HERB - soap-based Washing Balls from The English Housewife

Gaylin Walli g.walli at infoengine.com
Tue Dec 1 10:54:25 PST 1998

Since we've been talking about soap with additional stuff in it,
I thought I'd toss this one out that I found over the holiday. I'm
going to try it out sometime when I've got a fresh batch of soap
going into the pot. This recipe is from "The English Housewife" by
Gervase Markham, in the chapter on distillations (as published in
the M.R. Best edition; spelling has been normalized):

  To make washing balls.

  To make very good washing balls [37] take storax of both kinds,
  [38] benjamin, calamus aromaticus, [39] labdanum [40] of each a
  like; and bray them to powder with cloves ad orris; [41] then beat
  them all with a sufficient quantity of soap till it be stiff, then
  with your hand you shall work it like paste, and make round balls

Footnotes from the M.R. Best edition:

  [37] Many recipes of a similar kind are found in "The Secrets of
  ...Alexis of Piemont (1558) pt. I, bk. 2, fol. 63 ff.

  [38] Storax, the resin obtained form the tree Liquidambar orientalis,
  was sold in both dry and liquid forms.

  [39] Originally an eastern aromatic reed or grass, but in 1578 Lyte
  wrote: "That which they use to sell for calamus aromaticus is no reed
  nor root of a reed, but is the root of a certain herb like unto the
  yellow flag, or bastard acorus [Acorus calamus]" (p. 514).

  [40] Ladanum: "a yellowish gum, as some write; notwithstanding, others
  affirm it to be made of a dew which falleth upon a certain herb in
  Greece. Avicenna saith it is taken hanging on the hair of goats'
  beards that have fed upon the plant" (Bullokar).

Notes as obtained from the glossary of the M.R. Best edition:

  storax: the aromatic gum from Liquidambar orientalis
  benjamin: the resin from Liquidambar orientalis
  labdanum: an aromatic gum
  bray: to beat or crush to powder
  orris: the aromatic root made from the Florentine iris

Markham, Gervase. _The English Housewife_. Ed. Michael R. Best.
Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press. 1986. ISBN: 0-7735-0582-2.
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