Post by Pierre Jelenc Post by Danny D.
Why is "cream of tartar" called what it is (it's not a cream,
and never was)?
It's simply a dry acid, which is scraped off barrels of wine,
and used in baking, to make baking soda give off bubbles when
you're baking non-acidic ingredients (such as a cake).
Every description says they have no idea why it's called "cream",
Do you English aficionados, who have more resources, have
a suggestion as to why it's called "cream" of tartar?
It's the "cream", i.e. the best, most purified part of crude tartar.
It looks so.
"Cream of Tartar, called also crystals of tartar, in pharmacy, a
of tartar made in the following manner:
Take any quantity of crude tartar, boil it in water, till the parts
capable of solution be entirely dissolved; filter the liquor whilst hot
through a flaunel bag into an earthen-pan, and evaporate till a pellicle
appears, then set it in a cold place, and suffer it to stand quietly two
three days: afterwards decant the fluid, and the crystals will be found
adhering to the pan: scrape them off, and evaporate the fluid as before,
and set it again to crystallise, and repeat the operation till all the
are formed. Cream of tartar is a gentle purge. It attenuates and
tough humours, and is good against obstructions of the viscera, and in
cachectic complaints. It is also a good adjunct to chalybeate
--- The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences in which the whole
Circle of Human Learning is explained, and the Difficulties attending
the Acquisition of Every Art, Whether Liberal or Mechanical, are
Removed, in the Most Easy and Familiar Manner, Croker, Rev Temple Henry;
Williams, Thomas; Clark, Samuel; London, 1764
"TARTAR (Chem.) the concretion which fixes to the inside of hogsheads
containing wine; when purified it is perfectly white, and shootrs out
crystals of tartar consisting of a peculiar acid, called tartaric acid,
saturated with potash: it is, therefor, a super-tartrate of alkali,
powdered, is the cream of tartar of the shop."
--- Universal Technological Dictionary Or Familiar Explanation of the
Terms Used in All Arts And Science, Volume 2
By George Crabb, London, 1823
I did look for other "cream of" instances, but the only one I found was
the following. In this case it clearly comes from its cream-like
consistency. Is it possible that cream of tartar may originally have
been sometimes obtained and used in a semi-liquid state? Further
research is needed.
"Although ptisans may be made with various kinds of corn, yet when
ptisan is ordered, it is supposed to be made of barley. If this
decoction was given with the barley in it, it was called whole ptisan;
if the water was strained from the barley, it was then called juice of
ptisan; and when it was boiled to a greater thickness, it was called
cream of ptisan, which is made at this day in another manner, namely, by
pressing the boiled barley with a wooden spoon through a hair sieve, and
then mixing it with the decoction. Thus a barley pap is made which has
the consistence of cream, and affords a mild, moist, softening food,
that does not putrefy."
--- An Abridgement of Baron Van Swieten's Commentaries Upon the
Aphorisms of Dr Herman Boerhaave Concerning the Knowledge and Cure of
Diseases. Vol IV, Colin Hossack MD of Colchester, London, 1775