Savon de Castille

Ok, so we are socially distancing, wearing masks, and washing (always washing) our hands to keep COVID-19 at bay. Last Christmas was... odd, and with all these COVID precautions, we didn't get to Montreal to visit with Terry's family. But, I sent soap (of course I did). The easiest soap to make, the one I began with, was "Savon de Castille", the same Castille soap I started with last summer.

There's not much to tell about this soap: it cleans and conditions, and does not take a lot of materials or effort to make. It takes about an hour elapsed (15 minutes of work, 45 minutes of wait), some glass containers, a kitchen scale (weighing in grams), a stick blender, a couple of silicone spatulas, some distilled water, some Olive Oil, and some Lye.

To make Savon de Castille, you first disolve Sodium Hydroxide lye in distilled water; for one litre of soap, I used 118 grams of lye and 176 grams of water. As lye can burn skin, you have to take precautions like wearing eye protection and rubber gloves, but the preparation is simple. You just stir the lye into the water with a silicone spatula, gently and thoroughly mixing it until all the lye disolves. Set this aside in a well-ventilated area to cool; we want it to reach room temperature (or thereabouts) before we add it to the oil.

As for the oil, we pour, into a glass container, 895 grams of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about 1 litre's worth), and let it sit until the lye water cools. When the lye water is ready, we gently pour the lye water into the oil and use a stick blender to blend the mixture thoroughly. The oil goes through a colour change (from clear green to whiteish), and very slowly thickens to "trace" (that's the point at where the mixture is thick enough to allow you to trace a pattern in the top with the drippings from the blender). With a light trace, the soap batter resembles the consistancy of light cream.

At this point, you pour the mixture into whatever mould you intend to use, wrap it with towels or a blanket to insulate it, and put it aside in a quiet, room-temperature place for 24 hours to harden. As for the mould, you can use anything that will hold more than a litre, and will be easy to empty. I made my first batch in a silicone muffin mould, but later hacked together a simple rectangular box for my gift "Savon de Castille" soaps. Just remember that the soap will harden, and you have to get it out of the mould, so pick something that makes the soap accessable.

After that 24 hour wait, the lye will have converted enough of the oil to soap (this is called "saponification") that the resulting batter will now have the consistancy of a mild brick cheese and be hard enough to remove from the mould.

You want to release this raw soap from the mould, cut it into bars (or other convenient sizes and shapes), and let it continue to saponify and dry. I cut my rectangular block of soap into 5cm x 10cm x 2cm bars, and let them air dry (again in a quiet, room-temperature environment) for about four weeks.

After that, the soap bars are ready to gift-wrap and use.

PDF icon My recipe for Castille soap26.27 KB