Early colonists would make enough soap to last the entire year. They usually did this in a soap making marathon which could last for 2 – 3 days.
They made soap usually in the spring or the fall, because it was done over an open fire.
There were generally 3 basic steps to this and they were: to create the Lye – rendering the fat – and making the soap
Wood ash, the ash left over from their fires, would be collected thought out the year, and it would then be stored into barrels ready for the soap making.
To get lye from wood ash, you pour water over the ashes, this produces a brown liquid, which is the lye, it would slowly seep through the wood ash and be collected in containers, this would take some time maybe 2 or so days. They would then render the fat, this was collected also over the winter months, the cooking grease from the butchered meats.
The animal fat would then be added into a large pot over the outdoor fire, they would then add water to the fat, they would then bring this to the boil and then simmer it until the fat had throughly melted, more water would then be added and it was then left to stand overnight. The clean rendered fat would then be scooped off the top.
To actually make the soap, the lye (from the wood ash) and the rendered clean fat would be added together and then brought to the boil. After 6-8 hours of constant staring a soapy mass would form on the top of the pot, which was liquid soap. This soap was then stored in barrels and would be used throughout the year for bathing, washing clothes, and household cleaning.
Today I use this cold process method, but I don’t use animal fat in my soaps at all, I combine, coconut oil, castor oil, rice bran oil and olive oil together, once melted i add sodium hydroxide ( the lye) and i stir them together until the mixture starts to trace, I then transfer the mixture into soap moulds and leave for 24 – 48 hours until the mixture has completed tracing.
The soap is then hand cut and stored on open shelves for 6 weeks so the lye has completely dispersed. Unfortunately soap is not soap unless you add sodium hydroxide (lye) to animal or vegetable fats.