Corn Silk – what does it have to offer?

Summertime means picnics, cookouts, hots dogs, pie and corn on the cob.  Making that corn on the cob the yummy and even fun meal item on our dinner plate can be messy with those fine golden threads found days later floating around long after you’d thought they were all long gone.  But, what if, as it turns out, they were useful, even beneficial?  Let’s take a look at these fine silky fibres found wrapped around the ear of every corn cob.

Corn with silk
image courtesy of Livestrong.com

Upon searching for information, I’ve found that corn silk is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which is given to babies soon after birth to assist in clot formation.  It is also often used in a tincture or tea form to help with the following health issues:

  • Bedwetting
  • Cystitis
  • UTI
  • Gout
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Kidney Stones
  • Prostatitis

When using it in tinctures, it’s placed in a clean glass jar or bottle about 1/4 full.  A strong high proof alcohol is poured over it (Everclear, maybe) then sealed and placed in a cool, dry, dark place for 4-6 weeks.  The infusion is then strained out and stoppered with a dropper top.  As a tea, then fibres are chopped into very small pieces and added with other leaves, flowers or herbs you choose for your tea blend, sealed in a pouch or tea bag and stored in a dry dark cabinet.

*One note of caution here should be stated this should not be used either in tea or tincture form if you are on a prescription diuretic. Also nothing stated here should be taken as a diagnosis or treatment for any ailments or conditions nor as a substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription.

So given that corn silk does have beneficial properties, and most soap makers love using something useful, beneficial, even unique in their soaps, let’s try using corn silk in a bar soap.

I started by saving the silk from the husband’s ears of corn purchased from organic farmers selling at our local farmer’s market and organic stores. The dirty ends and pieces of trash, dirt and bits of husk were removed, the remaining portion washed and laid out in a thin single layer on paper towels for about 4 -6 days to dry.  Once dried, they were then chopped with very sharp scissors into 2-3mm pieces, then placed in a mortar & pestle to grind to as close to powder form as possible.  It’s harder than it sounds! It took about a dozen ears to finally have enough silk to try this.  Even with a dozen ears, it resulted in a remarkably small amount of silk powder.  Maybe about 2 tablespoons!

Making a tiny batch of standard milk soap using my regular oils and coconut milk, as though making a regular batch, we added 1/4 tsp of the silk to the lye solution and let its heat try to dissolve the silk.  As you  can see the silk is floating along on the top  and even though this was taken several minutes after the heat had built to its apogee you can see it’s still fairly intact. Rather disappointing but it doesn’t necessarily indicate nothing has been infused  into the lye solution.Corn Silk in Lye Solution

We stick blended the coconut milk into the oils.  These were at room temperature, which today was reading around 80°.  (I’m cold natured.)

OIls & Milk with Lye & Corn Silk added

 

Next we filtered the solids out of the lye & silk solution when adding it to the oils & coconut milk solution.  The reading for the lye & silk stood at 100°.

Strained Lye Solution

Stick blending the two solutions together it was noted this batch was slow to trace.

OIls & Coconut Milk

We used a silicone mold with 12 guest sized bar cavities for these and managed to perfectly fit 8 bars into it.  Now we wait.  Once these have firmed enough to be removed and they’re cured we’ll revisit this experiment to determine the final results.

Poured into guest sized molds

It’s been stated by several experienced soap makers and scientists that the vitamins rarely if ever cross through the saponification process and while this is disappointing to say the least, the ultimate goal for most soap makers isn’t a bar jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients as this is a wash-off product and as such the benefits simply go down the drain.  We really want something that feels truly wonderful while actively in use and that’s what I’m looking for in this.  Time will tell.

 

On ‘tidying up’

So, I’m curious, how many of you have read the book yet? the life changing magic of tidying up is the one I mean.  I’m getting through but still cannot bring myself to throw everything I have hanging in my closet into the middle of the floor.  I’m sorry but that in itself will not bring me joy.

Clutter and I go way back.  Childhood.  I’m a clean-sweeper.  One who loves to go through a particular section and clear everything – and I do mean everything – out. Into a dumper somewhere.  Recycle it, shred it, toss it, leave it on the curb for someone else to covet.  Just not in here. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, I’ve married a hoarder of sorts.  I swore to myself before remarrying that I’d never remarry, then amended that to I’ll never marry a hoarder again.  One who’s mantra is “You never know when you might need ______________(insert useless item’s name here).  Sadly it’s been my undoing that I’m now married to another hoarder. I save all the serious, deep diving cleaning for when he’s out of town,  while the lighter tasks are accomplished during his  errand runs, gone to work, etc.  So far this has worked well.

