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Published: Wednesday, 12/24/2008

Chocolate: A True American Tradition

(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 the holidays 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.

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. Courtesy of ARAcontent



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