A saltine or soda cracker is a thin, usually square cracker made from white flour, yeast, and baking soda, with most varieties lightly sprinkled with coarse salt. It has perforations over its surface, as well as a distinctively dry and crisp texture.
|Alternative names||Soda cracker|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Main ingredients||Flour, yeast, and baking soda|
Some familiar brand names of saltine crackers in North America are Christie's Premium Plus (Canada), Nabisco's Premium (U.S.), Sunshine Biscuits' Krispy (U.S.), Keebler's Zesta (U.S.) (both owned by Kellogg's), and Noel's Saltín (Colombia). Unsalted tops as well as whole grain saltines can also be found.
Saltines are commonly eaten as a light snack, often with cheese, butter, peanut butter or other spreads. They may also be dipped or crumbled in soups, chilis, stews, and eaten with, or crumbled into salads. Typically they are sold in boxes containing two to four stacks of crackers, each wrapped in a sleeve of waxed paper or plastic. In restaurants, they are found in small wrapped plastic packets of two crackers, which generally accompany soup or salad. Cracker meal, a type of coarse to semi-fine flour made of crushed saltine crackers, may be used as toppings for various dishes; breading for fried or baked poultry, fish or red meats; or as a thickener for meatloaf soups, stews, sauces, and chilis.
As a home remedy, saltines are consumed by many people in order to ease nausea and to settle an upset stomach. Saltine crackers have also been frequently included in military field rations (Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MRE) in the United States. For some children in parts of the eastern United States, Saltines are traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve.
Soda crackers were described in "The Young Housekeeper" by Alcott in 1838.
In 1876, F. L. Sommer & Company of St. Joseph, Missouri started using baking soda to leaven its wafer thin cracker. Initially called the Premium Soda Cracker and later "Saltines" because of the baking salt component, the invention quickly became popular and Sommer's business quadrupled within four years. That company merged with other companies to form American Biscuit Company in 1890 and then after further mergers became part of Nabisco in 1898.
In the early 20th century, various companies in the United States began selling soda crackers in Puerto Rico and referred to them as "Export Soda". Rovira Biscuit Corp. of Puerto Rico also started selling their soda crackers with the same name. The term "Export Soda" became a generic term in Puerto Rico for these crackers. In 1975 Keebler Co. was refused a trademark for the term because it was "merely descriptive".
In the United States, Nabisco lost trademark protection after the term "saltine" began to be used generically to refer to similar crackers (see generic trademark for how this occurs). The name "saltine" had been placed in the Merriam Webster Dictionary in 1907 with a definition of "a thin crisp cracker usually sprinkled with salt”. In Australia, Arnott's Biscuits Holdings still holds a trademark on the name "Saltine".
Saltines have been compared to hardtack, a simple unleavened cracker or biscuit made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. However, unlike hardtack, saltines include yeast as one of their ingredients. Soda crackers are a leavened bread that is allowed to rise for twenty to thirty hours. After the rise, alkaline soda is added to neutralize the excessive acidity produced by the action of the yeast. The dough is allowed to rest for three to four more hours, to relax the gluten, before being rolled in layers and then baked.
Flat saltine crackers have perforations on their surfaces. During baking, the outer layer of dough hardens first, restricting out-gassing of evolved gasses. The perforations connect the top surface to the bottom surface to prevent the cracker from pillowing as a result of these evolved gasses.
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