Shortening Thoughts

thoughts on shortening

With the recent move from the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oils, we are hopeful consumers will begin to pay more attention to the food they eat and the ingredients. That being said I have been wondering for some time what everyone used before fully hydrogenated soybean oil was put into everything. Today I found out what was used before the dangerous soybean oil. Read on for a trip through time.

Most of America grew up with their parents using Crisco. It has been around since longer than our grandparents, so its history was where I found the interesting information.

Crisco dates back to pre-Civil-War days. A candle maker, William Proctor, and his brother-in-law, soap-maker James Gamble, joined forces due to competition. Meatpacking monopolies had cornered the lard and tallow market and controlled pricing. Since both of these were needed for candles and soap, Proctor and Gamble looked to cottonseed oil as an alternative, buying multiple cottonseed factories. They employed a German chemist, E.C. Keyser, who developed the process of hydrogenation in 1907. He added hydrogen atoms to the fatty acids in cottonseed oil, which transformed the liquid oil into a solid similar in appearance as lard.

Unfortunately for Proctor and Gamble, as this process was being developed for their soap and candle business, electricity impacted their candle business. While they still had soap production using the new process, they looked to expand into new markets. One was food. They decided since their candle and soap ingredient looked like food, they would sell it as food.

Crisco was christened and their initial ads stated Crisco was “a healthier alternative to cooking with animal fats. . . and more economical than butter.” They then came up with the genius idea of giving away free cookbook with 615 various recipes, all containing Crisco.

In 2002 P&G sold Crisco to J.M. Smucker Co. when trans-fat health issues were made public. Since then J.M. Smucker Co. has varied the recipe several times, using fully hydrogenated palm oil in 2004 to soybean oil in 2012. Today the trans-fats have been removed, but with fully hydrogenated oils replacing them.

Since Crisco was never intended as food and was only called food to sell a newly created product, there really should be no questions about the health risks. The triglycerides created during hydrogenation and interesterification (mixing fully hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) are not naturally found. These unnatural triglycerides are an unknown risk, and interestified fats increase blood sugar by 20% and lower HDL cholesterol, neither of which are beneficial. The cottonseed oil used in Crisco today is harvested by defoliating the cotton plants with pesticides, meaning there is no reason to use Crisco if you love your family.

So, how did I start this topic? It all started when I was reading about how one can take a can of Crisco, insert a wooden skewer all the way to the bottom, remove it and use it to push down a candlewick or piece of string. Once you smooth out the Crisco on top, you can light the wick and it will burn for 45 days. Yes, long enough to survive any zombie apocalypse that comes up.

In summary, make sure your food does not contain candle wax and your health will improve.


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