The Savonnerie "Le Serail" is the last artisanal and traditional soap-making in Marseille based in the Phocéenne city.
In the 1900s, Marseilles's big city of Provence saw its soap factories - a hundred at the time - close one after the other due to the massive arrival of laundry.
A man, returning from deportation in Germany, Vincent BOETTO, made the bet to create in 1949 the Savonnerie le Serail, in order to perpetuate the know-how and the tradition of the real soap of Marseille.
He then took over a farm located inside the city, where he installed the equipment needed to manufacture the traditional Marseille soap cube, and in particular the cauldrons in which the soap paste was made.
Today, it is his son, Daniel, proud of this heritage, who took over the reins of soap factory in 2009 and who perpetuates the know-how left by his father.
Thus, all the equipment is of period, and has been preserved as well as all the steps necessary to the manufacture of the traditional soap of Marseille, which allowed him to obtain the label "Enterprise of Living Heritage" Awarded by the Marseille Chamber of Commerce.
I - The manufacturing process of authentic soap from Marseille to Savonnerie Le Sérail
The authentic Marseille soap is made in a cauldron, according to a specific saponification process called the "Marseillais process", comprising five stages:
1st step :
The paste, or saponification chemical reaction.
Oils of vegetable origin are heated in a large cauldron. Under the action of soda and heat, they gradually transform into soap.
2nd step: release
The soap being insoluble in salt water, this operation consists in adding sea salt in order to carry the excess sodium hydroxide solution to the bottom of the cauldron, the soap remaining above.
Step 3: Cooking
This operation characterizes the saponification and allows the complete transformation of the vegetable oils into soap.
Step 4: washing
The soap paste is refined by washing, resulting in glycerol, impurities and unsaponified fatty acids.
5th stage: liquidation
A final washing with clear water brings the soap to the final state: a pure and smooth soap which is the reputation of the Marseillais process.
These different operations take about a week.
Each cauldron can contain eight tons of soap paste.
Then comes the casting.
The soap is poured hot (70 °) into basins called "bets", where it will cool and solidify for about three days.
The soap slab is then cut into blocks of 40 to 50 kg before being redrawn in units of 1000g - 600g - 400g - 300g.
Everything is done manually on vintage machines.
The soap cubes are then placed on shelves where they will dry in the open air for a week to fifteen days so that the contained water can evaporate.
The whole production is artisanal and the cubes will be stamped one by one in soap presses featuring vintage tulip molds.
The soap is then marked on its six faces with Savon de Marseille, weight, olive oil base, made in cauldron, manufacturers logo, 72% olive oil base.
Between 1811 and 1812, Napolean 1st published 4 decrees stipulating that soaps are stamped indicating the weight, type of oil used, along with the manufacturer's name and town of residence. The presentation described was therefore intended to inform and reassure the consumer about the quality, weight of the soap, and it's origin.