BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - A century and a half ago, most Adirondack women made soap at home. The process took days to complete, while accumulating the necessary ingredients required a full year of saving wood ashes and animal fat. Strong black lye and fat were mixed in a large kettle outdoors over an open fire to make the soap.
The resulting mixture cooked up into a thick, slimy, golden brown mass of soft soap, guaranteed to take the dirt out of anything - as well as the skin off your hands if you were not careful when using it!
Kathryn Brennan will demonstrate making old-fashioned lye soap at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York, from July 10 through July 13, 2009. The daily demonstration will be held in the Mark W. Potter Education Center from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and is included in the price of general admission.
Soap-making is the first in a summer-long series of craft and trade demonstrations at the Adirondack Museum. To see a complete listing, visit the museum's web site www.adirondackmuseum.org "Special Events."
Mrs. Brennan will demonstrate soap-making techniques common in the late 1880s. She will explain the earlier more time-consuming processes and will provide a scientific explanation that will de-mystify the chemistry between lye and fat. She will also discuss the history of soap-making from the discovery of the process to the invention of detergents during World War II.
Kathryn Brennan first researched soap-making to help a local historical society present a rural life festival. Soap-making soon became a hobby and evolved into a business -- Berkshire Hills Soap Works. The company specializes in the production of all-natural soaps for people with various skin needs, and has become a wholesale, retail, and mail order business.
Mrs. Brennan has demonstrated soap-making at the New York State Fair's Agricultural Museum, participated in The Farmer's Museum's Harvest Festival in Cooperstown, N.Y., and has demonstrated at the Adirondack Museum since 2003.
The Adirondack Museum tells the story of the Adirondacks through exhibits, special events, classes for schools, and hands-on activities. Introducing the new exhibits: Common Threads: 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters and A "Wild Unsettled Country": Early Reflections of the Adirondacks. For information about all that the museum has to offer, please call (518) 352-7311, or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.