The Selçuk Craft club (at least those of us who were free on a Sunday) travelled to Kapıkırı koyu to watch soap being made. This is an annual ritual in the villages where nothing goes to waste – it makes good use of the oil which is not of the best quality. Five of us fitted quite comfortably into the car and made our way to the village. The road by Lake Bafa has finally been made up and, although there is some loose gravel in places, it’s a huge improvement on the mud bath with occasional explosions we’ve experienced in the past.
The soap was on the go by the time we arrived. The soap making involved a great many people, all of whom were advising all of the others (and often giving contradictory advice). One of our number had bought along 5 litres of olive oil and that was set going in a separate cauldron…
The basic method is to pour the oil into a cauldron partly filled with water and to heat it. Caustic soda is then mixed with hot water and added. Everything is then stirred. Eventually the soap thickens and lies on top of the water at which point it is skimmed off and poured into a mould to set.
This whole process takes quite a long time (the boiling goes on for at least two hours – often more). Various ingredients are added as the process progresses. More water – more lye – more water – more lye. The original quantity of oil appears to be a given and the other ingredients are added in order to achieve the required ‘set’.
We were provided with a delicious lunch whilst the village soap cooled and our own soap was still boiling. More women came up from the village. More advice was given and passionately debated. Whilst we were eating, our soap began to set. But, sadly, the first batch was found to be faulty. Oil was coming off it as well as water. It was taken from the mould and put back into the cauldron for further boiling and saponification. The problem, we were told, was ‘too many Kaptan’.
Our soap was cooling nicely when we left. The village soap was still in the cauldron, being tended by several of the women.
When it is set, our soap will be cut into bars for us to share. It does take a while to cure, to be certain that all the lye that went into it has come out. But we will have a supply of excellent quality, pure soap – enough to last us at least a year.