I often marvel about how lucky we are to live in this time period. Although everyone seems busier we actually are able to do more because of modern convenience.
A case in point is soap. We need to use it everyday, and not just soap for washing our bodies, hands and hair. But soap for clothes, dishes, cars, animals, etc.
My maternal grandma used to make her own soap and I remember that even when she didn't need to make it, she would take all the small pieces of soap that were hard to use and she would "melt" them down and make a new bar of soap. I actually have a bar of soap that she made the old fashioned way, like the recipe below. It's a great reminder of how far we've come.
So, are you wondering how they made soap? Here is a recipe I found in a little book I have by Joanne Dean, published by the San Bernardino County Museum Association. Joanne Dean's Historical San Bernardino Cookbook recipe states (page 78):
Well to do urbanites would have purchased their soap, but the poor people far from stores would have had to make their own. This recipe uses commercial lye, through the very poor would have extracted their lye from ashes; the weak lye thus obtained often made soap-making difficult.
1 can of lye
2qts. water, warm but not hot
5lbs. strained grease (beef or tallow)
2 tbsp. powdered borax
2 tbsp. liquid ammonia
Dissolve the lye in the warm water; be very sure that the water is not too hot, or it will bubble up when the lye is added. Pour the grease slowly into the lye and stir slowly 10 to 15 minutes. Bring to the boiling point and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the fire and add borax; let the mixture cool a bit, then add ammonia and stir slowly an evenly until thick as cake batter. Turn into molds or pans and finish cooking.