As part of the Historic Food and Feasting course, we covered the arrival and subsequent popularity of chocolate, imported to Britain from the newly opened up New World in the early 18th century. We are not talking about the bars of confectionary that we think of as chocolate today, however. Until the 19th century, chocolate was drunk, much like tea and coffee. Indeed, there are many similarities with coffee in particular, insofar as it is made from ground roasted beans.
So, on to the serious business of chocolate. Some of you may be familiar with the chocolate reference in the title. Having something of a sweeter tooth in my youth, I can’t honestly say I liked dark chocolate back then, but I far prefer it now to the sugary fat that passes for the most common brand offerings. Anyway, after learning about how the Georgians made their chocolate from beans to beverage, it seemed like a good excuse to have a go at making my own. My Peruvian raw cacao nibs* duly arrived and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, were swiftly transformed into 100% chocolate buttons with attitude.
*nibs are the inside of the cacao bean, the relevant part, so I was spared the whole shelling process.
So how did this transformation take place? First, I roasted some nibs (12 minutes at 140C) and then, while still warm, popped them into my electric coffee bean/herb mill and whizzed them until they’d liquefied. It was actually quite amazing, to tell the truth. One minute I had something that resembled coffee grounds, the next it was a thick, glossy chocolate paste. I felt like a magician!
I dropped teaspoon of the magical elixir onto a marble board and popped it into the fridge to set:
Naturally, I tasted some. Bitter? Oh yes!
Not me…the chocolate <rolls eyes>
Pure chocolate, without sugar, is nothing like a bar of your favourite indulgence, it fair sucketh all the moisture from your mouth!
What we have here is what the Georgian would have used as the basis for their favourite breakfast drink. See, hot chocolate is not just for bed time. Like coffee, they would not necessarily have drunk it in milk, but also in water, not to mention wine.
Stage 2 was to turn my chocolate ‘cakes’ in a Georgian beverage. This did involve quite a bit of sugar, especially for the children, though my chocoholic daughter still found it too strong for her taste, (having pestered for there to be even more chocolate in hers than I was prepared to use!) I used one button per cup (espresso sized) in hot milk and plenty of sugar:
For DH and myself, I followed the course’s suggestion of using port as per this recipe:
Take a pint of sherry, or a pint and a half of red port, four ounces and a half of chocolate, six ounces of fine sugar, and half an ounce of white starch, or fine flour; mix, dissolve, and boil all these as before. But, if your chocolate be with sugar, take double the quantity of chocolate, and half the quantity of sugar; and so in all.
John Nott, Cook’s Dictionary. 1726
This also required plenty of sugar and the addition of a little flour whisked in to help bind the ingredients. DH thought it “tasted odd”, but I rather liked it. Hic! 😀
As you can see, the cinnamon and ginger Elizabethan Jumbles from Week 2 made a nice accompaniment for dunking 🙂
If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can use good quality cocoa powder or minimum 80% cocoa chocolate. For reference, my ‘buttons’ were probably the equivalent of a heaped teaspoon of cocoa powder per cup and that was chocolatey enough for me, but if you want yours espresso-strength you may want to add more. You’ll need more chocolate and less sugar if you use chocolate bars. Do let me now what you think of your concoction.
This is not the end of the story. I have rather a lot of cacao powder and nibs, so I will be making more of my own (ultra) chocolate. I’ll keep you posted with my results 😀
Still to come, I’ll be trying out some frugal late Georgian food and then it’s the turn of the gluttonous Victorians, so watch this space. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, check out my other historic food posts.