The things I toss or leave out for others to enjoy are those that we never use.  Uncomfortable chairs, for example, of which there are several that need removal.  Paperwork is something I truly loathe as it’s necessary to keep the tatty stuff around for about 3-7 years.  Blerg.  But, keep it I do.  Grudgingly.  Though out of sight.

Another thing that is harder to release are those that came from family members that are no longer with us.  This is a problem.  They do give me joy and therefor I cannot let them go.  Yet.  Perhaps when the timing is right I’ll ask if any family members are interested in rehoming them.  Meantime, I’ll hoard them to myself.

Clothing is simple.  I’ve used the 2 year rule for many years and so far it worked out very well and painlessly, too I might add.  If I have not worn said item in the past two years, chances are better than average that it won’t be worn in the next two either, so off it goes to Goodwill if it’s in good condition or into the trash if not.  I rarely use my clothes for rags.  T-shirts are great for that and hubby’s are the best candidate, but most of my clothes are not T-shirts.

Lest you think I’m a total failure at this magical cleaning thing or quite the opposite, bear in mind it’s harder to let go of so many things, even when you know with every fibre of your being that it will never be seen again/worn again once you’ll stuck it in that drawer or closet. But maybe someone gave it to you and they’re still a strong feature of your life now.  Maybe it has sentimental significance to you, to a special someone.  That makes it very tricky.  Hang onto it as long as it gives you joy.  But when the things begin to accumulate, and you know they will, it’s time to revisit those things you coveted a bit longer.

One controversial chapter is entitled “Storage Experts are hoarders”.  Now I’m sure there are storage experts out there outraged by the stereotyping or judgemental tone of that statement.  You have to think of storage in a new light.  It’s where you store your necessary, day-to-day things you must have to get though your day.  It isn’t where you keep all those things you had back in high school, wore to the prom, loved that crazy colour lipstick, tried adding hot pink to your hair and kept the tools to do it again.  Text books that only serve as dust catchers.

That said, I’ll admit, I still have my college textbooks, though they’re in use elevating my computer monitor to a comfortable, easy to view height and raised a lamp up enough to prevent the on/off switch from being a contortionists move. So I don’t really consider them clutter.  Other clutter is leaving the home now and I’m honestly feeling better already.

Even if you don’t intend to deeply clean out the clutter in your life, the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo will help you see your home, your life, your stuff in a different light.  You’ll find that less is better than more because the space regained makes life easier to breathe through.

Alchemist @ Work

Earlier in the afternoon a thought hit me that I wanted to try something.  Now my kids can tell you this can bode well….or not but in this particular instance, I’m hoping for the former rather than the latter.

At the HSCG conference, which I could not attend this time, Kevin Dunn, author of Caveman Chemistry and Scientific Soapmaking spoke on the topic of variations in water within portions of one batch of soap and how it can produce unique effects in your CP soap.  This intrigued me enough to try this with a soap that discolours -deeply discolours. For this I went straight to the one I own that will give me that – Coconut Fusion from Fragrance Laboratory.   Their website offers test batches of several of their fragrance oils so I knew in advance of what to expect with regard to discolouration so this was the ideal opportunity to work with it instead of against it.

I began by calculating the size of the portions by halves, dividing one of those halves into halves yet again.  From this I calculated the amount of fragrance needed for each of those two smaller portions, then cut that fragrance amount by half again.  The largest amount of FO would go into the main (largest) part of the batch.  The rest would be split 2:1 between the two smaller portions.  The amount of soap in these two smaller portions were equal in size, however, their FO amount was not nor was their additional mica.

Fragrance Oil Divided into descending-sized portions

Next I add the coconut milk to the oils, stick blending to a smooth mixture.  Then the lye goes in.  I used silk and coconut milk in this batch simply because I always do.  The gold mica in oil is for the top only. Just because.  Bling is good. Coconut Milk & Mica in Oil These four oils are ones I often use.  I have several soap formulations and a four oil is just one of them.  I don’t have issues with these in soaps – ricing, tendency to separate, misleading false trace, etc., so I went with this one. 4 oils ListingWater, Silk & Lye SolutionI also like to use silk in soaps so that went unchanged as well.  I decided not to go totally crazy with the coconut theme and stuck with regular water, not coconut water.  Maybe later on I’ll try that twist to see what results I get but for this initial trial, it’s plain filtered water, chilled.  (Got a bit of coconut oil on the handle there. Hmf! Messy!)

Once the various parts were blended with a stick blender to emulsion phase,  I stopped and noticed it looked a bit grainy and thicker than I’d expect for so little mixing.  A stir told me it was trying to separate, becoming a bit grainy and going towards a false trace, something of a surprise.  So more blending and it loosened up again, going smoother and surprisingly dark for so early on in the making.  It was a warm beige by the time I was done mixing!  The two smaller portions together were half of the batch but the amount of colour added varied as did the amount of FO.  I added Pearl Basics to one portion and a small amount of Titanium Dioxide in water to this part, stick blended to get it absolutely smooth.  The other small portion had Extra Bright added along with a bit more Titanium Dioxide than the other portion had. The largest portion of the soap had no mica added and no titanium dioxide added.

