Friday, April 10, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men . . .




I like making soap, and only use soap that I make (with the occasional emergency fill-in from an old friend - thanks for the goat milk soap Dawn!).   Ever since I moved out here, I started to form ideas about what a batch of Unalaska Soap would be like.   I made other batches out here - the Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookie came out especially nice - but I was always thinking in the back of my mind about  would make the perfect soap that summed up the island.

This week all the planets finally aligned and I decided to knock out a couple different batches, the first one being an attempt at this mythical Unalaska bar.  I had gathered seaweed along the beaches and ground it fine after careful cleaning and drying.  I had decided on three scents that gave it a sort of Irish Springy-type scent with a splash of patchouli.  I knew I wanted a marbled look, and I wanted the colors of the sea.

The batch was a disaster from the start - without using a lot of soap making jargon, I got over excited (I was finally making my dream batch!) and mixed the oils with the lye solution at the high end of the acceptable temperature range I like to work in so the soap came to a light trace very quickly and then started setting up.  Despite Goldfish's help, all the extra hands in the world were not going to get the colors and scents incorporated then mixed together in time.  We did our best and crossed our fingers, covering and insulating the batch.

This being most decidedly a MAN soap, it was VERY disconcerting to uncover the batch the next day and see nothing but PINK.  Now soap making is half science and half art, so the unexpected does and will occur but PINK?  REALLY??  In the second photo showing the cross section of a cut bar you can see the pink was just a thin rind covering the top of the soap, but I didn't KNOW that until I sliced it . . . . . 

Anyways, I thought this made some cool looking soap, and I was really happy with how the seaweed looked, but there is massive room for improvement, so the quest for the perfect island soap continues . . . . ironically, the second batch, a lovely green colored by spinach powder, came out great because I was relaxed, did a little Wii hula hooping with Goldfish while the oils and lye cooled, and didn't try to get too creative with the scent combinations.  I'll post photos of that batch when I cut it tomorrow . . . . cheers and have a great night!

14 comments:

Suzassippi said...

Thanks for the soap post, Steve. It looks great. Love the seaweed exfoliant. That temperature thing is touchy, isn't it?

Once we did a batch of lavender and had a similar color change--once sliced it was different inside. The worst is when you open your box and see that white crust and it crumbles. :( That happened to my first batch in Mississippi when I did not have Diana's hands any more. Maybe one of these days I will take it up again.

Gigi said...

I am just impressed that you make soap at all, and it looks fabulous to me! I love the idea of incorporating seaweed, and patchouli is one of my favorite scents, old hippie girl that I am. :) Just a little bit of pink helps your manly men to incorporate their feminine side, right?! Funny that when we relax and let go, things turn out...another little life lesson we humans have trouble with sometimes. (PS Wii hula hooping sounds like a blast!)

unalaska said...

Wow, Steve. Manly soap. I love the fact that you take the time to make your own soap. Me too. I make an Unalaska Sweet Grass soap. It is divine.

Alaska Steve said...

Suz, if you come out in August we'll make a batch - I know about the dreaded white crust from past batches but with this oil mix and lye ratio I use these days it doesn't seem to be an issue. Laying a sheet of wax paper right on the surface of the soap before insulating it is supposed to help with that as well. My soap is superfatted - there is enough oil to react with the lye with a little left over - so that might help. I don't use the grapefruit seed extract as a preservative like some people do with superfatted soaps because I don't store it long term, using it or giving it away within 6 months.

Gigi, it is a blast, believe it or not we first heard about it from one of our crab boat captains!

And Unalaska, first of all, I'm not surprised you make soap, and second of all I now know what the perfect Unalaska soap is like - you make it. But the quest continues for a manly version! :o)

Gigi said...

Okay, I think we need a Sharon and Steve class on Unalaska soap making. When Susan's here, we can add the Texas/Mississippi flair. I need to learn. :)

That is hilarious about the boat captain and wii hula hooping. Let's see THAT on The Deadliest Catch!

Suzassippi said...

Barring a miracle, it doesn't look like I will make it in August now, but I will take a raincheck on soap making. My recipe calls for coconut oil, olive oil, and vegetable shortening--Crisco is what I use. I would love to see Sharon's Sweet Grass soap, too.

cookie dough said...

I want to take a soap making class with AK Steve, Sharon & Suz!!! I know my co-worker makes it from Seal Oil...adding many different scents. That's quite Unalaskan, she hasn't dried and added ingredients that she's gathered, that I know of.

Elizabeth Douglas said...

Steve, I think that's a beautiful soap! I love the colors! I think it's great that you practice soap making. I'm just imagining the wonderful smells of it. You could have so many different Unalaska soaps, "Strawberry Hill", "Priest Rock Patchouli", even a "Dutch Harbor Dirt" for CB! LOL! ;) Of course, I'm all about the punny names. I can't wait to see what else you come up with!

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

First, by way of the photographs, I thought it was cake.

Then I thought it was the foam which backs carpets.

But soap? I wasn't prepared for that!

BZ

Carlisleboy said...

I like the pink. It reminds me of all the beautiful Sunrises we have out here. I think it really is perfect for Unalaska soap.
(If you NEED for it to be "man-ly" just call the color "fresh Caught Salmon"

purrduedvm said...

Yep...my mind went right to dessert too...:) I'm impressed too though..I have a friend that makes soaps with her mom - all sorts of neat varieties. I'm sure you'll get it just the way you want!

Frosted Flakes said...

I love the soap that's my type of colors. :)

Alaska Steve said...

CB - Fresh Caught Salmon - yup, it's all in the marketing, that works better!

mge said...

It might sound a bit weird, but looking at that soap made me hungry :P

I don't know why but it looks tasty.