In October, I presented a homework assignment on my blog about a favorite topic, chocolate (https://jugraphia.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/chocolate/). It is now January, and yes I can honestly say that I have fulfilled that assignment. However, more tasty research may have to be pursued for extra bonus points.
To refresh your memory, I found out about a group, American Heritage Chocolate, that has excelled in chocolate research. They have a product out that represents what colonial Americans would have tasted in the 1750s. I went to their website (AmericanHeritageChocolate.com) and found that they do not sell the product directly, but rather through a group of select historical societies such as: Williamsburg, Virginia (seat of early colonial American government); Mount Vernon, Virginia (home of George and Martha Washington); Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia (home of Thomas Jefferson). I ended up throwing my business to Monticello’s gift shop for $20, which also was the best value for the money.
One week later my package arrived. Here was the epitome of chocolate history in my grasp. The coarsely ground chocolate is sealed inside a foil envelope and sits inside a cardboard container very much like Quaker Oats canister. There are no artificial ingredients, thus making it a health food. According to the label, the caloric intake of a serving size was 160 calories with 100 calories just from fat (cocoa butter). This historical research was definitely worth some extra pedaling on my stationary exercise bike.
I read the directions (Imagine that!) and measured out 2 tablespoons of chocolate into a glass ramekin. This chocolate has a wonderful aroma due to the spices. The spice combination is comprised of cinnamon, nutmeg, chili pepper, orange, anise and vanilla. The recipe is a one to one. For two tablespoons of chocolate there needs to be two tablespoons of nearly boiling water. When I mixed it together it seemed to be a little lukewarm, so I popped in the microwave for 15 seconds. To my dismay it started to bubble from the heat. When I took it out, the chocolate had thickened and puffed up into a pudding like consistency. I got out my spoon and gave it a try. Oh my! It was absolutely wonderful. Not only did our ancestors have good taste (I will never be able to look at Swiss Miss hot chocolate the same way again), but it is goof proof. I don’t think that anything can ruin it other than burning it.
In our age of supersize extremes, I did wonder about the actual serving size. The printed directions may fill an expresso sized cup. Might our ancestors have used a tea cup? I have also seen some antique chocolate serving sets on EBay. Most of them were porcelain and made in France. However, the historical reenactment photos that I have seen use earthenware or copper pots to heat up the chocolate.
There are historic variations on how to make the chocolate drink. Some people liked to make their chocolate drink with spirits: wine, brandy, port or sherry. Others liked it with milk or plain water.
In colonial society, chocolate consumption was strictly limited to the adults. I guess they learned the hard way that it made the children hyperactive.
Besides drinking chocolate, people were getting innovative. Besides the puddings, they were adding chocolate to meringue cookies or chocolate puffs, dipping cookies or dipping sticks into the chocolate, creating candies, etc.
Many of the Virginia planters had chocolate processing equipment which was used year round with the exception of summer. This is due to the historic truth that chocolate does not fare well in hot and humid weather.
Chocolate could be purchased in one pound cakes in America, where it was less expensive than in England where it was purchased in either 2 or 4 ounce cakes. At what cost? In pre-revolutionary America, that translated to a little over a day’s pay for a sailor or freeman (2 shillings 6 pence per pound). The prices would drop in the 1800s.
I am looking forward to testing out some of the historic and not so historic recipes that American Heritage Chocolate has posted on their website. I wish you a wonderful culinary adventure even if you don’t make it past the pudding phase.