After reading The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap, we all know that hot process soap making is not a new method and most certainly isn't something that was recently invented. We explored some amazing historical hot process moments, but let's explore one of my favorite soap recipes, one that has existed for over 1,300 years- Aleppo Soap.
This ancient soap was once primarily made in Aleppo, Syria; however, because of the recent political and economic turmoil, the manufacturing process of Aleppo soap both in Syria and around the world has significantly declined. The soap is hand made by lifetime artisan soap makers from a combination of olive and laurel berry oil using the hot process soap making method (although some machinery is now used to increase the refining and packaging processes). These artisan soap makers often come from a family lineage of Aleppo soap makers and the position is regarded as one of great importance and honor within the community.
For a more in depth look at the modern manufacturing process of Aleppo soap, check out the video below and read the information below from author John Kolbot:
"Traditional Aleppo soap (Ghar) is made by the "hot process". First, the olive oil is brought into a large, in-ground vat along with water and lye. Underneath the vat, there is an underground fire which heats the contents to a boil. Boiling lasts three days while the oil reacts with the lye and water to become a thick liquid soap.
The laurel oil is added at the end of the process, and after it is mixed in, the mix is taken from the vat and poured over a large sheet of waxed paper on the floor of the factory. At this point the soap is a large, green, flat mass, and it is allowed to cool down and harden for about a day. While the soap is cooling, workers with planks of wood strapped to their feet walk over the soap to try to smooth out the batch and make it an even thickness.
The soap is then cut in cubes. The cubes of soap are stacked in staggered cylinders to allow maximum air exposure. Once they have dried sufficiently, they are put into a special subterranean chamber to be aged for six months to a year. While it is aging, the soap goes through several chemical changes. The free alkaline content of the soap (the alkaline which did not react with the oil during saponification) breaks down upon slow reaction with air. The moisture content of the soap is also reduced, making the soap hard and long lasting. And lastly, the color of the outside of the soap turns a pale gold, while the inside remains green.
Traditional Aleppo soap is made with olive oil, laurel berry oil, water and lye, while the relative concentration of laurel oil (typically 2–30%) determines the quality and cost of the soap. Laurus nobilis, from which the berries come, is categorized as an underutilized species. As it is produced only from natural oils, Aleppo soap is also biodegradable.
In the 20th century, with the introduction of cold process soap making, Allepian soap artisans began introducing a variety of herbs and essential oils to their soaps. Unlike most soaps, Aleppo soap will float in water.
Aleppo soap can be used daily as soap for washing and shampooing, as face mask, as shaving cream, and for bathing infants and babies. Laurel oil is an effective cleanser, antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-itching agent*."
(*These statements are quoted from a traditional Aleppian soap artisan and are not regulated by the FDA)
For a brief look into the modern process of Aleppo soap making, take a look at the videos below.
Are you ready to make your own Aleppo Soap? Follow the recipe below and instructions from The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap for LTHP or HTHP to create your very own Aleppo Soap.
Having trouble finding laurel berry oil? You can purchase Laurel Fruit Oil from BeScented here. (Not a paid promotion, we believe in supporting other women-owned small businesses. Available in the U.S.)
For more information about soap science, recipe formulating, hot process soap and fluid hot process soap, be sure to get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Hot Process Soap today by visiting our bookstore now!
Interested in more classic recipes? Check this post out to learn how to make four recipes using just three oils found at your local grocery store!