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The Ingredient Addition That Led To Saltine Crackers' Iconic Name

Close-up of Saltine crackers
Close-up of Saltine crackers - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

When it comes to classic crackers, few can rival the simple, yet iconic, Saltine. These crispy squares are a beloved accompaniment to soups, spreads, and snacks, but what many don't know is that the name "Saltines" isn't derived from the dusting of salt on top. In fact, the real secret behind the cracker's name relates to the introduction of one specific ingredient: baking soda.

Long before they became Saltines, these crackers were a humble combination of just water and flour. They were a basic sustenance, a blank canvas awaiting transformation. In 1876, a brilliant idea sprang forth: adding baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, to the dough to give the crackers a little more height. This unassuming ingredient would go on to revolutionize these crackers and give them their signature name.

Baking soda was a new mining byproduct at the time, and adding it to the cracker recipe was a game-changer. It introduced tiny bubbles into the dough, which, when exposed to the heat of the oven, created a remarkable lightness and crispiness that set them apart from ordinary crackers. This fizzy transformation marked the birth of the "soda cracker."

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The Merger That Led To Brand-Name Saltines

Top-down view of several Saltine crackers
Top-down view of several Saltine crackers - Duntrune Studios/Shutterstock

Fast forward to the late 19th century, and you'll find the merger that paved the way for the enduring brand that we know today. In 1898, the New York Biscuit Company and the American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company merged to form the National Biscuit Company, or Nabisco for short. It was under this new banner that the Saltine cracker truly found its identity.

With the merger complete, the rebranded company set its sights on perfection. The soda cracker was refined and reimagined, and it was then that the name "Saltines" was officially embraced. This moniker was chosen not for the sprinkle of salt on top, but rather as an homage to the baking soda -- then known as baking salt -- that had forever altered the cracker's destiny.

Today, Nabisco Premium Saltines stand as a testament to the enduring power of innovation and the unexpected twists of culinary history. While the crackers may have started as a simple blend of flour and water, it was the introduction of baking soda that transformed them into the crispy, light, and iconic Saltines that are still made this way to this day. So, the next time you reach for a Saltine, remember that its name holds a bubbly secret, a story of evolution, and a taste of history.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.