September 25, 2013

Four Thieves

Photo taken on top of our bathtub of goldfish in the Oasis Community Garden

I stumbled on the legend of the four thieves in a book about growing herbs and decided to create a soap based on their recipe.

The Four Thieves lived in Europe during the Bubonic Plague. Everybody was dying. Bodies were everywhere.  But the Four Thieves—who were daring enough to even rob graves—didn't become ill. When they were finally caught, they escaped punishment by reveling the secret to how they avoided the Black Death.

It was a simple herbal vinegar. Being a legend, the recipe varies from one source to another, but the list of ingredients almost always includes mint, rosemary, sage and thyme. Lavender, clove and wormwood come up a lot as well.

All of those herbs do have antibacterial properties, so it makes sense. Of course, they had never heard of bacteria in the 1300's, otherwise everyone would've been walking around with one of those little dangly things of anti-bacterial lotion.

My soap version of the Four Thieves recipe includes olive oil infused with thyme, rosemary, lavender and mint—and also activated charcoal and alkanet. The pencil line is powdered mint. And there's some cocoa butter, shea butter and oatmeal involved as well.

The fragrance is a blend of lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage and mint essential oils. It smelled a little too herbal to me so I added neroli to lighten it up.

I don't know if using this soap will prevent the Black Death (which is still around), but I'm sure it will help ward off the flu and colds. And I love showering with it after working in the garden.

I'm not by the way, the only person who's saponified the Four Thieves legend, there're dozens of bars out there. And Cathy from Soaping 101 (which I'm totally addicted to watching) has even created a video on how to make it.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries

September 19, 2013

Shaken and Stirred

Martini glass courtesy of American Retro Bar and Grill—a lovely place to have martinis

I had this soap in my imagination a long time before it finally came to be—and it's not quite the way I pictured it, but I've gotten over that.

It's a soap version of a martini in the shape of an olive. I'm a purist when it comes to martinis, by the way. They should only come in two flavors: gin or vodka. If it tastes like chocolate or peaches, it's not a martini. It is acceptable (and wonderful) however to infuse you vodka with rosemary or mint or any other herb.

Anyway, back to the soap. The 'olive' part made with a lye infusion of reduced dry vermouth (recently found in my cupboard and leftover from an old, old boyfriend who made the best dirty martinis I ever had) and juniper berries (from my garden). The concoction smelled pretty…powerful when I mixed it, but I'm beginning to actually like the smell of lye and booze. I hope that's not an indication of some strange neuroses.

My lye mixture


I knew the vermouth was going to darken the soap and my olive oil infused with lemongrass and lime basil might end up muddy, so I added some French green clay. Essential oils of juniper, lime and may chang. This was all poured into a mold I made from a mailing tube with a paper towel roll inside to create a cavity for the 'pimento' part.

My mold

It's sort of a reverse embed. The pimento was made of melt and pour soap with Moroccan red clay (that's what my (Not Seeing) Red experiment was all about). I figured an embed of melt and pour would probably lose its shape when cold process soap was poured over it.

And the olive part came out fine—a perfect shade of green. I took it out of the mold after a day and then turned it into a mold (or so I thought) by rubber banding a Ziploc bag on the bottom.

But alas! When I poured the melt and pour into the cavity it began leaking out the bottom. Which is odd since the cold process didn't leak out...

I panicked. This was not a cheap recipe. The red clay, melt and pour base and essential oils cost the same as a night drinking real martinis in the Meat Packing District. I was not going to let this go to waste.

So I started scooping the leaked-out soap back into the cavity while adding shredded soap scraps I had hanging around. Eventually, the melt and pour started to cool at the bottom and created a seal so it stopped leaking out. I ended up with a not-so-solid reddish, pinkish center.

But months later, it's cured and fabulous. Really lush, stiff lather. I love it for shaving my legs and the fragrance is intoxicating, of course.

I might give a bar to that old, old boyfriend who made the great dirty martinis. I haven't spoken to him ages. Maybe he's been deported.

If you like this blog, check out my new one: The Haley Maxwell Soap Making Mysteries