Soap Making

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And when 'twould eat a piece of rope

We knew 'twas time to make the soap.
The mother 'gredients then we'd get
From out the woodhouse, where they set;
The ham stubs, knuckles, bacon rinds,
And bones and bits of many kinds;
Perhaps some headcheese, turning strong,
Or sassage that had lived too long;
All these within the cauldron fell
With hopes the fairies wished us well,
For powers beyond our mortal scope
Preside o'er mayonnaise and soap
Source:Cady, 1920:61

From Source:Traill, 1855:

Soap is made from a union of the lie of wood ashes, and any sort of grease, the refuse of the kitchen; even bones are boiled down in strong lie, and reduced. The lime of the bonea are, by many soap- makers, thought to improve the quality of the soap. The careful [housewife procures] a large portion of their soap-grease from the inside, and entrails of the hogs, and other beasts that are killed on the farm. Nothing in this country is allowed to go to waste, that can be turned to any good account. Before I give you directions respecting the manufacturing soap, it will be as well to say a few words about the ashes, and setting of the leech barrel.
The ashes made use of for soap-making, should be from hardwood, such as oak, maple, beech, hickory, and the like; the ashes of none of the pine tribe, nor any other soft woods, are to be made use of. such as pine,hemlock, spruce, larch, or soft maple; swamp maple, bass-wood, and some others are also not good. Too much care can hardly be taken with respect to storing ashes. An old iron or tin vessel, pot or pan is the safest thing to remove the hot ashes in from the hearth, as live coals are often taken up with them, which might burn any wooden utensil, and if left on a verandah or floor, endanger the safety of the house. Most persons put up a small covered hut, made shanty form, in which the ashes are stored. This building should be apart from any of the house offices.
The careful soap-maker never allows sweepings of the house to be mixed with the ashes for soap making. The ash barrel is usually any old flour barrel, or a hollow log that has been burnt out, leaving only a shell; this is sawn into the proper length, and set upon a sloping, board, raised from the ground high enough to admit of a trough or pail standing beneath it, to receive tha lie; at the bottom of the leech, sticks of split lathing or twigs, are placed across each other; a handful of dry straw is next laid over the twigs, and about a pint of unslacked lime scattered upon that. Two quarts or more of good lime are allowed to each barrel of ashes. The lime has the effect of neutralizing some of the salts, which are prejudicial to the good qualities of the soap.
If a barrel is used for the leech, it will be necessary to bore three or four holes with a half inch augur at the edge of the bottom of the barrel, in the direction of that part which will be sloped towards the front of the stand. You may support this ftand with logs or stones; or put legs of wood into holes'bored, the two front legs being - shorter than the hinder ones, to give a proper inclination for the lie to run off into the trough below. If you can manage to have two barrels set up, so as to collect a larger quantity of lie, it is better, especially if you have much grease to boil down. Do not be afraid of your lie being too strong: the stronger the better for consuming' the grease. More soap is spoiled by weak lie, than any thing else; neither let the dark colour of the lie deceive you: the colour is not strength. The ashes should be put into the leech barrel, and pounded down with a long beetle. You may distribute the lime as you fill it up, or dissolve the lime in a pail of boiling water, and pour on after the barrel is filled up, and you commence running the lie. Make a hollow in the top of the ashes, and pour in your water; as it soaks in, keep adding more; it will not begin to drop into the trough or tub for many hours; sometimes, if the ashes are packed down tight, for two or three days; but you must keep the hollow on the top of the barrel always supplied with water—soft water is best, if you are near a creek, or have a rain water tank (which is a great convenience to a house), and the water you run your leech with should be hot at first. Remember that you should be careful to keep any wet from getting to your ashes, while collecting them, previous to making the lie, as that weakens and destroys its effect. I have been told that twelve pounds of grease will make a barrel of soft soap, but I do not vouch for it. Some say three pounds ot' grease to a pail of strong lie is the proportion; but experience is the best teacher. Of one thing you may be sure: that the strongest lie will take up the most grease: and after boiling several hours, if there be a thick scum still upon the soap, you may know that the lie