A fun, versatile little baked good that I have discovered anew. Small in size, usually 3 inches or less, they are made typically from grain flour dough and are flat and crisp. Flavors and seasonings (salt usually) are added to the dough or sprinkled on top before they are baked.
We have mentioned in past posts that our community has been sponsoring a Winter Market that has featured meat and vegetables from local farmers and producers. However, other wonderful foodstuffs have been offered at the market as well, including pasta, cheesecake, tamales, jam, pickles, salsa, antipasto and crackers.
Crackers have always been a part of my diet, most commonly Nabisco saltines and Ritz. As a kid I crumbled saltines into my soup or was given them when I had an upset tummy. When I was older, tea was added to the tummy cure. Ritz crackers were eaten with a piece of Velveeta cheese. Saltines were always a safe food to give a toddler who could gum them into a nice mushy goo. But crackers have come a long way since then, just visit the cracker aisle in your local grocery; every size, shape and flavor imaginable.
The cracker has a fairly interesting history. They are said to be invented in 1792 in Massachusetts by John Pearson who baked a bread-like biscuit using only flour and water. They had a long shelf-life and became popular with sailors. Today it is commonly known as hardtack. It may have stilled your hunger and lasted through long voyages but it sure sounds unappetizing. The real origin probably came in 1801 when another Massachusetts baker burned a batch of biscuits. They made a loud crackling noise and so the people in earshot, I guess, referred to them as “crackers.” Some of the accounts are vague but this baker, instead of tossing them in the trash, sold them as a snack food. That must have been quite some sales-pitch. But they caught on and by 1810 he had a booming business, which in later years, he sold his business to the National Biscuit Company, known today as Nabisco. Ah, those lucky accidents.
But back to the crackers that got me started on this topic.
One of the booths at the market had samples of the crackers. I liked the Triple Seeded (pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, garlic, sea salt and maple syrup) but Curt preferred the Chickpea Snack Crackers (chickpea flour, stone ground corn, onion, coriander, fennel, black pepper and garlic). Two weeks later, Curt went back for two more bags of his favorite. Yesterday we visited Elemental Ovens table again and this time bought another Chickpea, Triple-seeded and tried the third kind, Special Tea, which also came home with us. Now Special Tea used to be called Ginger crackers and didn’t really trip my trigger but now they had a new name. Frankly, if I hadn’t been encouraged to try them I probably would have passed them by. The baker said they changed the name because they didn’t strongly taste of ginger but she still wasn’t sure if the new name was right. They are made with whole wheat flour, organic fair trade coffee, sunflower oil, maple syrup, fresh ginger, cocoa and sprinkled with sea salt. They had a graham cracker taste about them but not as sweet which was just fine with me. There is no tea in them but Curt thought the name was a play on words, like ‘specialty” -special tea. She said if we have any name suggestions I should send them her way. What do you think?
Since buying these crackers I have been eating all three flavors as snacks, or having them for lunch instead of bread. They are much more fun with soup than saltines but on the side, not crumbled in. A few of the Tripled Seeded with a nice piece of cheese and a glass of wine before dinner is delightful. Crackers today are just wonderful by themselves unlike that sturdy long-lasting hardtack and an accompanying slice of sausage, cucumber or some radishes make a pretty nice snack too.
The hard part now will be getting more. This past Saturday was the last winter market for this season. My cracker lady has a small business and is not carried in my local large supermarket. She suggested we try making a request of our grocer to carry them but that’s a long shot. Maybe a smaller grocery might take a chance, I’ll have to check. In the meantime, after I empty these bags, I’ll have to order more or I think I will have to look past the Nabisco saltines and see what else is interesting in the cracker aisle.
Got a better name for the Special Tea crackers? Send it to me. Want to contact Elemental Ovens? Click this link.