Posted on 4 Comments

How to infuse oils with herbs and flowers

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 1 jar

IMG_3994
Chamomile infused oil

Infused oils are very versatile and useful. Depending on the herbs and flowers you have used, you can use them in your cooking, as a skin oil, for massage or you can add them to
your balms and lotions. Some of my favourite infused oils are rosemary and garlic infused olive oil, which I use for everything from cooking steak to adding to roast vegetables; calendula and chamomile infused oils to use in balms and lotions (excellent for sensitive skin or baby skin); rose oil made from the petals collected from my own rose bushes (I usually leave some petals in the oil for decoration); and lavender oil as a massage oil or for use in solid lotion bars.

What I do recommend is to use only dried herbs and flowers. Fresh flowers and herbs can cause mould to grow in your oil and it’s easy to prevent that from happening by using dried herbs and flowers. So why risk it?

IMG_3992

Fill a clean, dry jar with dried herbs and/or flowers. Make sure the jar is completely dry, you don’t want mould growing! Fill the jar with oil to completely cover the herbs. My favourite oils to use are sunflower for my balms and lotions, and olive oil for my kitchen oil, but any kind of vegetable oil will work.


Tap the jar gently on the kitchen bench a couple of times to get rid of any air pockets. Then put the lid back on the jar and keep it in a sunny place for a couple of weeks or more. I have my jars on my windowsill where the morning sun can gently warm them up each day. Give the jar a little shake every other day or so.


After 2-4 weeks it’s time to strain the oil. Place a coffee filter in a funnel on top of a bowl or jug. Carefully pour the oil and herbs concoction into the filter. Make sure it’s in a stable set up, you don’t want it to tilt or fall over when it’s filled with oil. If you don’t have a coffee filter, you can also use a cheese cloth or muslin cloth.

IMG_3993

Once you’ve strained the oil, it is ready for use. It will keep for up to 6 months, if stored in a dark coloured bottle out of direct sunlight.

Herb or Flower Infused Oil

  • Difficulty: beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • dried flowers or herbs of your choice
  • 1 jar with lid
  • vegetable oil (enough to fill the jar)

Directions

  1. Fill a clean, dry jar with dried herbs and/or flowers.
  2. Pour the oil in the jar until it completely covers the herbs or flowers.
  3. Tap the jar gently on the bench a few times to get rid of any air pockets.
  4. Place the lid on the jar and keep it in a sunny place for 2-4 weeks.
  5. Strain the oil through a coffee filter, cheese cloth or muslin cloth.
  6. Pour the oil in a dark, coloured bottle. It will keep for up to 6 months.

Where you can get your supplies from

  • dried herbs and flowers: garden, Pure Nature
  • vegetable oils: supermarket
  • jars: supermarket, Warehouse
Posted on Leave a comment

Which soap molds can I use?

IMG_3926

First off, I know I’m spelling soap molds wrong. I’m spelling it the American way, because I don’t like ‘mould’ in, on, around or to describe any of my products. Mould is icky, which  I try to avoid at all cost. So if I ever do write mould, then you know that I really mean the stuff that is unwanted. In the meantime, mold equates to something good, like soap molds. Yes, I know, I’m weird that way sometimes!

So let’s get back to the soap molds. When you make soap you need to take in account the technique you’re using. For example, raw cold process soap has a high pH and the chemical process can make the soap reach a very hot temperature. Also you need to be able to remove the soap, so the soap needs to be a bit flexible. For these reasons, you need to keep clear of any metal or glass molds when using the cold process technique.

On the other hand, if you are using a melt and pour base, you don’t have to be as careful. Glass is still not recommended, because glass is solid and doesn’t give way, which makes it difficult to remove the soap. Small metal molds, for example the ones they used to use in baking, can be used. Just gently tap the mold on the table and it should slide out. If a soap does get stuck in a mold, you can pop the soap in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes and  it should come out easy after that.

The best molds to use are made of plastic or silicon. In recent years, silicon has seen a popularity boost both cooking and crafts, and they have come down in price considerably. They’re also available in all shapes and sizes and you can find them in shops like the Warehouse, Briscoes, and your supermarket. If you like more specialised molds, check out the soap making suppliers here in New Zealand like Pure Nature and Go Native, or have a look on Trade Me.

You can also make your own wooden soap box for making loaves of soaps, which you can then cut into even bars. Be aware that if you do use wood, you will need to line your box with baking paper, to prevent the soap from sticking to the wood. The advantage of using baking paper, is that you can easily lift the soap out of your box, when it has hardened.

But you don’t need to spend money on molds. You can re-use or recycle containers and pots, such as custard cartons and yoghurt pots. I like using my 500ml Campbell’s Soup cartons (and no the soap does not smell like soup afterwards!). I’ve made some pretty soaps using these cartons.

IMG_3962


Where you can buy soap molds

  • The Warehouse has various silicon muffin and cupcake trays, as well as silicon ice cube trays that can be used.
  • Many supermarkets also have limited stock of silicon muffin trays, but they also have small plastic storage containers, such as those from Gladwrap or Pam’s. I use these in my soap workshops. The 700 ml Gladwrap container will give you 4 well-sized bars of soap.
  • Spotlight has plastic chocolate molds that you can use for soap making.
  • Go Native has a range of special silicon molds for soap making.
  • Aussie Soap Supplies also has large range of soap molds, both heavy duty plastic and silicon. However, they do have a minimum order of AU$100 and charge and extra AU$15 handling fee for international orders.
  • If you are making larger batches of soap, you might want to check out Hawthorn Bay, also located in Australia. They have large soap boxes with reusable liner and acrylic dividers, which can make 42 bars of soap at a time.
Posted on Leave a comment

Safety & precautions when handling lye and caustic soda

fullsizeoutput_1b40

Making soap uses strong alkali (caustic soda) which can be dangerous if not used correctly. It can cause severe burns and can be fatal if ingested.


Call 111 (medical emergency) immediately if you or another person ingest caustic soda/lye or splash lye in the eye!

If you splash lye on your skin, rinse under cold water for at least 15 minutes. In case of severe burns, go to your nearest A&E (Accident and Emergency) or call 111 (NZ)!


Safety is important! Make sure that you and others stay safe by taking the following precautions:

  1. Always store caustic soda in its original, correctly labelled, secure container away from children.
  2. Do not make soap if you will be distracted or have children or pets running around.
  3. Never leave the caustic soda or prepared lye unattended!
  4. Never pre-make your lye! Always make just enough as you need.
  5. Pour caustic soda into the liquid and never the other way round! Adding liquid to caustic soda can cause an extreme chemical reaction, literally exploding in your face!
  6. Always work in a well-ventilated area and do not breathe in the fumes!
  7. Protect your eyes from splashes by wearing protective goggles.
  8. Wear long sleeved protective clothing, closed shoes, and gloves.
  9. Keep your soap making equipment separate from your cooking equipment.
  10. Don’t fill the soap pot more than half full.
  11. Always measure oils and caustic soda by weight and not by volume!
  12. And lastly, always test your soap before selling it or giving it away as gifts!