don’t like about it. I keep you posted.