The first soap I ever made was an olive oil soap with a touch of castor oil. I messed it up because I failed to reach proper emulsion. I read too many warnings about soap turning solid or “seizing” that I didn’t dare turn on the stick blender long enough. Now that I know that olive oil takes forever to reach trace, I can simply laugh about that experience. It has been one year and one month since that first soap. I am making it again, this time with local virgin coconut oil, and calling it Fil-Castile. Hmmm…I feel that a new classic is born. 🙂 The name is a representation of the best of both worlds and the long history that they share.
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan – in the service of the king of Spain – came to our shores in 1521 and introduced the Catholic faith. It was also here where he met his death in the famous Battle of Mactan. Other Spanish explorers came after him, and by 1565, the Philippines (named after King Philip II) had become a colony of Spain, and stayed on to be for the next 333 years or until 1898 when the Americans came. Spanish influence is thus inextricably woven into the fiber of Philippine society and culture.
The Crusaders have been credited for introducing soap to Western Europe when they brought back with them Aleppo soap in the 11th century. It wasn’t until the following century that soap production using locally available olive oil gained momentum throughout Italy and Spain. Of all the soap-producing regions, it was the Kingdom of Castilla (now a part of modern Spain) that became famous, hence the term Castile for soaps made with 100% olive oil. It is a mild and gentle soap that produces a low, fine, and creamy lather. It has a tendency to feel slimy, but it is wonderfully soothing for sensitive and dry skin. It is a natural humectant and skin regenerator due to olive oil’s high oleic acid and vitamin E content.
Coconut trees abound in the Philippines and it is called the Tree of Life for good reason. Every part of the tree is usable in the form of food, fuel or shelter. According to Coconutoil.com, these are benefits of coconut oil:
The most common form of coconut oil is extracted from sun-dried mature coconut meat, called copra. This oil is refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) and is yellowish in color. On the other hand, virgin coconut oil is cold-pressed from fresh mature coconut meat and expeller-processed to separate the water from the oil, keeping intact all the nutritional benefits. It is completely clear and colorless when liquid. Taken internally or used as a topical application, virgin coconut oil is without a doubt far more superior than the RBD kind. But does it really make a difference after saponification? It would be interesting to hear it from a scientific point of view.
For my Fil-Castile soap, I used 95% olive oil and 5% virgin coconut oil, and left it unscented. To make a hard bar of soap, I used a 40% lye concentration, and added a little sodium lactate and salt. I also included a small amount of sugar to help it bubble up better.
I blended the oils and lye solution intermittently for several minutes yet it remained very thin. I poured it anyway into the mold. I wanted to try Auntie Clara’s inverted stamp technique, so while I waited for the soap batter to thicken to the right consistency, I made a masterbatch lye solution. Batter was still too thin. I proceeded to make 2 other batches of soap, and by then, the batter was still not thick enough to hold shape! It was only after about 75 minutes before the batter was ready, but even then, it was still on the soft side and as you can see, the marks are not very pronounced. I didn’t have wires and pliers, so I used acrylic dividers to make the lattice design.
Even with the water discount, salt and sodium lactate, I expected the soap to be soft during cutting, but after 11-12 hours, I was surprised that it was perfectly hard already. The sound that the string cutter makes as it is pulled and subsequently released by the soap as it cuts through it gives me an idea how hard the soap is. The higher the pitch, the harder the soap is and the closer the string is to breaking. 🙂
What surprised me the most were the pock marks. Are they air bubbles? I was careful with the way I stick blended the soap batter. I was very disappointed with the appearance so I started chopping off the bars into small cubes to be made into embeds, until I realized I was just being too fussy. There is nothing wrong with the soap: it is very fine and smooth to the touch, and a lovely bone white. Despite being unscented, it smells pure and clean to me. Luckily I was able to save 8 bars from being chopped up, but I am also loving the soaps made with the embeds – post to follow very soon!