Monday, August 16, 2021

New Foods of the 19th Century – Part One (1800-1866) by Jo-Ann Roberts

Back in June, I blogged about cooking in the Old West. In my newest release, Grace-Brides of New Hope Book Three,  Grace Donegan is a baker at Caroline’s Café in New Hope, Kansas. While researching the implements she would have used, I came across The Food Timeline, a chronological compilation of when and how foods we know today came about…they weren’t invented—they evolved. It is a fascinating buffet of popular lore and contradictory facts.

Since my historical romances are set in the 1800s, I decided to focus on some of the more popular foods making an appearance in the 19th century which are still used in today's cooking and baking.

Pullman Loaves (a.k.a. Sandwich bread) 

"Pullman" loaves,  the precursor to today's sandwich bread is a type of bread made with white flour and baked in a long, narrow lidded pan.

The name "Pullman" was derived from its use in the kitchens of the Pullman railway cars. Although the Pullman Company is credited with inventing the lidded baking pans to create the pans, square tin pans existed long before the railroad company. While European bakers began using the pans in the early 18th century to minimize crusts, the Pullman executives chose the loaf for use on the railcars for efficiency reasons. three Pullman loaves occupied the same space as two standard round-top loaves.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, toffee is defined as "a sweet meat made from sugar or treacle (a thick, dark syrup made from partly refined sugar), butter and sometimes a little flour, boiled together and often mixed with almonds or walnuts".

Taffy, on the other hand, is a confection made from sugar, butter, and flavorings that has a chewy texture obtained by twisting and pulling the cooked ingredients into elasticity. By the 1870s taffy bakes and taffy pulls, at which young people gather to stretch the candy between them had become social occasions.

Dutch Cocoa
In 1828, C.J. van Houten of the Netherlands patented a process for obtaining "chocolate powder" by pressing much of the cocoa butter from ground and roasted cocoa beans. The process known as "Dutching" improved the powder's compatibility in warm water or milk and made the drink darker in color and milder in flavor.
Nearly 20 years later in 1847, an English firm combined cocoa butter, a by-product of the pressing, with chocolate liquor and sugar to produce eating chocolate, and in 1876 Daniel Peter of Switzerland added dried milk to make milk chocolate. The proliferation of flavored, solid, and coated chocolate foods rapidly followed.
In 1860 in the United States, home consumption was well over one million pounds; by 1885 it had reached nearly eight and one-half million pounds.
Starches of many kinds were made from wheat, tapioca, arrowroot, and corn. While Native Americans appreciated the thickening properties of corn, the ability to transform it into a powder did not occur until the mid-19th century.

In 1842, Thomas Kingsford, a chemist working for William Colgate & Son, invented a process for the manufacture of starch from corn.
In addition to Kingsford cornstarch for food consumption, he also invented Kingsford's Silver GlossStarch for laundry use, these two products are now household words in every country in the world.
Potato Chips (a.k.a. Saratoga Chips)
Born in 1824 in Saratoga Lake, New York, George Speck was the son of an African-American father

 and a Native American mother. He adopted the name Crum because it was the name his father used as a jockey at the nearby Saratoga racetrack.
In the summer of 1853, he was working as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, where French-fried potatoes were a favorite menu item.
Legend states that a customer sent his fries back to the kitchen twice because they were too thick. Retaliating, Crum sliced the potatoes as thinly as possible, fried them in grease, and sent the crunchy brown chips back out to the customer.
The reaction was immediate and unexpected: the guest loved them, prompting other guests to request them as well. Soon Crum's "Saratoga Chips" became the most popular item on the menu.
Sweetened Condensed Milk
In an attempt to fight food poisoning and other illnesses related to the lack of refrigeration, Gail Borden introduced Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk to the public in 1856. The arrival of the Civil War helped Eagle Brand become a household name. The soldiers needed milk that would keep well and Borden's milk filled that need. Borden's process for making sweetened condensed milk enabled the product to be transported and stored without refrigeration for longer periods than fresh milk.

Eagle Brand is also credited with significantly lowering the infant mortality rate in the mid-to later part of the 19th century. His discovery provided milk that would remain a safe and wholesome nourishment for infants and children.
Conversation Hearts
In 1847, Oliver Chase, a Boston pharmacist longed for a way to share in the apothecary lozenge craze. Lozenges were gaining popularity as a way to take medicine for sore throats and bad breath. The process was complicated and time-consuming. The process utilized a mortar and pestle, kneading the dough, rolling it out, and cutting it into discs that would become lozenges.

Inspired by the new wave of gadgets and tools of the Industrialized Revolution, Chase invented a machine that rolled the dough and pressed wafers into perfect discs. After creating the first candy-making machine, he abandoned his pharmacy business and started the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO).

Legend has it that Chase's NECCO wafers were sent to Civil War soldiers and some speculate the tradition of sending loving greetings to the troops morphed into conversation hearts.

Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book, Lizzie Heritage, 1894
The Oxford Companion in Food, Alan Davidson
The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani
True History of Chocolate, Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe, 2nd edition, 2007
Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, May 6, 1847
Necco Wafers |
Our History | TABASCO® Brand Legendary Pepper Sauce
Fleischmann’s Yeast History - Chowhound
Coming next month: New Foods of the 19th Century – Part Two (1866-1899)

To find the books' descriptions and purchase link, please CLICK HERE 


  1. Thank you. I am surprised some of these were available as early as they were. This information helps writers as well as readers. Best wishes!

    1. Caroline, thanks for your kind word. As a fair cook and a better baker, it was really interesting to discover when and how these items evolved.

  2. Thank you for the interesting informative post. fun to realize items in the cupboard were invented that long ago. Looking forward to the next post and Food Timeline will be very helpful.

  3. Thanks for your interest in my post. I so enjoy do researching on this topic. It was surprising to me to discover how long we've been using some of these products and recipes...some as far back as the early centuries!


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