08 April 2011


Sometimes it gets interesting at the farmers market, like the day someone was selling warm delicious pancakes.

I had to tweet about it.

The Twitter and Facebook consensuses* were that they were, in fact, pulling my leg, and when I emailed my husband, he thought so too. That is, until curiosity got the better of him and he found that yes, yes there is a leavening made of reindeer horn:

Salt of hartshorn (Ammonium Carbonate)

Hartshorn is one of the oldest of "chemical" leavens. It was actually in use for many centuries before the predecessor of modern baking powder was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The original hartshorn, as its name implies, was ground from deer antler and used primarily in Scandinavian countries. Today it is almost unknown although there is a chemical version of the original, better known as "baker's ammonia," available from King Arthur Flour.

A dough that contains hartshorn produces a strong smell of ammonia when it's in the oven, but the ammonia dissipates completely during the cooking process leaving no aftertaste or odor. Its unique action makes extremely crisp cookies and crackers.

Go figure.

But here's the really pressing question, courtesy of a comment on Facebook:

I'd love to know the backstory of how the baking properties of ground up deer antlers were discovered. What happens if I stew porcupine claws? Are discarded nail clippings the secret to a nice souffle? Hard tellin' not knowin'!

Would you all like to chime in and hypothesize as to just how someone found that ground reindeer antler would work as leavening?

* Doesn't that look wrong? I think it should be "consensi".


anymommy said...

So cool. So gross. I know nothing about this, but I'm coming back to check the comments and see if anyone grinds their own reindeer horn.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I would have thought "consensus" would have sufficed since both places offered the same conclusion. I'm sure we're among a very few people on the planet that would think about it!

One of my blog friends, Trudi, lives in Sweden and helps brand reindeer--I should ask her.

meno said...

Well, isn't gelatin made of ground hooves?

And who first thought of circumcision anyway?

Bibliomama said...

For that matter, how did a lot of what we eat get discovered as food? My Dad ate an olive off a tree in Greece and said it was the vilest thing he ever tasted - then they told him olives have to be soaked and rinsed for weeks before they're edible. I keep imagining the olive-tasting process: "nope. Soak them some more."

bipolarlawyercook said...

I am sure there's a chapter about the leavening properties of keratin in the badly-panned new Jean Auel.

(So disappointing. But then again, as a friend said, "Don't bother, they don't even have sex until Chapter 12." Because really. Who didn't learn about sex from those books at a certain point in their lives?)

I kind of want to do something with porcupine quills as skewers now. Eeep.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I found this the other day:
http://books.google.com/ebooks?id=UDwCAAAAQAAJ Click to read.

You can make bread with boiled parsnips, beet-root, the seeds of french beans and sago. How about that. (See p 87)

1A said...

Yep, we use it in lefse.

I've always wondered ... how hungry must that first person have been to crack open a lobster and eat it?

This also reminds me of conversations with international friends about the grossest thing they've ever eaten. My friend from Iceland always won, which was pretty amazing when you consider what my Chinese friend ate. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm going with the same theory when I think about the first person to eat a snail, an oyster, a frog, or an ant, and go with:

"they must have been SOME jeezily hungry."

MARY G said...

The things you come up with. Re more than one consensus. Yes, should be 'i' for plural. Like crocus, census, et cetera.

Stimey said...

I think you could ask that question about many foods. Take coffee. Who thought, huh, I'll grow this, dry them, grind them up, and then run hot water through it? Don't even get me started on Brussels sprouts.

Antropóloga said...

My Swedish husband thought this sounded fake, but I can see it. The winters are REALLY LONG HERE. People do a lot of strange things to keep busy. Somebody was probably whittling a horn at the same time someone else was making pancakes.

Rima said...

I don't know nothin' 'bout no reindeer antlers but I do know that a ground up unicorn horn is supposed to be the key to eternal happiness.

I guess there's just something about horns.

YourFireAnt said...

Well...how did they discover gelatin?


Janet Wedge said...

I had a Norwegian pancake this morning, too.

painted maypole said...

i imagine it's so old... back to when people killed an animal and used all the parts of it for food, clothing, shelter and weapons. i imagine they tried all sorts of things with all the parts to discover what they could be used for.

shrink on the couch said...

Somebody must have been carving reindeer horns too close to the kitchen and presto-chango, the dough rose? I often wonder about these "how did they ever figure that out?" serendipitous discoveries.

leanne said...

I have no idea how it happened, but I think about this kind of thing all the time when cooking and baking -- how people decided to try certain things as food or mix certain things to create food. And then that makes me wonder about all the cooking/baking fails.

Jodi Pharo said...

damn long winters in Sweden. no telling what you will do when you are bored and it's cold and very dark.


wht is wrong with those Swedes?

Lady M said...

I'm glad that I just had scrambled eggs for breakfast when I was in Norway last week.