By Lisa Stahl
In several previous articles I mentioned bits and pieces of the long-practiced tradition of making soap, but I never clearly explained the process and why we make soap.
The main reason is to clean up all the old lard and cracklings we saved from cooking throughout the year, but its also to supply each family with laundry detergent.
April is the month appointed for making soap. It is done when the weather starts to warm up and turns spring-like. They try picking a cool day, but not too cool, so the job cant be handled since its done outside.
Two of the older women are always in charge. But each year about six to seven vats of soap are cooked, with each enlarged batch containing the following ingredients: 400 lbs. of lard and cracklings, 100 lbs. of lye, 125 gallons of water and eight cups of salt. Altogether, one batch makes about 750 lbs. of soap.
The water is measured first, followed with the lye and then the lard and salt. This is cooked for 2 1/2 hours and is then allowed to settle for 15 minutes so all the soap can come to the top. After the soap (a creamy white color) is removed and poured into two by two foot frames, the lye (a dark brown color), which is at the bottom, is drained off.
The molds of soap are cut into small pieces, after it is allowed to harden for one to two hours. Its then put into onion sacks and stored on nails from the ceiling of an old guanset to dry for one year, or until its time to ground it up for laundry detergent.
Grinding the homemade soap is also done in April, around the time they make that years batch of soap.
The grinder is homemade as well, and is used only for that purpose. Since the ladies cut the soap into small one by three inch pieces the previous year, its easy to grind them up. The job takes a good half-day and is very dusty, because the soap pieces are ground into its tiniest form.
When the grinding is done each family on the colony gets and equal share and some is put away for use at the communal kitchen.