28 Feb The Best BLT Sandwich On Hilton Head
The sandwich is the perfect meal. It’s portable, it’s filling, and there are endless possibilities. Sandwiches can be sweet or savory and they can be served hot or cold. Are you a vegetarian? Great, have a sandwich. Are you a meat lover? Great, here are more sandwiches.
There are countless sandwiches; the combinations are infinite. Here at Charbar we decided to delve into that perennial All-American: the BLT. Why? Well, the BLT is a first cousin and inspiration for our fried chicken (Chicken BLT) and chilled lobster (Lobster BLT) that our creative chefs serve up daily.
The bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with mayonnaise, often served as a triple-decker sandwich on toast, is one of America’s favorite sandwiches. (It’s also a big hit in the U.K.)
While bread, bacon, and lettuce were part of kitchens since Roman times, two of the other ingredients took a bit longer to arrive.
Bread Came First
The implementation of yeast to leaven bread was discerned by the ancient Egyptians. Loaves of bread provided for more culinary variety than simple flatbreads.
Along Came Lettuce
The multifarious lettuce available today all emanated from a wild weed first recorded nearly 5,000 years ago. Common lettuce has its origins in the Middle East, Egyptian wall murals of Min, the god of fertility, depict lettuce in cultivation about 2700 BC. Over time, the Egyptians bred their wildtype lettuce to have leaves that were less bitter and more palatable.
The cultivated plants were still tall and upright with separate leaves rather than heads. The Greeks learned how to grow lettuce from the Egyptians. They used it medicinally as a sedative and served it as salad at the beginning of meals to help with digestion. They also continued to cultivate it for tastier leaves. The Greeks passed their lettuce growing knowledge on to the Romans who named the plant “lactuca” meaning “milk” for its white sap. In time “lactuca” became the English word lettuce.
By the 1600s, European farmers were developing firm headed lettuce as well as red speckled romaine, red and green oak leaf, and curled lettuces. France, Holland, and Italy were the main centers of the breeding, working toward a more varied color and style of lettuce leaves.
The Fried Green BLT (Complete With Pork Belly)
Next, the Bacon
Wild boar meat was cured by smoking, salting, and drying since Paleolithic times (aka the Stone Age). Pigs were domesticated from wild boars as early as 13,000-12,700 BC. But there was nothing that resembled modern bacon until the mid-1700s.
The evolution of bacon can be traced back to 1500 BC. This is when the Chinese began to salt and cure pork belly. Like nearly all trends in the world, this salting and curing process traveled. It eventually gained popularity in other parts of the world, evolving as it was incorporated into other cultures.
The Greeks and Romans ate a prototype of bacon and, as time progressed, this produced pork spread to England, France, Germany, and eventually the U.S.
The Charbar BLT Burger
The first bacon curing facility was located in Wiltshire, England, around the mid-1770s. Here, founder John Harris used a technique now known as the Wiltshire Cure. It involved a special brine that created low salt bacon with sweet delicious flavor, and it still exists today. The curing process isn’t the only influence the British had on bacon; throughout the years, they identified and bred specific types of pigs to create the best bacon.
All the while, bacon was slowly but surely emerging in other places around the globe. It’s potential reached the U.S. in the mid 1500s when Hernando de Soto of Spain (a ruthless conquistador) brought 13 domesticated pigs on his voyage to North America. In 3 short years the pig population jumped to 700.
The bacon we’re used to eating in the U.S. is quite different from the salt-cured pork belly that originated in China. The type of sliced package bacon most people have in their fridge was patented in 1924 by Oscar Mayer.
On to Tomatoes
Tomato history has origins traced back to the early Aztec population around 700 AD, therefore it is believed that the tomato is native to the Americas. It was not until around the 16th century that Europeans were introduced to this fruit when the early explorers set sail to explore unknown lands. Throughout Southern Europe, the tomato was quickly accepted into the kitchen, yet as it moved north, more resistance was apparent. The British, for example, admired the tomato for its beauty, but believed that it was poisonous, as its appearance was similar to that of the wolf peach.
