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Have you cooked with Cottolene lately?

Posted by on August 29, 2011

My title is a loaded question because unless you were cooking during the years from 1868 to about 1950, you’ve probably never even heard of Cottolene. But if you write historicals, you might have your heroine dip into a bucket of Cottolene rather than lard if she’s cooking in the late 19th Century or early in the 20th Century.

A brand of shortening, Cottolene was produced from two waste products, cottonseed oil and beef tallow. Before that (and after) women used lard. I learned of this product when I downloaded a free and quite old cookbook that was written to promote Cottolene. The title is Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners, written by Elizabeth O. Hiller. You can get an e-copy from Amazon for free.

For a trip into the past, let’s examine Cottolene. White, like lard, Cottolene also had the same solid white consistency at

room temperature and was sold in buckets. The label on the bucket was of a steer’s head in a bed of cotton bolls. Cottolene would not smoke as quickly as lard (no hot splattering), was of a more delicate nature, had a lighter flavor, and was odorless. Cottolene kept on the shelf well and did not require refrigeration. It consisted of 90% cotton seed oil to 10% suet.

Cottolene was claimed to be more healthful and more economical than lard. One advertisement said: “Nature’s Gift from the Sunny South. Shortens Your Food, Lengthens Your Life.” Here’s a recipe taken from Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners. I have not tried this recipe and don’t intend to. I’m including it for your reading pleasure only.


Yankee Plum Pudding


2/3 cup Cottolene.                               1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

1 cup N. O. molasses.                         1/2 teaspoon salt.

3 cups flour.                                        1 cup sweet milk.

1 1/2 teaspoons soda.                          1 cup seeded shredded raisins.

1 teaspoon cinnamon.                                     1 cut English Walnut meats broken in pieces.

1/2 teaspoon cloves.

Process: Cream Cottolene, add molasses; mix and sift flour, soda, spices and salt; add alternately with milk, reserving enough flour to dredge raisins and nut meats; mix well and turn in buttered molds. Steam three hours. Serve with Brandy or Vanilla Sauce.

4 Responses to Have you cooked with Cottolene lately?

  1. charles mcnutt

    i have a cook book ‘ the n.k. fairbank company dated 1910 the title of the book is home helps
    a pure food cook book 80 pages it was written by five of the leading culinary experts in the usa
    cottolene was used for all the receipes. what compares with this today such as spry olive oil etc

  2. robert miller

    Where can I purchase this oil?

  3. Mildred Colvin

    I agree. The thought of this just didn’t appeal to me at all. I thought it was interesting, though. It’s always fun to learn how things were done in the past.

  4. Carla Olson Gade

    I have never heard of this. Thanks for sharing. I cannot imagine trying this reciped though….