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Now here’s something I didn’t know

Until 1851 cornflour, or cornstarch as it is known in the U.S, was primarily used for industrial processes, rather than cooking.

Thomas Kingsford, an American baker, first invented “cornstarch” in 1842 when he discovered a way to isolate tissue from corn kernels while working in a wheat starch factory in New Jersey.

Cornstarch was not originally used in food
However, Kingsford didn’t have food in mind—for the first few years of its existence, cornstarch was used to starch laundry.

And then, in Paisley, in 1854, in the lowlands of Scotland, John Polson made a transformative discovery.

His company, which previously manufactured muslin, worked out how to produce pure culinary starch from maize.

Brown & Polson began producing starch and cornflour on a large scale in the 1860s.

So, cornflour – not, actually, corn flour, for that’s been around for millennia to make tacos etc, but cornstarch – is actually, as a food ingredient, Scottish?

Weird bit of globalisation that is…..

18 thoughts on “Now here’s something I didn’t know”

  1. I was just readin this story.
    I guess people don’ t cook properly anymore.My mum and missus always had cornflour in the cupboard. A german company bought the main manufacturer for supermarkets for all this baking stuff.
    I always used Oxo cubes of various kinds for sauces.

  2. It’s certainly an aid to making a decent bechamel. Although recently I’ve found rice flour performs equally well. Sometimes better.

    You’re right about the cornflour/ corn flour dichotomy. When I was first cooking here I was mislead to believe that farina de maiz (corn flour) was cornflour. Made some horrible FU’s. Corn flour isn’t even amenable to doing what you can do with wheat flour. Absence of gluten?
    Tortillas, incidentally can be wheat or corn.

  3. I have used cornflour and water when my tin of spray starch ran out in the past. Works if you have a pump spray, never figured out the concentration.

  4. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    I wonder how many people even use Oxo &c to make sauces these days, let alone would know either of the common ways of thickening them. Gravy granules thickened with cornflour, to make a sauce that stood up on the plate, was the full height of culinary achievement in the household I was brought up in but I guess even that is too complicated for the millennials. No doubt it also needs decolonising.

    Julia, for store cupboard staple, if you have time and space, make your own stock and freeze it. It’s easy, and you are in complete control of what you put in it, can make it to your taste rather than that of some focus group. Just time consuming and produces mess/bin filler.

  5. Since you are all in a culinary mood, a question. We have a large stock of rum. What can it best be used for in cooking? As a follow-up: is there anything where we would usually use brandy that works as well, or better, with rum?

  6. We have a large stock of rum. What can it best be used for in cooking?

    What Otto said. Fruitcake comes to mind, as do rum balls – sort of boozy little cake balls. I think Bananas Foster also uses rum, although the 151 high proof stuff maybe.

    Trying to think of savory dishes that would use rum, but not coming up with any. Mostly dessert-type foods come to mind.

  7. BiFR,

    Earlier this month a retired aquaintance suffered severe food poisoning which he traced back to fozen chicken stock he has been in the habit of making for yonks. He had been a chef throughhout his entire working life without any similar mishap he was aware of.

  8. @ dearieme
    I suppose that Christmas Puddings and any recipe entitled “flambee” where the flames are more important than the taste …

  9. I wondered about the name “Kingsford,” but there’s no connection to the Kingsford charcoal company – other than cornstarch being an ingredient…

    A University of Oregon chemist, Orin Stafford, had invented a method for making pillow-shaped lumps of fuel from sawdust and mill waste combined with tar and bound together with cornstarch.

  10. Rum Truffles with N times the usual amount of rum? When I were a lad there was a shop on Lord St in Southport that did these large rum truffles to die for. About 4cm diameter. They would soak up your excess rum supplies…

    As for marzipan, my wife’s marzipan & choc sweets, sans rum, are also to die for, and her sister’s marzipan fruits at Christmas. It seems that marzipan is a bit Marmite for some people but I’ve loved it from forever.

    Cornflour amuses kids with its antithixotropic (is that a word?) properties. Mix it with water into a thick paste and it flows, but solidifies when you press it.

  11. TG

    Yeah it forms a non Newtonian liquid. Get a bit of clingfilm, stretch it over a speaker pour a bit of cornflour and water on it and play some AC/DC.
    Watch it dance.

    ( There are a lot of non Newtonian liquids, but nearly all were discovered long after Isaac’s time )

  12. “Cornflour amuses kids with its antithixotropic (is that a word?) properties. Mix it with water into a thick paste and it flows, but solidifies when you press it.” – I have learned from my kids that this is called ‘ooblek’ – one of the youtubers they watched for ooblek vids was ‘king of random’, who famously died in a microlight accident a few years ago.

  13. Cornflour: always in our cuboard, ideal thickener for sauces, soups etc

    Yeah it forms a non Newtonian liquid

    Yep. There’s few good vids on YT. iitc one was Guy Martin dancing then sinking. MC across lake ep maybe

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