Most Europeans thought that the tomato was poisonous because of the way plates and flatware were made in the 1500s. Rich people in that time used flatware made of pewter, which has high lead content. Foods high in acid, like tomatoes, could cause the lead to leach out of the food, resulting in lead poisoning and death. Poor people who ate off plates made of wood, did not have this problem, and hence did not have an aversion to tomatoes. This is essentially the reason why tomatoes were only eaten by poor people until the 1800s, especially in Italy.
Our Heirloom Tomato BLT
What changed in the 1800s? First and most significantly was the mass immigration from Europe to America and the traditional blending of cultures. Many Italian Americans ate tomatoes and brought that food with them. It was not regarded as a kitchen vegetable until the times preceding the Civil War period in the U.S. From this point forward tomatoes became a staple item in kitchens throughout the world. Each area of the world has its own tomato history and how it is used in everyday dining. It appears, though, that tomatoes have had the largest impact on American eating habits; Americans are responsible for enjoying over 12 million tons of tomatoes each year.
Mayonnaise began to appear in French cuisine in the early 1800s, with mentions in early German and British cookbooks of French cookery. But there are several stories about where it originated. One popular tale says it was first made in 1756 after French forces laid siege to the island of Minorca. The French Army, under the command of Duke de Richelieu, took control of Fort Mahon, the Mediterranean island which is now part of Spain, in the first European battle of the Seven Years War.
It is said that the Duke’s resourceful chef, upon finding the island lacked the cream he needed for the typical sauce made of cream and eggs, invented an egg and oil dressing instead. He dubbed it mayonnaise for the place of its birth. Some other versions of the story suggest the chef learned the recipe from the locals. Some years later, French chef Marie Antoine Careme, recognised as inventing haute cuisine, is credited with lightening the original recipe by blending the vegetable oil and egg yolks into an emulsion. It is likely that it was his modified recipe that became famous throughout the world.
The Charbar Lobster BLT
Yet another theory suggested that the name mayonnaise was originally Bayonnaise, named after the French Basque town of Bayonne, and that it was first made in France. Over time, the name morphed into the delicious product we call mayonnaise.
The Invention of the Club Sandwich
While tea sandwiches with bacon, lettuce, and tomato were served during Victorian times, a dive into 19th and early 20th century American and European cookbooks points to the club sandwich as the progenitor of the BLT.
According to The Food Timeline (https://www.foodtimeline.org/), most food historians concur that the club sandwich was probably created in the U.S. during the late 19th/early 20th century.
No printed record has been found to date, so the where and who remains a matter of culinary debate. The most likely theory points to the Saratoga Club in Saratoga, New York.
The club sandwich was very popular and spread to other men’s clubs. A printed recipe appeared in 1903, in the Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook. It called for bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and a slice of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread (no one has yet discovered when the third slice of bread was added).
Our Big Bad Wolf BLT
So viola! The club sandwich (a turkey BLT) hit menus and cookbooks. When no turkey was served, the “club sandwich without turkey” became the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – later shortened to BLT.
The sandwich grew in fame and was popularized after World War II, following the expansion of supermarkets that made the ingredients available all year round. In 1958, Hellman’s Mayonnaise (for the record…our hearts belong to our chef-driven aioli or Duke’s mayonnaise) advertised their product as, “traditional on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches.”
The BLT Today
The traditional BLT on Toast has been created with many variations:
- Different Breads: toasted or not, from bagels, brioche, and croissants to pinwheels, wraps, sandwiches, taco shells, and waffles. (Yes, we’ve seen it on waffles.)
- Different bacon: Canadian bacon, candied bacon, guanciale, pancetta, pepper bacon, pork belly, etc.
- Different lettuces: arugula, bibb, romaine, watercress, and garnished with some sprouts
- Different tomatoes: cherry, fried green, heirloom, sundried
- Added elements: avocado, chicken, fried egg, grilled pineapple, grilled salmon, lobster, grilled butterflied shrimp, soft shell crab
- Flavored Mayo: basil, bacon, citrus, garlic, haussa, mayo mixed with bacon jam, mayo mixed with tomato pesto
Whew, that was some history!
Step up your BLT game with a gourmet twist! At Charbar we elevate a diner food classic into a mouthwatering meal worthy of company. Our fried chicken or lobster BLTs are always a reason to come visit us!