The well-tanned New Englander has learned to equip himself with numerous must-have items to survive the long winter ahead.
These must-have items include appropriate winter gear for multiple outdoor activities. These activities can range from skiing and sledding, to daily chores and chores, to the inevitable shoveling of snow.
Therefore, the next item on our must-have list is a snow shovel. This includes snow brushes for your car, and depending on where you live in the Boston area, a durable but usable folding chair to mark your shoveled parking space on the street.
Finally, anyone planning to endure a long New England winter should also have an ample supply of hot chocolate on hand at all times.
A cup of cocoa warms the body and soul after an afternoon of exposure to winter weather. This hot, sweet treat has probably been a part of your winter ritual since you were a kid, but you may not be aware that this rich chocolate drink is also rich in history.
Many historians credit the Olmec civilization of southern Mexico as the first to grind roasted fruit from the native cocoa tree and mix it with water to create a drink.
This first chocolate drink dates back to 1700 BC, but was nothing like today’s sweet chocolate drink.
The bitter chocolate brews of the Olmecs were also enjoyed by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs and were consumed lukewarm, not hot.
The cocoa drink from Mexico was high in calories, antioxidants and caffeine and was thought to have restorative properties.
Aztec warriors would drink cocoa before going into battle, and it was rumored that Montezuma II would consume as many as 50 cups of this drink a day.
Spanish explorers discovered chocolate brew known as “xocoatl” while in Mexico, and eventually brought it home to Europe by adding cinnamon, sugar and other spices.
Cocoa also brought its reputation for being an aphrodisiac to Europe, causing it to be banned for a short period by 16th-century Spanish monks to prevent widespread philandery.
As the popularity of this chocolate drink spread throughout Europe, concern grew from the Roman Catholic Church. A great debate ensued as to whether this rich, troublesome drink should be consumed during a religious fast, but in the end Pope Gregory XIII declared that it was acceptable to consume drinkable chocolate during a fast as it was a drink and not a food.
In the 17th century, “chocolate houses” were at the forefront of England. These types of establishments were a place where the wealthy could drink hot chocolate while discussing the politics of the time, start with a little friendly play or engage in unscrupulous trouble with other wealthy chocolate drinkers.
Hot chocolate eventually came to America, and because of the belief in its restorative properties, hot chocolate was given to wounded soldiers from the independent war by doctors and was part of the soldiers’ monthly rations.
Thomas Jefferson was introduced to hot chocolate mixed with sugar and spices in 1775. He was so obsessed with this new drink, he was convinced that it would eventually replace coffee and tea.
Due to the high cost of chocolate, hot chocolate was considered a beverage primarily for the wealthy until 1827, when a Dutch chemist named Coenraad J. Van Houten invented the process of creating cocoa powder. The creations of cocoa powder helped make the hot cocoa drink available to the masses at an affordable price.
In the US, hot chocolate refers to any hot beverage with chocolate flavor, but in reality, hot chocolate and hot cocoa are very different.
Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which is chocolate that is pressed free of all its rich fats. The cocoa powder is then mixed with warm milk or warm water.
Hot chocolate is made from real chocolate bars or pieces melted in hot cream or whole milk and retains all of its natural fats and richness.
Today, the hot chocolate business is a hot commodity valued at an industry of $ 4.4 billion.
Packaged hot cocoa blends are readily available at most retailers and come in a wide range of flavors, such as dark chocolate, milk chocolate, double chocolate, mint chocolate and salted caramel chocolate. They can also be found in specialty flavors like Unicorn Rainbow Glow, White Peppermint Chocolate or Red Velvet.
Quite new to the hot chocolate market is Hot Chocolate Bomb or Ball. The “bomb” is a hollow ball of tempered chocolate often filled with mini-marshmallows. Simply place the bomb in a mug, pour hot milk over it, melt the chocolate and reveal the marshmallows inside. Just stir around and enjoy for a fun spin on a traditional favorite.
Nutritionally, most packaged hot cocoa blends, which contain processed cocoa, have little or no nutritional value.
However, hot chocolate drinks made with real chocolate are high in antioxidants, and when mixed with dairy products, you add the extra health benefits of calcium and vitamins to the milk.
Homemade hot chocolate is easy to make and can be a fun family activity on a cold winter day. All you need are four cups of whole milk, a quarter cup of unsweetened cocoa, a quarter cup of sugar, half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate pieces and a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract.
In a saucepan, heat the milk until hot (do not boil). Add other ingredients and whisk until blended. For a frothy hot drink, mix with a stick blender on high, and serve immediately.
To make a richer treat, replace two cups of milk with two cups half and half. You can also experiment with other flavors by swapping vanilla with peppermint extract or trying a shot of espresso.
Before the first big snowfall of the season is upon us, make sure you have your pantry filled with everything you need for a smoking hot cup of cocoa.
Whether you prefer to make it from scratch or just tear up a packet of Swiss Miss Instant Cocoa, the results are the same. A chocolate delicacy that will warm you up inside and melt away the winter blouse. Well, at least until the next time you have to shovel the driveway.