Given the three levels of water in each part of this in addition to the three different levels of fragrance added, this should give me three different shades of brown due to the discolouration from the FO and a textured look and feel to the surface thanks to the addition of water with the TD.  Time will tell so now we wait until it’s firm enough to come out of the mold and be cut.  Once it’s cut, hopefully the textures will begin to appear.  As the soap dries out at different rates the raised appearance of each colour segment should become apparent.  That’s my hope anyway.  I’ll update with pictures when it’s cut and had a chance to dry out a bit.

Why? What? When? How?

Why?

Some very fine folks have asked why I make soap. It’s a typical question many soapmakers have been asked and the responses vary though some have stated out of necessity.  That’s my story.  I’d bought a handcrafted soap from a soap maker back in the ’90s that made my skin feel absolutely fabulous!  I could practically hear it sigh with relief every time I used it.  My skin felt soft, smooth, moisturized right out of the shower.  That was totally new for me.  I’d always raced to the lotion right after a shower because my skin would feel so tight after it dried that it felt like it would crack if I moved.  Finding her soaps was a genuine treat that was savored only for a few short years before she packed up and moved away, never to be seen again. *Sigh* I tried other soap makers products searching, in vain, for one that made my skin as happy as the original, but sadly, none measured up to that standard.  So, the logical next step was to learn to do this myself.  After a 1 1/2 years of study, observing videos in YouTube, reading every soap making book in our library, I leaped in.  The first batch was awful.  Let’s be honest here.  It was. But it taught me what not to do the next time.  Many batches later and branching out to new adventures to add alongside the bars, we’ve had a great journey learning to make a soap that truly makes my skin happy again.

What?

What will we do next? What did we learn from this success/failure?  Yes there will be failures, but by the same token, we also will have many successes.  From each we learn something, take that lesson and run with it to correct the step that caused it to fail the previous time just as we learned things from our mistakes growing from childhood to adulthood.  What we do next is coloured by what we did last time, so the next big thing is the real adventure.

When?
When did you learn what worked?  When will you try the next progression, the next type of creative production? When your curiosity gets the best of you and you simply must know how to do that, then the next new type of creative production can be attempted.  That little voice in your head will whisper in your ear “Wonder what would happen if you try this?” Come on, you know you’ve heard it.  Did you heed it?  Did you try something new today? Why not?  Once you’ve tried one type of soap making, say standard bars, you begin to realize there are other liquids out there that are dying to be used in a bar of soap and your creative imp within won’t leave you alone until you try replacing the water with one or more of them.  Sure, it can be scary,  strange things can happen when you used certain types of alternative liquids, but it’s worth that step taken to learn how to get it right and have a result that’s outstanding – bubbly, silky smooth, makes the skin do its happy dance,

How?

How do you do that?  How did you know what to use or not use? Make YouTube your friend. Make Facebook your friend and embrace those groups that make soaps of all kinds.  Binge watch videos in youtube to see how it’s all done.  When that voice or your curiosity is screaming at you to do this, then go for it.  Have a spill kit nearby because they do happen even with the most experienced of us.  (Uline sells these!) Get all your ingredients at hand.  Have an accurate scale that reads to 0.00, wear gloves and goggles! Cover your work surface.  Have all your needed tools nearby – bowls with high sides or a bucket (plastic works best, NO ALUMINUM), a stick blender,  several spatulas and a mold. Once you’ve mastered the standard soap of one colour, add micas to parts of a batch and shoot the moon for a swirl design.  It’s fun to play around with colours, designs and this will progress towards multiple colours, multiple ways to decorate your soaps – pipe thickened soap batter on the tops for a beautiful decorated cake look!  So get up out of that chair, go for it and when you do, shoot me an email with a picture so I can be wowed by your success and offer hearty congratulations!

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

I recently finished a really good read entitled “The Coincidence of Coconut Cake”. A struggling chef, Lou (a girl) Johnson, fights the good fight to make her restaurant a success sees it just within reach when catastrophe happens thanks to a poorly timed visit from a food critic who’s known for his blistering reviews. Due to circumstances back at home, she is a mess waiting to happen and the result is a terrible review that sends the potential customers away in droves. Her restaurant, named after her grandmother Luella, is in jeopardy. Meantime she meets a British fellow, Al, and they begin a quirky sort of friendship that makes both of them smile before, during and after their time spent together. He gets the 10-cent tour of all things great about Milwaukee and its history while she gets her mind taken off the floundering ship that is Luella’s. What she doesn’t know is that Al has an alternate personality, a pen name that has a byline set just above those previously mentioned ‘blistering reviews’.

