Make Ye the Soap
Once your temperatures are correct (or close), return the pot of fat to the stove, but do not turn on. Slowly pour the lye mixture into the fat stirring gently until fully mixed. The soap mixture should turn opaque.
Now it is time to stir! You can stir briskly by hand for about 20 to 30 minutes, or use a stick blender for about 15 minutes. When using the stick blender, just turn it on occasionally and run for about 30 seconds. Then use the stick blender in the off position as a spoon to stir the rest of the time.
The tricky part is knowing when the soap is done. You look for the consistency. You want to add the essential oil when the mixture "traces". Tracing means that when you pull the spoon across the mixture, it leaves a trace on the top for a moment. My mixture this time actually was a bit over-stirred. Usually you are going for a consistency kind of like honey. Here is mine that is more like pudding:
However, it still turns into soap. Just add your essential oils and stir until blended. I used spearmint, bergamot, and tea tree in this batch. Then pour into your mold.
Cover immediately and wrap with towels or blankets to keep warm for 48 to a week.
After 48 hours, remove blankets and cover and let air out for about another week or two. When you first remove the lid, it will be smelly. The smell of the fats dissipates over time.
After 2 - 3 weeks, the soap is ready to cut. I don't like to wait any longer as it continues to harden and becomes harder to cut. Pop it out of the mold and slice with a sharp knife. If you want precision cuts, you can use a miter box.
Set the bars of soap in a container to dry for at least a month. I like my soap best when it has seasoned for three or more months. It loses the last trace of fatty scent and becomes harder and dryer so that it doesn't disappear so fast in the shower.
Here is a wonderful website where I got my recipe and much information.
I know this whole process sounds very involved but, now that I know what I am doing, it only takes about 2 hours and provides enough soap for my husband and I for about 3 months. Well worth it knowing that we are not only saving a little cash but we are no longer bathing ourselves in unknown chemicals.
I hope someone out there catches the soapmaking fever from this! Happy Soaping!