11 Freshly Baked Facts About Pepperidge Farm

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No matter how many Goldfish and Milanos you’ve eaten, you may not know how tasty Pepperidge Farm’s history has been. 

1. A Devoted Mom and a Son With Allergies Started It All. 

The Pepperidge Farm story starts in Fairfield, Conn. in 1937. When Margaret Rudkin’s youngest son, John, developed asthma and allergies that made it impossible for him to eat commercially produced breads, the family doctor recommended that the boy switch to freshly baked whole wheat bread with no preservatives. Rudkin had never baked a loaf of bread in her life, but she did what any mom would do and gave it a shot. 

Rudkin’s early returns weren’t promising—she would later joke, “My first loaf should have been sent to the Smithsonian Institution as a sample of Stone Age bread, for it was hard as a rock and about one inch high." Gradually, Rudkin got the hang of baking, and before long, she was cranking out delicious breads. 

2. It Was a Premium Brand Right From the Start. 

Rudkin’s loaves were both tasty and effective—her son showed such improvement from eating the wholesome bread that his doctor recommended Rudkin’s handiwork to other parents of sick children. Before long, Rudkin was selling her bread to Mercurio’s Market in Fairfield. Each of Rudkin’s loaves sold for 25 cents at a time when most bread retailed for a dime, but shoppers were willing to pay a premium for the upstart baker’s wares. 

3. The Pepperidge Farm Name Was an Easy Choice. 

The brand takes its name from the 320-acre Connecticut estate the Rudkins began calling home in 1929. The farm itself was named for an enormous pepperidge tree that stood in the front yard of the home. If you’re not familiar with the pepperidge tree, it’s better known as the black tupelo and also goes by the names “sour gum” and “black gum.” 

4. Pepperidge Farm Was a Real Mom-and-Pop Operation. 

Margaret Rudkin was the baking muscle of the brand, but her husband, Henry, also played a role in the company’s growth. As demand for the bread grew, he converted the family’s garage into a bakery. When a specialty shop in New York City learned of Margaret’s breads and began placing orders, Henry began ferrying 24 loaves of bread with him on his commute to his job at a Wall Street brokerage, stopping in Grand Central Station to hand off the goods. As the company grew, Henry Rudkin left finance to become chairman of Pepperidge Farm’s board. 

5. The Cookies Have a Belgian Flair.

gothopotam, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

After Margaret Rudkin became a bread mogul, she began looking for new opportunities for the company in the early 1950s. Cookies seemed like a logical place to start, and to crack that market, Rudkin had to forge an international alliance. She had tasted a line of sophisticated cookies on a visit to Belgium, and rather than creating new sweet recipes from scratch, Rudkin agreed to license the cookies from Brussels bakery Delacre, and Pepperidge Farm’s Distinctive cookies rolled out in 1955 with longtime favorites like the Brussels and the Geneva

6. Milanos Were Originally Created to Solve a Shipping Problem. 

Not all of the cookies were European creations. In fact, the company’s most famous cookie is all American. As Leon Neyfakh notes in a 2012 Slate piece, the Milano can trace its heritage back to a similarly Italian-themed cookie of the 1950s, the Naples. The open-faced chocolate cookie sounds tasty enough, but when Pepperidge Farm started shipping its cookies nationwide, hot temperatures would soften the chocolate during transit, which mean customers were treated to a brick of melted-together cookies. The solution? Slapping a top on the cookie, rebranding the resulting sandwich as the Milano, and creating a sweet juggernaut.

7. Goldfish Are a Swiss Snack. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

Margaret Rudkin’s eye for licensing went beyond cookies. When she encountered a delightful fish-shaped cracker on a trip to Switzerland in the early 1960s, she brought the recipe home with her. In 1962—one year after the Campbell Soup Company acquired Pepperidge Farm—American snackers began munching on Goldfish crackers. The introduction went pretty well—by one estimate, Pepperidge Farm now makes 3,000 Goldfish per second.

8. Pepperidge Farm Played a Key Role in the Apollo 13 Mission. 

Dehydrated ice cream and Tang get all the publicity as astronaut delicacies, but Pepperidge Farm bread came through in the clutch during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. The flight crew took loaves of Pepperidge Farm white, rye, and a special astronauts-only cheese bread into orbit with them. When things went awry, the more complicated space foods that required water to prepare were no longer feasible, so the three-man crew largely survived on sandwiches made using peanut butter, cheese, and various salad spreads. As a contemporary news report noted, “Every slice of bread that went up on Apollo 13 was eaten...Bread was truly an important part of their life support system.” 

NASA must have agreed, because the subsequent Apollo 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions also took Pepperidge Farm bread into orbit. 

9. The Logo Wasn’t Inspired By the Pepperidge Farm. 

The picturesque grist mill in the company’s logo is real, but it’s not a part of the Pepperidge Farm. In fact, it’s not even in the same state. The Wayside Inn Grist Mill in Sudbury, Mass. is a quirky project commissioned by Henry Ford in the 1920s that painstakingly repurposed antique French millstones to create “the first working mill to be built as a museum.” The mill’s association with Pepperidge Farm began in 1952. The company leased the mill, hired a miller, and began using the antiquated equipment to produce some of its flour. The arrangement lasted until 1967, with the mill providing Pepperidge Farm with more than 9000 tons of flour over 15 years and inspiring the company’s logo. 

10. Home Cooks Were Desperate to Get Rudkin’s Secrets. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

When the baking mogul released The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook in 1963, she admitted, “Two years ago when some of my friends suggested I write a cookbook, I didn’t give it a serious thought at first.” Listening to her pals paid off in a big way, though. Pepperidge Farm devotees were happy to shell out the cover price to learn Rudkin’s culinary tricks, and Rudkin’s work sold so well that it cracked the New York Times bestseller list, a first for a cookbook. 