He never tells her who he really is for quite a while, even after he realizes who she is. He first saw her crying, running along the sidewalk near Luella’s with a boxed Coconut Cake that eventually splats everywhere on the walkway while she continues onward to work – Luella’s. He’s out front preparing to walk in and be seated, to order a meal and write a review about the experience, neither of them ever setting eyes on one another until after the article is in print for all the readers to see. All he can think about is the lovely woman running along in tears, carrying then dropping the most delectable coconut cake he’d ever smelled. And he really wants to meet that sad lady and bring a smile back. He’s entranced. Intrigued.

She’s on the rebound after catching her fiance in a compromising situation, which he tries to explain isn’t what it seems. Nice try.

That’s just the beginning. She’s a lovable character start to finish. Al is obnoxious initially, though he kind of grows on you. You realize he has a soft inner core that no one truly sees. The fiance? Well, he’s an EX for a very good reason then later an even better one.

Quick Question……

This post is going to be a bit different.  This time the writer will be mostly YOU!  I want to hear from you this time.

Spring is just about here and thoughts are turning to the batches to be created for this year’s Spring-Summer lineup, so tell me what you’d like to see, what you’d like to hear about.  What fragrances or notes would you love to see translated into a soap?  Is there a particular ingredient you’d like to hear about or see soaped with in a cold process batch?  Do you want to see more posts about books or something else?  Leave your comments below and let me hear from you.  This tells me a lot about what your interests are, what you’re curious about, what you love to read about so no one gets bored seeing and reading the same ol’ thing over and over.  I also will be happy to post a YouTube video if something is requested that can be recorded.  So let me hear from you!

New books for the reference collection (soapmaking reference, that is)

For those who just can’t get enough of soap making books, here’s something to check out next time you’re looking for something quick, simple & fun to read, something to learn from and refer to over time. Anne Watson now has two more in her series of “Smart” books –

Cool Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Low-Temp Tricks for Making Soap with Milk, Citrus, Cucumber, Pine Tar, Beer, Wine, and Other Special Ingredients

and

Castile Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Castile Soap from Olive Oil Quickly, Safely, and Reliably

That’s quite a mouthful, I know, but the contents are helpful, no-nonsense and approached in a clear slightly humorous way.  She explains how to make soaps that will be safe and ready for use faster, with a boost to bubbles, or how to make them with foods that won’t ruin the soap over time with DOS or worse, mold.  She also includes a way to contact her for questions you might have that weren’t clear or not covered in her books with the note she’ll respond within hours.  How helpful!  This sort of transparency & approachability in knowledgeable experts is a rare treat in any field!

Under the Castile Soapmaking’s covers, she includes how to create castile, why it should be done a certain way, and even how to get it to trace and saponify faster.  Even though I’ve been a soap maker for more than 8 years, I still found very useful info in here to finish out the book with a few pages of notes to add to my reference notebook.  She’ll teach you how to calculate for a blended lye solution to help avoid the slimey texture castile is prone to with a blend of KOH and NaOH, use a bit of uniodized salt to help firm it up if the oils used are not characteristically hard oils in a finished bar or by adding warmth to the oils and how to boost the bubbles using a bit of sugar or castor, to name a few tricks contained in its chapters.

Within the Cool Soapmaking book she offers tips and tricks for working with cucumber, avocado, honey, various types of milks, yogurt, apricots, and clays.  She uses essential oils predominantly for the soaps in this book though some include the use of fragrance oils only as suggestions. There’s even one recipe that includes orange juice.  Are your taste buds tingling yet?

This book is not a beginner’s guide type of reference so it would be best to read through her previous book Smart Soapmaking or Milk Soapmaking and practice with a few of her small batch recipes to get a feel for the touch needed using alternative liquids in soapmaking particularly alcoholic liquids such as ales, wines, champagne, beer, stouts, etc.  Those are very tricky and definitely not for beginners.

Cool Soapmaking and Castile Soapmaking are available in Kindle format, which is how I got mine (for $0.99!), as well as in paperback format.  They both also include numerous recipes to try out and learn from as you expand your soaping skills horizons.

I highly recommend her books for every level of soapmaker looking to have a robust reference library to turn to for confirmation of certain techniques without all of the clinical or technical jargon that some other books may have.  They touch on the science of soap crafting with easy to read and follow text in a light, friendly way that’s neither overwhelming or intimidating.

In case you’re sold on these two spotlighted titles or any of the others mentioned, I’ll include links below for them.  Happy soaping!

 

Castile Soapmaking

Cool Soapmaking

Milk Soapmaking

Smart Soapmaking

PS: she has also published a book on Lotionmaking – Smart Lotionmaking