"It's a part of America. It's a part of our history and a part of Vermont history," said Eliot Orton. The eighth generation Vermonter, along with brothers Cabot and Gardner, and his dad, Lyman, own the Vermont Country Store.
From the recipe, to the machines used to make the nostalgic crackers, not much has changed at the North Clarendon business since 1828.
"My grandfather and father Lyman helped to preserve the Common Cracker and Cross Bakery from going to extinction in 1979 when they bought the bakery equipment," Orton said.
The crackers have a long history in Vermont. They used to be called the Saint Johnsbury cracker and Montpelier cracker when they were made in those communities. Orton said the Common Cracker was as much a part of Vermont as maple syrup or cheddar cheese at one time -- an integral part of daily life.
"If you look back at old photos of country stores all over New England, the cracker was pretty much the icon. Folks standing around eating crackers, playing checkers around the pot belly stove," Orton said.
They've lasted, but don't expect a flavor explosion. "It's a pretty bland, dry, textile cracker," Orton admitted.
These are not your traditional oyster cracker. They're big, thick -- with several layers, and they do not get soggy in soup.
Bakery Manager Julie Lanfear said all the layers play a critical role. "It makes them flaky and crunchy," she said.
"Think about a cracker. How many crackers can you call a utilitarian cracker? This probably has 100 use," Orton said.
Crack em' open, dip em', smear toppings on them -- there's also the traditional farmers supper-fresh milk and crackers.
"My kids use to make pizzas all the time," Lanfear said.
There's another favorite past time with these crackers -- call it a challenge if you will.
"Try and eat two and whistle Yankee Doodle Dandy," Orton challenged this reporter.
It's a lot harder than it looks...
When it comes to these crackers, it can be a challenge to nab new customers, but Orton said business is steady thanks to long time fans. "Those that love it are die-diehards and will never have another substitute for the Vermont Common Cracker," he said.
Preserving the heritage and the history of a product that's Made in Vermont.
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