This mini-episode is just a little taster, chocolate will get a FULL ON episode in the future, here we are just focusing on Christmas chocolates such as chocolate coins, chocolate tins and trays. From its roots in South and Central America cacao has created joy and good tidings everywhere it has gone and we love to gift it, share it and eat it at Christmas.
yougov.uk did a really snazzy poll this year to find out which chocolates were the favourites from the Roses, Quality Street, Celebrations and Heroes Christmas tubs. Comments unanimously denounced the size and quality of the sweets, the plastic tub which has replaced the tins, the moment that Cadbury’s succumbed to Kraft, the fallen sweets of yesteryear which have been retired and my favourite comment from 1984again - “Anyone who likes chocolate would not eat any of this stuff. It's not chocolate anymore.”
Milk chocolate was invented in 1876.
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao plant native to Central and South America and was vital to the Maya and Aztec who used a raw bitter cacao drink ceremoniously in wedding, battle and burial rituals. It was not consumed by all but reserved by the elite.
From the cacao tree we get the seeds or nuts which result in raw cacao power when the cocoa beans are un-roasted and cold-pressed. Cocoa powder has been roasted under high heat.
Raw cacao powder is full of antioxidants,contains protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, and sulfur. high in valuable enzymes, can reduce blood pressure and chances of cardiovascular disease, can raise serotonin levels.
Spanish Explorer Cortez brought back a recipe and the necessary equipment and had experimented with adding heat to the mixture to make it more palatable.
Cacao was not an immediate success when it was introduced to Spain in the early 16th century… but once sugar was added to cocoa powder and served warm, it really took off and its benefits and its status as a drink of the wealthy and specifically a drink of Spain.
Eventually warm cocoa spread to France and the rest of Europe and took over as a predecessor to tea and coffee-houses with wealthy men enjoying the custom of drinking hot cocoa at specific cafe-like houses where thy would discuss politics and current events.
The industrial revolution improved grinding process and introduced additives which brought down the cost of cocoa and widened the audience of those who would enjoy it.
In 1847 the world saw it’s first chocolate bar as chocolate went from being a drink to an edible food.
Chocolate shaped like coins, wrapped in gold foil given to children and put in stockings at Christmas and given to children during Chanukah. This tradition also has links to the tradition of St Nicholas gifting gold to the poor as told in the Twelve Foods of Christmas orange episode.
Chocolate manufacturers soon found an opportunity in Christmas chocolate selections that they could sell high price offerings that were popular amongst families who they would provide with an array of chocolates.
A few years back I decided to bundle all my interests together and rebrand from Smy Chutney to Smy Goodness so that all my preserves, crafts, products and workshops could live together in one place. My own podcast seemed a suitable place to uncover, understand and enjoy things related to food, art, history and design. Please do share your stories, knowledge, questions and suggestions. In the Smy Goodness.com podcast section you will find the podcasts and all the items that we are discussing and will have ongoing discussions about each week.
You can also follow Smy Goodness on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. I'd like to thank Ashley Palmer for use of his Roland R-09 and Matteo Borea for creating the music. Thank you for listening.