I thought I would change the pace a little bit. We received photos on how shea butter is made and found it very interesting that I decided to add it to the newsletter this month. I am a firm believer that it is not only important to know what you put into and on your body, but also the production of the products. We use shea butter in some of our products. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Warning: This Newsletter contains graphic photographs of actual
shea nuts being transformed…..
Shea Butter has become a hot ingredient in cosmetic formulations.
There are many ways to process oil seed products, and many variations on the handmade process shown below.
However, here is the basic method.
In Ghana the kernels were dried and baked, which improved yield and shelf life.
This was less common in Guinea.
We are working right now for the Organic Certification of the shea crop in several villages in Northern Ghana.
This is wildcrafted shea butter made by expert craftswomen from the village of Nasia, Ghana.
Water, women and shea nuts are the only ingredients.
This is how they make artisanal, handmade shea butter:
Raw shea nuts (kind of like mini avocados) are harvested off the ground, put into water and de-husked. The fleshy pulp is eaten, and the nuts are boiled for 30 minutes, then sun dried 4-5 days. This is what they look like at this point:
The shells are cracked….
and winnowed….in Ghana a cloth was often used, in Guinea, a basket tray
Here are the dried kernels or almonds. Ghana has a tradition of baking the dried almonds. We saw less knowledge of baking the almonds in Guinea.
This extra step kills the natural enzymes in the nut which break down the oils and shorten shelf life. The baked nuts will have a higher oil yield as well.
We would like to see this step done more efficiently using raised drying racks and then baking. In this demonstration, 1/3 of the nuts remained uncracked.
Three stages of shea production: Almonds waiting to be cracked (note the grass mixed in), the “coffee” or ground, dried almonds, and the finished product cooling solid.
After cracking and drying, the “coffee”, as we called the twice ground kernels are then pounded to release the oil.
Water is added and the product is kneaded to the “chocolate” stage
and more kneading….small amounts of water are added along the way. The quality of hand kneaded shea butter cannot be matched by mechanical means.
When ready (30 to 90 minutes of kneading later), water is added and a vigorous back and forth hand motion releases the grey oil to the surface.
The oil is carefully scooped off….
and washed several times.
It now looks like clay, and is drained and put into a pot.
There it is cooked for about 15 minutes.
Cooling shea butter….
And some finished product!
In Northern Ghana this is how shea is sold:
In Upper Guinea large balls of shea are wrapped in Kapok leaves and tied.
Here is a well made drying rack from the Western Region of Ghana
And an excellent example of a multi use earth oven….
I would personally like to thank Larry Pleasant with Vermont Soapworks for allowing us to show you how Shea Butter is made. Please visit his website at www.vermontsoap.com.