British Classic #5: Jacob’s Cream Crackers


It turns out, after my first delve into research for this piece, that the cream cracker is not British, strictly speaking. America was the birthplace, and every half–decent general store would have a barrel full of these easily made, cheap crackers, originally sold as a source of roughage for the maintaining of a healthy US……you know. But it is nonetheless a quintessential household prescence here in GB due to the endeavours of brothers William and Robert Jacob. They took note of the popularity of the US cracker and upon his return to his Dublin factory (I:rish Republic again…one day I’ll do an ACTUAL British creation, I promise) he began production of the cream cracker as we know it in 1885. It was no doubt that their plainness appealed to the Victorian sensibilty, who no doubt viewed anything spicy or stimulating as a tool of Beelzebub to corrupt the morals. The cracker fit this attitude like a glove. 

Other countries have similar cracker biscuits, but none seem to taste the same as our perfect Jacob’s. Crisp without being hard, with a mild toasty flavour (and I’m talking mild) and wrapped unmistakeably in a glorious livery of bright orange with a distinctive black diamond holding it’s makers name, Cream Crackers demand to be coupled with a bit of butter and some cheese. I am slightly afraid of  stopping to consider just how many cream cracker and Chedddar “sandwiches” I have consumed in my lifetime. Let’s just say it’s a lot. It was my go-to homecoming snack in my schooldays, and anyone with a passing notion of the teenage boy and his unending hunger will get the message. And it really has to be Cheddar. Sorry, but it does. Pesto or Mozzarella di Buffale are divine, but don’t put them on a cream cracker, there’s a good soldier. 

This leads to another illustration of just how well this little crisp biscuit square fits the national psyche. It doesn’t like to make a fuss or put on airs. It despises being thought of as wanting to be above its station. It displays this by being at its best with decidely ordinary cheese. A plastic wrapped chunk of corner shop, mass-produced cheddar is the best friend a cream cracker could have. Leave the earthy, majestic unpasteurised Montgomery Cheddar, or hand crafted Cornish Yarg with its beautiful nettle leaf rind to the oatcake. JCC’s don’t want any trouble.

And just how much more could it be made for British tastebuds and, sadly just as important, wallets? Pale? Check? Crunchy? Check? Cheap? Check. Sold! At one point, JCCs accounted for 50% of the UK cracker market; these days it doesn’t enjoy quite such a monopoly. Times are changing, as shown by Jacob’s launch of the Mediterranean version of the sacred Cream Cracker. But would you really want to try and eat three of those without a drink? (Sorry, forgot to mention. The cracker has another beloved British use, namely as entertainment for drunken crowds or children’s parties. The idea is to eat three, without the aid of liquid lubrication, in under 60 seconds. Sounds easy, but for anyone who has tried, it becomes akin to trying to eat a mouthful of sand. Oh, and the world record is 49.15secs, held by Ambrose Mendy) Despite these moves towards a more internationally welcoming nibble, I can’t imagine a time when we will evolve past the simple, unassuming delight of the triple whammy – crunchy biscuit, salty butter and completely non-farmhouse cheese.

“Don’t forget the crackers, lad.” I’m with Wallace and Gromit.

And there we have it! Thank you again for your continued support and comments, and I hope you’ll join me for what should be my most controversial choice yet. It is so opinion-dividing, in fact, that I don’t actually recognise it as a food. Therefore, I will be handing over to my good friend Kate to guest-present her piece on a true British…….well, we’ll see what the classification ends up as. See you next time!



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4 Comments on “British Classic #5: Jacob’s Cream Crackers”

  1. ToxicGiggle Says:

    JCC with jam is one of the most amazing snacks ever!

  2. Marius Says:

    Hmm, originated over here, you say? Never heard of them. And might I say that your writing style is awesome. I’ve never had one of these, but now I desperately want some. 🙂

  3. Mekka Says:

    I’m fond cracker’s myself. My fave cheese biscuit would have to be the Waterbiscuit though. Is that British? Biscuit-wise I’m holding out for a digestive episode…

  4. Tony Says:

    I am living in Turkey where JCC’s are impossible to get. I miss them like crazy… don’t suppose anybody has a recipe for making them? Caution here though, Turkey has a company that makes crackers but they taste truly dreadful, just like I imagine the Mediterranean recipe would… I want to replicate the taste of Jacobs

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