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Putting it on Paper

BCE 4,000 - Ancient Egyptians invented the first substance like paper as we know it. Papyrus was a woven mat of reeds, pounded together into a hard, thin sheet. The word "paper" actually comes from the word "papyrus". Later on in history, the ancient West Semitic peoples and the ancient Greeks used a kind of parchment made from animal skins for the same purpose.

CE 105 - Paper as we know it was invented by Cai Lun (Ts’ai Lun), a Chinese court official. It is believed that Cai mixed mulberry bark, hemp, and rags with water, mashed it into a pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun. Paper was born and this humble mixture would set off one of mankind's greatest communication revolutions.  

Most people don’t automatically connect paper with food; however, there are at least three very common paper products that are used in cooking that deserve some attention:  paper pan liners, parchment paper, and waxed paper.

Making Paper
The first step in making paper is called pulping. Paper pan liners begin with either pulp or a base paper called waterleaf. Pulp consists of ground wood fiber and water. Waterleaf is the term used to describe an untreated paper that has low resistance to water. Those mills that use this paper buy it in large rolls and make it into pan liners. Those mills using pulp usually buy it in large dried sheets that they mix with water and additives. Collectively these additives are known as sizing agents. 

At this stage, the first potential issue occurs:  the pulp or base paper. Due to śconomic or environmental concerns, many mills purchase pulp or waterleaf made from recycled fibers which may contain starches, creating a potential problem for use during Hagh HaMassot. Pulp or base paper made from virgin wood fibers does not have this issue.

Sizing agents are used to improve the quality of the paper. Sizing comes in a variety of forms, depending on the final use of the paper. They may be acids or bases to control pH, dry strength adhesives like starches and gums, wet strength resins, fillers, dyes, or drainage aids used to help drain the water out of the pulp.

Plain paper without sizing is very absorbent. Most newsprint, tissues, and other absorbent products use this type of paper. Products such as paper plates must be able to repel water or grease. How well they do this depends on what type of sizing or additives were added to the paper at the mill.

Some sizing additives may not be tahor

The next section of the paper machine is called the wet end or the fourdriner. At this stage the pulp mixture is pumped into the headbox of the fourdriner and sprayed onto the moving screen. The screen vibrates to help the water drain from the pulp and the wood cellulose fibers begin to mesh into a paper web. This web is then transferred to the couch (coosh), a belt covered with felt which carries the web to the next stage in the process known as the dry end.

The web of fibers is carried around the presses which are rubber rollers that squeeze out excess water. The web then moves on to the first dryer, which consists of large metal cans or drums that are steam heated to 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit. The cans are stacked vertically like bricks, and the felt belt, with the increasingly paper-like fiber web, snakes through the maze of cans. Before continuing along the line, the paper passes through large, heavy cast-iron rollers that make the paper smooth and uniform in thickness. This is called the calendar. The paper then moves to the size press where we encounter the most critical kashrut issue.

As noted earlier, additives are mixed in during the pulping stage. They are also applied at the size press, where the paper passes through rollers that shower on a coating which allows the paper to resist grease, water, and heat.

Silicone and Quilon are the major materials used to coat the paper. Both offer advantages. Silicone coated liners are reusable; however they cost approximately three times more than Quilon liners. Therefore, most bakeries use the less expensive Quilon and try to get as much use as possible from them.

Silicone, a coating derived from the mineral silica, does not present any issues.

Quilon is actually a brand name for a coating product first developed by Dupont. It has since become the common parlance in referring to coatings of this type (similar to the use of the names Xerox and Kleenex for photocopying and tissues). A component used in Quilon-type coatings is stearic acid, which is typically made from tallow. Therefore, any paper coated with Quilon would clearly be tame’.  Fortunately, vegetable based stearic acids are available. Northern Products, manufactures a vegetarian alternative to Quilon called Neccoplex. This product has become the industry standard in vegetarian “Quilon”; coated pan liner papers made in North America. 

Before the paper reaches the final stage, it goes through one more drying press. Then it is ready to be wound onto large rolls and sent to the convertor.

The convertor is the link in the paper chain between the mill and the consumer. The finished paper is wound onto “parent rolls”, which can be as much as 30 feet wide and weigh close to 25 tons. Even when the rolls are cut down, we are talking about a lot of paper. That’s where the convertor comes in. The converter cuts the paper to size, packages and sells it.


Parchment Paper
Grease-proof paper is any paper that has been coated with materials that impart to it an ability to resist grease. Many pan-liners are simply grease-proof. GVP, or genuine vegetable parchment as it is called, is grease- proof with a kick. This paper has the feel and look of animal parchment, hence the name parchment paper.

The process of “parchmentizing” paper begins with dipping base paper into a bath of sulphuric acid. The acid begins to break down the cellulose - the main component of plant fiber - and causes the gelling of the surface of the paper fibers, which bond together and thus close the pores of the paper. The process of dissolving the cellulose is stopped through a series of water baths and rinses. The acid is completely removed and recovered for reuse. This process produces a paper which is almost non-porous and therefore impervious to grease and water. This durability makes parchment paper ideal for wrapping gefilte fish, since it doesn’t fall apart when boiled in water. The concerns addressed earlier regarding coatings apply to parchment paper as well.

Wax Paper
This popular paper can present some problems. Most wax papers are coated with paraffin, a petroleum based wax. However, most wax suppliers manufacture both paraffin waxes and tallow based products. These are produced often on the same equipment. Therefore, when purchasing wax paper, it important to know whether or not the paraffin used to coat the paper was processed with tallow.