This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
This must be counted now among the important food products of the United States; it is produced in immense and constantly increasing quantities. The government commissioners report: "Refined cotton-seed oil is usually very free from acid, and when properly prepared is of pleasant taste and admirably adapted for edible and culinary purposes, for which it is now extensively employed, both with and without its nature being acknowledged. It is now substituted for olive oil in some of the liniments of the United States Pharmacopoeia, but its principal applications are in soap-making and the manufacture of factitious butter." As far as the buyers of provisions are concerned, the objection to cotton-seed oil is that it is sold in disguise; as oil by its proper name it can be bought at prices from 50 cents to 90 cents or $1.00 per gallon, dependent upon the degree of refining it has undergone and the size of packages; but if bought with "pure olive oil" label upon the package it may cost $3.00 per gallon or more. A test for cotton-seed oil to distinguish it has formerly been to subject it to cold, when it would set in the bottle too thick to run; that test is no longer good, however, for the stearine is now pressed out at a low temperature, and the oil remains limpid.
It has been easy to detect it by the smell in frying, but that only holds good with common, half-refined oil; the best has no unpleasant smeii, and is now generally used in restaurants and hotels for frying, instead of lard. One of the greatest manufacturers of lard testified not long ago that about one-third of the lard made was cotton-seed oil; which fact accounts for the establishment of three grades of lard in regular business, the lowest being always semi-fluid at medium temperature and useless for making the best pastry, while the next grade above bears evidence of having been chemically treated in its soapy, pasty tenacity. If it must be purchased for economical r .asons, instead of buying it in the guise of lard or olive oil, it is wise to buy cotton-seed oil for what it is at the lowest price, taking care to obtain a thoroughly refined article. That it needs and is highly susccptible of refinement this interesting extract from the government chemist's report will show: "The oil as expressed from the seeds contains in solution, often to the extent of 1 per cent., a peculiar coloring matter, which is characteristic of this oil and its seed, and which gives the oil a ruby-red color, sometimes so intense as to cause the oil to appear nearly black.
The coloring matter causes crude cotton-seed oil to produce stains, and hence is removed by a process of refining. This is usually effected by agitating the crude oil at the ordinary temperature with 10 to 15 per cent of solution of caustic soda of 1.060 specific gravity, when the alkali combines with the coloring matter and saponifies a portion of the oil. The mixture becomes filled with black flocks which deposit on standing and leave the oil but slightly colored. Refined cotton-seed oil is of a straw or golden-yellow color, or, occasionally, nearly colorless".