Vermont Common Foods, An Orton Family Business

A History of Vermont Common Crackers

Vrest Orton, 1949
Vermont Common Crackers are such an indigenous part of the rich and fascinating folklore of Vermont. The ways to cook, serve, and relish this old-fashioned product are deeply imbedded in the lives of generations of Vermonters. Most of the folklore about these historic crackers centers on the cracker barrel in country stores. Before the water cooler and copy machine became the places for informal discussions and idle talk, people would hold their casual conversations at the "cracker barrel". Stories are told (and often embellished) about the game played by neighbors while waiting for the evening stage. Each would eat a dry cracker and bet who could whistle first.

Generations of Vermonters grew up on a supper or snack of common crackers crumbled into a bowl of cold milk with a hunk of cheddar on the side. Families would buy these crackers by the barrel. Each barrel contained about 1,200 crackers, and would be stored in a handy place for frequent family eating. A barrel usually lasted a year.

Cross Baking Company on Main Street in Montpelier, VT [circa 1930]
Cross Baking Company on Main Street in Montpelier, VT [circa 1930]

Vermont Common Crackers, at times in history referred to as Montpelier crackers, were initially made 1828 by the Cross brothers in Montpelier, VT. They were clever Yankee entrepreneurs who mixed and baked crackers three days a week, using their horse on a treadmill to rotate the cutting machine and special oven. On alternate days the same horse pulled the delivery wagon to individual homes and businesses and to the railroad drop-off for further destinations. In 1908 George Edson purchased half of the company from Lewis Cross, in a few years George was the sole owner. Upon George's untimely death in 1932, his son Landale Edson entered into the family business. In 1980 the Orton family, proprietors of The Vermont Country Store purchased the cracker company. In 2006 Vermont Common Foods an Orton family owned business was born. We are proud to continue this great American tradition.

While we have slightly modified the 1828 recipe to eliminate unhealthy oils and fats, our authentic crackers are manufactured to the same time-honored standards for quality and customer satisfaction. In fact, we even use the same cutting machinery (although today it runs on electric horsepower).

G. Landale Edson owner of Cross Bakery (Montpelier Crackers) from the death of his father in 1942 to his retirement in 1979 [circa 1967].  Landale is 94 years old and lives in Montpelier, VT.
G. Landale Edson owner of Cross Bakery (Montpelier Crackers) from the death of his father in 1942 to his retirement in 1979 [circa 1967].  Landale is 94 years old and lives in Montpelier, VT.

Whether you split them or enjoy them whole (James Beard preferred "eating one at a time") Vermont Common Crackers are the ideal platform for Vermont cheddar - or any kind of hard or soft cheese. Because they do not compete for taste they are the ultimate foundation for jams, jellies and spreads of any variety. What's more, they are ideal for cleansing the pallet when tasting wine. Vermont Common Crackers are best for hors d' oeuvres when first toasted under the broiler to a light golden brown. Our favorite way to enjoy the cracker is to simply spread with locally made butter and toast under the broiler. They can then be eaten hot or saved to nibble on.

Of course they are wonderful with soup or chowder. Julia Child once wrote, "As any New Englander knows, you can't enjoy a real New England chowder without toasted common crackers. Author and restaurateur, Jasper White says "I serve Vermont Common Crackers with all my chowders...they have a wonderful flavor and they add a nice crunch."

If you haven't had one yet, now is the time to enjoy our Vermont Common Crackers; take pride in the fact that you are joining nine generations of satisfied customers!

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