11. The Company Tried to Launch Its Own Cookie-Themed Social Network. 

Mike MozartFlickr // CC BY 2.0

In 2007, social media and social networking were still relatively new concepts. Pepperidge Farm wanted in, so the brand took a crack at connecting with women by starting its own social network. As a New York Times story noted, “The centerpiece of the campaign is the Web site, artofthecookie.com, which is meant to help women — the target audience for Pepperidge Farm — improve their social lives.” The network was meant to give women a place to talk about both cookies and their thoughts, but it never took off. Unlike the proprietors of countless other failed social networks, at least Pepperidge Farm had selling Milanos as a fallback plan.

9 Vintage Thanksgiving Side Dishes We Shouldn’t Bring Back

We all have that aunt—the one who’s been bringing her Miracle-Whip-bound pimiento-pea salad to Thanksgiving dinner since time immemorial. Although you may swear she got her recipe straight from the devil, it turns out that cheese-and-lime-Jell-O salads and their ilk were all the rage in her day. So it’s not (totally) her fault! To cut her a little slack, here are some examples of vintage Thanksgiving-themed recipes that will make her salad look like a perfectly golden-brown turkey.

1. CRANBERRY CANDLE SALAD

Best Foods Mayonnaise Ad 1960s with Jello Molds

Nothing complements the tart, refreshing flavor of cranberry sauce like some gelatin and salty, eggy mayonnaise. If that weren’t weird enough, this recipe also tells you to shove a real candle in there and then light it. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to eat around the melted wax, but we can’t be sure—maybe it’s considered a condiment.

2. CANDIED SWEET POTATOES WITH ANGOSTURA BITTERS

This recipe for candied sweet potatoes, which involves baking them in a mixture of butter, sugar, and angostura bitters, is probably either really good or really bad. It sort of makes sense, adding bitters to cut down on the sugar factor. Alternatively, you could just not make a candied version of something that already has the word sweet in its name.

3. CREAMED ONIONS

This once-popular Thanksgiving mainstay has been neglected over the last century, for perhaps obvious reasons. In some households, the idea was to pour creamed onions over the turkey, like gravy, to add a little moisture. Or possibly because eating a chunky mouthful of pearl onions and cream sauce by itself is gross.

4. TURKEY AND STUFFING ON JELL-O

Thanksgiving Jello Ad

There’s not much to this one, is there? It’s a pile of turkey and stuffing dumped on top of a cranberry orange Jell-O ring—sounds delicious!

5. WINTER CORN

This mixture of corn, sour cream, and bacon is sometimes found on Midwestern Thanksgiving tables. It’s mostly off-putting because its main ingredient is creamed corn. That said, creamed corn really needs all the help it can get, so adding bacon can only improve it.

6. SWEET AND SOUR TANG POPCORN (A.K.A. ASTRONAUT POPCORN)

Reportedly, this was a popular Thanksgiving dessert in the ’70s. The idea seems to be an offshoot of caramel corn, but … with Tang powder.

7. HOT DR. PEPPER

You gotta give the good folks at Dr. Pepper a few points for at least trying here. They noticed that soda was not often considered a cozy, comforting holiday drink, and they stepped up to the bat undaunted. Bold move.

8. FROZEN JELLIED TURKEY-VEGETABLE SALAD

There’s only one way to improve a dish as alluring as Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad, and that’s to stick it in the freezer. From the sound of the recipe—which combines cream of celery soup, salad dressing, diced turkey, vegetables, and gelatin—this is basically the inside of a turkey pot pie if it was served frozen. And also if it was square.

9. JELL-O FRUIT CORNUCOPIA

Sure, cornucopias were for holding food in olden times, but don’t you wish you could eat one? Well, guess what—your years of longing are finally over, because someone has made a Jell-O version of one with fruit trapped in it. You don’t even have to take the fruit out of the cornucopia this time—you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Dreams do come true.

Up Your Turkey Game With This Simple Buttermilk Brine

iStock.com/4kodiak
iStock.com/4kodiak

Whoever chose turkey to be the starring dish of Thanksgiving dinner has a sick sense of humor. Not only does the bird take hours to thaw and cook before it's safe to eat, but its size makes it very difficult to cook evenly—meaning there are many opportunities for the millions of amateur cooks who prepare it each year to screw it up. But there's no reason to settle for dry, flavorless turkey this Thanksgiving. With this buttermilk brine recipe from Skillet, the breast will come out just as juicy as the thighs with little effort on your part.

A brine is a salty solution you soak your uncooked meat in to help it retain its moisture and flavor when it goes into the oven. A brine can be as simple as salt and water, but in this recipe, the turkey marinates in a mixture of buttermilk, water, sugar, salt, garlic, citrus, bay leaf, and peppercorns for 24 hours before it's ready to roast.

Rather than a whole bird, this recipe calls for a bone-in turkey breast. White meat contains less fat than dark meat, which is why turkey breast often turns out dryer and less flavorful than legs and thighs when all the parts are left to cook for the same amount of time. The buttermilk brine imparts a tangy creaminess to the turkey breast that it otherwise lacks, and by cooking the breast separately, you can pull it out of the oven at peak juiciness rather than waiting for the meatier parts to cook through fully.

After the turkey breast has had sufficient time to soak, remove it from the refrigerator and drain it on paper towels. Blot any excess buttermilk and pop the meat into a roasting pan and into a 375°F oven. In addition to lending flavor, buttermilk promotes browning, which is essential to a tasty Thanksgiving turkey.

When the internal temperature reads 150°F (which should take 90 minutes to 2 hours), pull out the bird, let it rest for 15 minutes, and commence carving the most succulent turkey breast ever to hit your Thanksgiving table.

[h/t Skillet]

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