A unit used in England and California, and perhaps elsewhere, to categorize raisins by size, at least as early as 1890 – present, 4 being the largest size and 1 the smallest. The measurement is of the largest diameter. For current values see note 1 below.
The word apparently originated in the raisin trade between London and Spain. The OED does not list this sense of the word “crown,” and Google's ngram viewer does not turn up any instances of its use in books between 1700 and 2000. It appears to be purely a trade term. If any readers know of earlier uses of the term, we would greatly appreciate hearing from them, especially if they can cast any light on the term’s origin. A package marking? A comparison to a coin weight?
§52.1850 Sizes of raisins with seeds — except layer or cluster
(1) 4 crown means raisins that will not pass through round perforations ⁴²⁄₆₄-inch [16.7 mm] in diameter.
(2) 3 crown means raisins that will pass through round perforations ⁴²⁄₆₄-inch in diameter but will not pass through round perforations ³⁴⁄₆₄-inch [13.5 mm] in diameter.
(3) 2 crown means raisins that will pass through round perforations ³⁴⁄₆₄-inch in diameter but will not pass through round perforations ²⁴⁄₆₄-inch [9.5 mm] in diameter.
(4) 1 crown means raisins that will pass through round perforations ²⁴⁄₆₄-inch in diameter.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service.
United States Standards for Grades of Processed Raisins.
Effective date December 1, 1978.
Page 8. As of 2013, still the standard in force.
[from page 15:] The various raisin brands packed in Malaga are different according to the different markets that are to be supplied. Thus for England we have: Finest Dehesa, three crown; finest Dehesa, two crown; finest Dehesa, one crown; Dehesa; Choice layers; London layers, three crown; London layers, two crown; London layers, one crown.
For France again we have: 1 Imperiaux; 1 Royaux; Couches; Surchoix; Choix; Ordinaire; Surcouches, etc.
The loose raisins or Brena and the seedless or Escombro generally go to the continent or even to the United States. The old terms Garoon or Sun are now never used.
For American markets we have: Imperial Dehesa; Royal finest Dehesa; finest Dehesa; fine Dehesa; Dehesa; London layers, three crown; London layers, two crown; London loose, one, two and three crown.
[from page 42:] In the Briggs raisin vineyard [in California], the following brands are packed: three crown Layer Muscatels; two crown Layer Muscatels; one and two crown Loose Muscatels; Dehesas and Seedless Muscatels.
Gustavus A. Eisen.
The Raisin Industry. A Practical Treatise on the Raisin Grapes. Their History, Culture and Curing.
San Francisco: H. S. Crocker & Co.. 1890
The standard box of raisins weighs 20 pounds, and contains four layers of five pounds each. The raisins are packed and graded into layers, and one, two and three crown loose.
Lee J. Vance.
Raisin Industry, The American.
Encyclopedia Americana, vol 13, 1904.
4-Crown and 3-Crown
To the Editor:
Is the 4-crown raisin better than the 3-crown?
The big 4-Crown Muscat has a special market in the bakeries. Its size makes it a favorite for use in cakes. It is, however, seldom superior in general quality and flavor to the 3-crown raisin, although it commands about a quarter cent better price. It has been found that this differential will scarcely pay for the extra labor of hand picking.
The Associated Grower, vol 1, no. 4 (June 1920), page 11.
California Raisins: are divided into Layer, Seeded and Seedless.
Both the Layer and Seeded are made from Muscatel grapes. The clusters are cut from the vines when thoroughly ripe and placed on wooden trays in the vineyard, as shown in the accompanying illustration. When they have wilted sufficiently, an empty tray is placed over the full tray and by a quick movement their positions are reversed, so that when the top tray is removed the “raw” under-sides of the clusters are exposed to the sun. After the completion of the drying process, the raisins are dumped into “sweat boxes,” holding about 150 pounds each, and are thus delivered to the packing house.
One of the next steps is the sorting. The finest “clusters” are packed in 5, 10 and 20-pound boxes, but the greater part of the crop is stemmed, seeded and packed in 1-pound cartons.
The first “stemmer,” which resembles an old-fashioned threshing machine, removes the large stems. Then the “cap-stemmer” removes the small cap-stems still adhering. The fruit is next graded in sizes known to the trade as 2, 3 and 4 “crown” and goes to the “seeder,” in which rubber or similar surfaced, rollers flatten it and press the seeds to the surface, where they are caught and removed by the teeth or needles of the impaling rollers. The seeds are removed from the rollers by a “flicking” or “whispering” device, and are passed to a receptacle to be sold as a by-product which is increasingly important.
California Seedless Raisins are of two kinds—Seedless Muscatels, a small percentage of the muscatel crop, and Thompson Seedless, corresponding to the imported Sultanas. Thompson seedless raisins are prepared by dipping the grapes before drying in an alkali solution to which is added saponified olive oil, and by sulphuring. The result is an attractive product of light color and fine flavor.
The Grocer's Encyclopedia.
New York: The Author. 1911.
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Last revised: 24 October 2013.