has taken up all it is capable of boiling in; or if it should happen that your lie is not strong enough to consume the grease, add more strong lie. This is the advantage of having two barrels of ashes; as it affords you the chance of increasing the strength of the lie, if required; but if the soap, after long boiling, does not thicken, and no scum is on the top, of any account, add more grease. To try if the soap is too strong, for it will not thicken sufficiently if it be so, take, with an iron spoon, a small quantity, say two spoonfuls into a saucer, add one of water, and beat it—if it wants water, it will thicken the soap; add more water as long as it makes it thicker; if it thickens well with one spoonful of soap to one of water, then your soap, when poured out into the soap barrel, may have as many pails of water added, as you have pails full of soap; if very good lie has been used, a double quantity of water may be added; but it is better not to thin it too much.
To try the lie, float an egg or a potato; it should be buoyed half up. You can always lessen the strength after the soap is made, by adding water. A pint of pure turpentine, such as runs from saw-logs, or from a gash cut in a large pine, may be boiled in with your soap; or some resin; but the turpentine is best. So much depends on the size of your pot, and quantity of grease, that it would be difficult to tell you how much to put in with your lie, when about to boil off; but as the lie will only boil in so much grease, according to its strength, you need not mind having a good deal of grease, as it can be scummed off, after the soap is done boiling, and is all the better for boiling down when you have a fresh supply of lie. No tin vessel should be used in soap-making, as the lie eats off the tinning: iron to boil the soap in, and wood to keep it in, answers best.
There is another method which requires no boiling at all; this is known as COLD SOAP. This is less trouble—the sun doing the work of the fire. The same process of running the lie must be gone through, and the grease to make good clean soap, should be boiled down in weak lie, and strained into the barrel, into which fresh run lie may be poured, and the barrel set in a warm sunny place, keeping it stirred from time to time, to mix the grease and the lie. This is all that is done in making cold soap. If it does not thicken after a week or ten days, add more grease, or more lie if there be too much grease; the lie should be poured hot on the grease. Some persons treat the grease in the following way: they have a barrel or tub in the cellar, or any convenient place, into which they put hot strong lie, and throw in all the grease, as it is collected, from time to time. When they have as much as they need, this half-made soap is boiled up for some hours, and strained off into a vessel, and if more grease floats than can be taken up, it is either boiled with more lie, or hot lie is thrown in to consume it, and set out in the sun for some time, and stirred, as above. HAKD SOAP. This is made from good soft soap. I have not made it myself, but I give the directions of an experienced house-keeper on the subject. If the soft soap be good, there is little difficulty in making it into hard soap. When you find the soap of a good thickness, take two or three good handfuls of salt, and stir into your pot or kettle: if it be a large kettle, you may put in six or seven handfuls: let it boil till you see the soap separating; boil it about ten minutes longer, and set it by till the next day, when the soap will have formed a thick cake on the top of the vessel, and the lie have separated and remain below, a dark reddish-brown fluid. Remove this cake of soap, and put it into a pot on the fire, adding to it a pint of turpentine or resin. When the soap begins to boil up, add more salt; if the soap cuts like soft putty when you put it into the pot, several handfuls of salt will be required; but if it cuts firm, one or two will be enough—but experience must be your guide, or, seeing the process, which is better than learning from books. . When the soap is boiled a few minutes after the salt has been stirred in, pour it into a flat wooden box, or mould, about three or four inches deep; it may be cut into bars, or square pieces, when perfectly cold, and set up on a shelf, in some dry place, to harden. To remove paint, pitch, cart-grease, or the resin from cedar or pine, which will stick to the hands and clothes, if touched, nothing more is required, than to rub the cloth, cotton, or flesh, with clean lard, butter, or grease, then wash it well with hot soap-suds; but it is useless if you wet the part with water first. A weak solution of pot-ash, or pearl-ash, will also remove stains of this sort, or grease spots from cloth, or silk. Spirits of sal volatile, or hartshorn, will remove acid stains from silks, and restore the lost colour.