Guest Author - Winsome Tapper
Cucumber soap is one of those soaps that regardless of how the finished bar turns out, imperfections and all - it leaves one with a feeling of accomplishment and perhaps a smile. Cucumber is endemic of summer months, yet is a available year round. All parts of the cucumber may be used (both skin and flesh). To prepare for use, wash and chop cucumber pieces and process till finely ground in a blender or food processor. Some water may be added, however since cucumber yields quite a bit of water keep in mind the final amount needed for the water and lye mixture.
This particular recipe has the addition of French green clay which is particularly suited for sensitive skin soap - French green clay is said to tone, exfoliate and detox the skin. Plus, the finished bar has that spa-like upscale feel that is very luxurious. For a true gentle skin soap, leave out the fragrance oil and enjoy!
The cucumber mixture is counted as part of the fluid needs in the recipe. Why? Well, cucumber is full of water. If the cucumber mixture is not discounted then there will be too much water in the recipe - which translates into soap that will take a long time to dry out. So, if one uses 1 or 2 cucumbers and the final blended cucumber mixture is 1/2 cup (4 oz. volume) and the recipe calls for 12 oz. water, then the final fluid mixture would have 4 oz. cucumber puree and 8 oz. water.
Cucumber Soap with French Green Illipe Clay
8 ounces Coconut Oil
8 ounces Palm Oil
8 ounces Olive Oil
8 ounces Shea Butter
1-2 tablespoons French Green Illite Clay (See supplier descripton of clay below)
4.48 ounces Lye (sodium hydroxide)
12 ounces fluid (pulverized cucumber and water)
2 ounces Cucumber Fragrance Oil (0.8 - 1 ounce per pound of oils)
1. Open windows to allow fresh air to come into room.
2. Put on chemical mask. Use the mask when weighing the lye and while combining the lye with the water. Don gloves and protective goggles.
3. Get the two pitchers, one to weigh the lye and the other to weigh the water. Weigh water in one pitcher and weigh lye in the next. Add lye to the water and stir. Note: Never add the water to the lye or it may erupt into a volcano-like mass that spills everywhere.
3. Mix lye and some water to gently but thoroughly dissolve the lye particles in the liquid. Then add the rest of the cucumber slushy mixture. A whisk makes dispersing the lye in the water easy. Dissolve all the lye particles which sometimes stubbornly refuses to break up and may clump. It is important to stir gently enough so it does not splash everywhere. (From this point onward any reference to 'the juice' is referring to the cucumber slushy and water mixture)
4. After mixing lye and juice, you will notice that the container is very hot; this is because the lye and juice are involved in a chemical process that produces heat. The temperature is too hot to immediately combine the lye with the oils, so remove it from your primary soap making area and leave it somewhere to cool down a bit (100 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit)- in an area that is inaccessible to children or pets.
5. Heat oils and melt any solid fats. The pot used should be large enough so that after adding the lye and water mixture, there is enough room to mix so that it does not easily splash out of the container.
6. Leave oils to cool to the same temperature as the lye 100 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check temperature with thermometer, wiping off to check the next liquid or use two different thermometers. After both liquids have reached the desired temperature, add lye/juice liquid to the cooled oils.
7. Stir with the wire whisk briskly, or use a stick blender, which speeds up the whole process immensely. We are mixing to reach trace. Trace is the point when the mixture thickens, appears opaque and shiny and when the whisk or stick blender leaves an impression after it is stirred. This will look similar to a gravy or sauce of medium to thick consistency. It usually takes anywhere from 15 – 40 minutes of stirring to reach trace. If using the wire whisk, after mixing for 5 minutes or so, take a break of a couple minutes and continue stirring. I usually stir in between doing other things. After making soap several times, one learns to gauge how much time is actually needed to reach trace in a certain recipe. However, for the first time making soap, it is important to be vigilant and watch for discrete changes that occur in the mixture.
8. If using the stick blender, keep the blender blades immersed near the bottom of the pot stirring in a circular and figure eights. What we need is to make sure all of the mixture is stirred. It is especially important to have a pot that is deep enough with ample headroom when using the stick blender. The stick blender causes more turbulence in the mixture, therefore increasing the risk for accidental spillage. Turn the blender on after immersing it in the lye/oil mixture, so it does not splash out of the pot. Trace occurs quicker using the stick blender than mixing by hand with the wire whisk
9. After soap reaches trace combine additives, and fragrance oil to traced soap and mix thoroughly, dispersing them throughout the mixture. In this recipe, mix a small bit of oil (about a teaspoon full) with the French green clay, stirring thoroughly to get out any lumps - Add to the the traced soap. Add the fragrance or essential oils last as some fragrances or essential oils cause the soap to seize or become very thick and unmanageable.
9. Pour mixture into prepared lined mold. I usually use thick utility type plastic that is cut into manageable pieces, to line the mold. Alternately, freezer paper maybe used as well as a kitchen garbage bag with the sides cut open so that it is flat. Cover mold with a lid (if it has one) or a piece of cardboard or a flat piece of lumber. Then insulate this with a blanket, by covering the top and sides with the blanket.
10. Leave covered soap in a safe place away from children or pets for 12-18 hours to saponify and set. After 18 hours, uncover and allow to sit in mold a couple more hours. If firm enough, unmold onto plastic, utility paper or a clean dishcloth. Don neoprene gloves and cut bars with a sturdy chef's knife or a soap cutter. Store soap on a platter or open box lined with absorbent paper and allow to cure for two to three weeks.
Supplier description of French green Illite clay:
Supplier: Southern Soapers
French Green Illite Clay is a green clay that is similar to French Green Clay and is often referred interchangebly as such. Green Illite clay however is a more pronounced green and not a montmorillonite clay. Green Illite Clay does not have the water absorption capability that the French Green Montmorillonite Clay has either. Green Illite Clay is gentler than French Green Montormellorite Clay and is used to tone, exfoliate, and detox the skin.