A reader sent in this interesting comment over the weekend:
I was just catching up on your blog and found it interesting that baking took off in the New World not just because of trees for fuel but also because of trees for potash . . .
Oh yes indeed. As I’ve often pointed out in this space, New Worlders have for the last 200-odd years been the world’s most prolific home bakers. This is especially true of North Americans, who were blessed with seemingly boundless hardwood forests, which provided not only the chemical leaveners I’m talking about this week, but also the wood fuel that was in such short supply in the Old World.
But of course those woodlands weren’t boundless, a fact that was becoming apparent as far back as the early 1800’s. In fact by the times Saleratus became comercially available (around 1840) most of it was being made from pearlash derived from burnt marine plants. This development was a great boon to America’s forests, not to mention America’s bakers, who needed all that wood to make pie.