Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cotton swabs, tissues and shortening - Part III

As promised, I looked into the origins of Crisco also. Lately, I’ve become completely obsessed with eponyms (can’t you tell by the last four posts?) but I pledge to post about something entirely different soon. But I did want to know about Crisco…

The name Crisco is actually a sort of acronym for what it contains, which is CRYStallized Cottonseed Oil. Other names that the substance went by include Krispo, and Cryst. The latter was abandoned because of connotations related to Jesus Christ (you can’t really spread Him on your food, now can you?)

Crisco is unique from other forms of cooking fats (such as butter, oil, or lard) because it is oil that has been reformulated through a process called hydrogenation to create a shortening that remains solid at room temperature. The original purpose of Crisco shortening was to be used for candle making as a cheap substitute for more expensive animal fats.

With the advent of readily-available electricity, the candle business wasn’t making the profits Proctor & Gamble had intended, and Crisco needed a new customer. Because of the fat content of the product, and its resemblance to lard, they decided to market it as an ingredient used in cooking. Offering free cookbooks with recipes using Crisco sped the change along.

Now owned by Smuckers, Crisco is widely used in recipes and is still hailed as the first shortening product made entirely of vegetable oil. But, like many products on the market, it has also been found useful in other situations, as well. For example, it can be used for seasoning cast iron cookware and as a moisturizer for afro-textured hair. Crisco has also been used by historical battle re-enactors, who lubricate musket balls to reduce the effects of black powder residue.

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