As a girl, I’m interested in anything that has to do with soap. (Fact: I used to go out and buy new soap as a ‘pick-me-up’ in college. Some people drank, I washed.) I love the feel of soap, the smell of it and most importantly, the cleanliness of it all. (If you haven’t guessed, I’m a Type A personality. I know, shocker.) So when I got the tip that “there’s a guy out there that makes soap out of REAL bacon,” I lit up like a barbeque grease fire in July. REAL BACON SOAP? Not just soap that looks like bacon, but REAL SOAP WITH BACON IN IT?
Be. Still. My. Heart.
Behold, Michael Zary, the man who has given us Bacon Soap.
ME: What made you think that bacon fat would make good soap?
MICHAEL: I really had no idea that it would. I knew that fats could be converted into soap and I knew that I had a dozen jars of bacon fat. I was concerned that my bacon fat may be rancid and useless from having sat in the cupboard for a year.
I took a soap making class in the spring and ran the idea past the teacher. I learned that lard is one of the best oils to convert soap. It doesn’t need any other oils added to it, and its natural properties create a cleansing, moisturizing, hard bar lather. We rendered a jar of fat and it was fine. At that point I knew the bacon soap dream was alive!
ME: Did you have an interest in soap?
MICHAEL: I’ve never had an interest in soap. My interest is bacon. Soap is just an extension of that love. The bacon soap has provided me yet another platform to discuss bacon and show people its versatility. I still run into the odd person who hasn’t yet converted to our religion, so it’s nice to provide an outside-the-box example of bacon’s power. Until now I’d been using the “have you tasted bacon? Well, end of argument, asshole” argument when I run into the odd bacon hater. I’ve yet to lose a debate on the topic.
ME: I’m going to steal your argument, brilliant. What do you think about soap that just looks like bacon?
MICHAEL: I do get upset when I see people selling what they claim to be bacon soap, when what they are actually selling is soap that looks like bacon or soap in the shape of bacon. My soap is made FROM bacon. There is a huge difference.
ME: Tell us, how do you make this wonderful bacon soap?
MICHAEL: Here’s my recipe:
1. Eat a shit ton of bacon. Pour the bacon grease into a glass jar.
2. When the glass jar is full, you will need to render the fat.
a. Rendering process:
i. Remove the lid, and place the jar in a pot of boiling water.
ii. The lard will heat up and convert to oil.
iii. Making sure the temperature isn’t so hot that you’ll start a fire, pour the oil into the water and add some salt. Boil the water and oil for an hour or so. Let cool (in the fridge).
iv. The lard will rise and the water/salt will absorb the particulates and smell.
v. Remove lard layer from the pot (and render twice more in the same fashion as above).
vi. After three sessions, you have a clean enough lard to convert to soap.
3. Soap making process:
a. Heat lard until it becomes an oil. Pour into a large bowl.
b. Calculate the amount of lye/water that you require using the saponification table. (Note: do not fuck with lye. Remember what it did to Edward Norton.)
c. Slowly pour lye into water using a second bowl and stir. Keep your face away from the fumes. The chemical reaction creates a sharp increase in the temperature of the mixture.
d. When the two bowls drop in temperature to about 88F, pour the lye/water mixture into the large oil bowl while stirring.
e. Stir the mixture using hand blender.
f. When it gets to “trace stage” add color and essential oils. Paprika for red, turmeric for yellow, cocoa for brown, etc. You don’t need much (tbsp). Essential oils require from 5mL to 10mL for about 1kg of soap.
g. Blend a bit more to get back to trace stage.
h. Pour the blend into a mold.
i. Wait 24 hours. Cut into bars.
j. Wait one month to allow the soap to cure.
k. You’ve got bacon soap. Lather up!!
If you don’t have the time to make your bacon soap you can order some here.
ME: Holy crap, that’s intense. I gotta ask, how do you smell after using it? Do you really get clean?
MICHAEL: Of course you get clean! It’s real soap, and it’s damn fine. Handmade soaps are much superior to industrial soaps. They don’t have the glycerin stripped from them and are easier on your skin.
People keep asking me if it smells like bacon, and although that would be great, it smells like whatever essential oil’s been added. I prefer lavender, but I’ve made lemongrass, anise, and chocolate-peppermint, among others. My dream scent for bacon soap is maple; however, there is no essential oil from maple, and I refuse to use artificial scents. It’s a quality issue for me.
ME: Are you selling it? If so, where and when can I get my grabby hands on some?
MICHAEL: For the most part, I’ve been making trades or giving it away to friends. I’ve got some marketing ideas, but it’s not going to make me rich unless I buy a factory and make it my career. The inputs are pretty high and I don’t think anyone is about to pay $50 a bar, even for high quality bacon soap. Do I think there is a place in the market for it? Definitely. Am I going to make that happen? Unlikely. That being said, I’m going to sell what I have, but I’m in it because of my love for bacon, not the money.
ME: What do your friends think about it?
MICHAEL: The feedback has been super positive. Some people are just blown away by how weird or obscure it seems, but my friends get it and they all love it! They’ve been encouraging me to sell it at markets and butcher shops. A lot of people tell me that they throw the bacon fat away or pour it down the sink, so it’s nice to feel like I’m enlightening them. Bacon soap takes you one step further down the product cycle. With a concerted focus on environmentalism, any sort of down-cycling gets major credit with the traditional crafting, progressive capitalists here in Victoria. In the end, it’s all about loving bacon and avoiding piggish behavior.
Well, Michael, I have a feeling you may have a lot of customers now. Including me. Because like your recipe says, I know better than to f*ck with lye. I’ll let you do that for me.
If you’d like to reach Michael, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jennifer Eolin