Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chocolate – a True American Tradition

HH Note: Yes! Chocolate was a ration in the American Revolution! No wonder I love America so much! What can we say? This story definitely gets the Fayette Front Page coveted four chocolate covered strawberries award.

(ARA) – You’ve probably heard the saying, “As American as baseball, mom and apple pie.” Well, the original author of that famous phrase left something out. Chocolate is all-American too. So as you celebrate Thanksgiving over a meal with friends and family this year, take a moment to consider how chocolate has helped to shape the American experience for more than three centuries.

People tend to associate chocolate with European culture, yet the confection’s roots are actually a whole lot deeper in the Americas. The trees that grow the cacao beans, ultimately made into chocolate, actually originated in the tropical regions of the Americas. Chocolate didn’t find its way to Europe until Christopher Columbus brought the cacao bean back to Spain from his “New World” adventure. So, to eat and drink chocolate is to share a common connection throughout American history from before the Revolutionary War into the 21st century.

Here are some other interesting facts about chocolate in the Americas:

* Chocolate was a military ration during the American Revolutionary War.

* In 1768, John Hancock, protesting Britain’s decision to tax the colonies without representation in Parliament, organized a boycott of tea from China sold by the British East India Company. As it was unpatriotic to drink tea, colonists breakfasted on coffee and chocolate instead.

* George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin all drank chocolate.

* Chocolate was drunk for its purported medicinal benefits during the Lewis and Clark Expedition and on the Overland Trails by California Gold Rush miners.

* Amelia Earhart had a cup of chocolate during her record-setting flight over the Pacific from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland on Jan. 11, 1935.

Even though it seems as if chocolate is ubiquitous, we do not yet know all of the facts surrounding the origins of this tasty treat. Mars, Incorporated, maker of some of the world’s favorite brands such as Dove Chocolate, M&M's and Snickers, is leading the effort to identify and weave these threads into the true history of chocolate in the Americas. This effort has unearthed evidence of chocolate 60 years prior to all previous accounts and will be presented in a book that will be published in January 2009 called, Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, authored by a team of scientists and historians. The book delves into the culinary, cultural, economic and social implications of chocolate from the Colonial era through the early 20th century.

“This book is a beginning,” says Howard-Yana Shapiro, Mars global director, plant science and external research. “Mars is a leader in cocoa science and has been making high-quality chocolate products for more than 100 years. Our intention is to uncover the mysteries and interesting stories surrounding the origins of chocolate.”

But you won’t necessarily have to pick up a copy of the book to learn more about the history of chocolate in America. Just log on to www.AmericanHeritageChocolate.com and go back in time to experience chocolate the way our ancestors did. The site features information about the history of chocolate and the role it played in the lives of early Americans, as well as recipes for chocolate desserts made the old-fashioned way.

Chocolate making is an art as well as a science. The modern chocolate making process is finely calibrated to consistently produce a smooth texture. In Colonial America, chocolate was either ground by hand or with stone mills. Sometimes chocolate makers, or “chocolate millers” as they were called, were diversified and also made ginger, mustard and pepper in their mills. As a result, early American chocolate often carried hints of these flavors.

Want to experience some “authentic Americana” for yourself? Try sampling American Heritage Chocolate (www.AmericanHeritageChocolate.com), which Mars manufactures. This chocolate is sold exclusively through and at the following historical sites: Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Deerfield, the Fortress of Louisbourg in Canada, Monticello, Mount Vernon, the Smithsonian and Fort Ticonderoga.

Here’s a recipe for chocolate ice cream with an old-world flair:

Ingredients:

1 5-oz. American Heritage Chocolate Bar
1 package of American Heritage Chocolate Spice Drink
1 quart of whole milk
6 large eggs
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

Grate the chocolate bar into a bowl. Add the entire contents of the spice drink package, and set aside.
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Save the whites for another recipe.
Split the vanilla bean in half down the entire length of the pod and scrape out the seeds from both halves. Put the seeds and scraped pods into the milk.
Pour all the milk and the chocolate into a sauce pan and heat to a boil, stirring continuously. Add the sugar and cook until both the sugar and the chocolate are melted.
Take a quarter of a cup of the hot mixture and slowly add to the egg yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk, to prevent scrambling.
Stir the warmed egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and bring all the ingredients to a boil for about a minute or until slightly thickened. Strain the hot custard through a sieve into another bowl. Set aside and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate the mixture for 4 hours or overnight.
Freeze the cooled chocolate mixture in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions

You may also want to try an old-world recipe for a chocolate tart:

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. rice flour
3 Tbsp. white sugar or to taste
5 medium egg yolks or 4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 5-oz. American Heritage Chocolate Bar
1 prepared frozen 9-inch pie shell
Pinch of salt

Directions:

Grate the chocolate into a bowl and set aside.
Combine salt, egg yolks, rice flour and milk in a separate bowl and set aside.
Pour all the cream and the chocolate into a sauce pan and heat to a boil, stirring continuously. Add the sugar and cook until both the sugar and the chocolate are melted.
Take a quarter of a cup of the hot mixture and slowly add to the egg yolk and rice flour mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, to prevent scrambling.
Stir the warmed egg yolk mixture into the sauce pan and bring all the ingredients to a boil for about a minute. Set aside and allow it to cool to room temperature. While the mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the frozen pie shell, set it upon a cookie sheet to prevent spillage and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until set.
Remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

For more recipe ideas, log on to www.AmericanHeritageChocolate.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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