Cream of tartar – or Sant’Antimo’s crystal
Cream of tartar, known in Italy as St Antimo’s crystal, is an acid. It is a tartaric and organic acid, found naturally in many plants.
It is also formed during the winemaking process: found in the sediment left behind in barrels after the wine has been fermented, it is then purified into the white powder we use for baking.
Whether you want to stabilise egg whites while making meringue or prevent sugar crystal from forming, cream of tartar is the ideal agent and is always a good thing to have in your kitchen.
When combined with baking soda, it also becomes a leavening agent, rendering the leavened dough extremely soft and light.
Widely used by our grannies until the late ’50s, it only fell out of use after the invention of baking powder.
Today it has a new popularity, thanks to its natural origins, popular among vegans and vegetarians.
In Italy, the industrial production of cream of tartar dates back to 1781, when Ferdinand IV granted a monopoly for the creation of the first cream of tartar industry in the Kingdom of Naples; thereafter, the history of its production – connected to the fermentation of wine – was closely linked to the Bourbon family.
The major site of production for cream of tartar was a little town in the province of Naples, called Sant’
Antimo, hence the name ‘Sant’Antimo’s crystal’.
Soon almost every family in the town was involved in its production.
All this however ended with the new industrial era and the launch of baking powder.
But history witnesses repetition even in cooking, so today the use of cream of tartar is once again widely appreciated. Try it out and see what you think. Let me know!