Archive for July, 2014

by TammyJo Eckhart

Are you sure what you’re eating is chocolate?

I run a blog called “The Chocolate Cult[1]”, and we’ve tested products from 201 different brands and companies in our five-year history.  We have a fairly broad definition of chocolate and chocolate-related products — if it contains at least one ingredient that comes from the cacao tree or the cocoa bean, we consider it to be “chocolate.”  However, when it comes to foods, candies, and drinks, we also prefer more pure or simple ingredients; the shorter the ingredient list, the better, in our experience. Most of the samples we are sent to feature are chocolate — white, milk, or various degrees of dark — but some are not.

Why does that matter?

It matters if you care about what you put into your body and where you spend your money.  While you may want to believe that companies in the USA are forced to be honest, the fact is that unless someone files a complaint, the amount of oversight in the food industry is relatively low (you can thank your Congress for that, since they oversee spending).  Time and again we see food and drink recalls on our newscasts; the Chocolate Cult has a weekly update on these matters.  From these constant recalls, it is clear to see that the US government is not strictly enforcing the regulations that exist.

Now, let’s be fair.  The simple fact is that businesses in the USA must, legally and practically, be focused on making profit.  However, in the name of profit some business owners will lie or mislead, subtly decreasing the percentage of chocolate and cocoa in their products, adding in potentially harmful or at least unnecessary ingredients, and even cutting costs through lax hygiene standards at their kitchens and factories at the expense of your safety.  But in the end it isn’t the companies’ job to protect your health; that’s your job.

Step One in protecting yourself and getting the best value for your money is to know what is and is not chocolate.

Many countries have food regulations – not all, but many.  While it is the job of the food producers and sellers to know what these regulations are, it is your job as the consumer to know as well. How can you trust what a label says if you don’t know what it should or should not say?

The Food and Drug Administration is the USA’s federal agency that oversees food and drug regulations, and this is where you need to turn first to learn about chocolate and cocoa regulations for products sold in America.[2]  If you consume chocolate or cocoa from other countries you’ll need to check their regulations; they are not the same.  Not only are there federal or nationwide food regulations, but individual states also have food regulations that you may need to be aware of.  Finally, differences in chocolate are a reflection of local or regional tastes and traditions, which is why Swiss chocolate seems creamy, German chocolate seems buttery, and Mesoamerican chocolate seems spicy.

According to FDA regulations milk chocolate and white chocolate are limited by how much chocolate liquor (in the case of milk chocolate[3]) and how much cocoa butter (in the case of white chocolate[4]) they contain, as well as what added ingredients are allowed.  The FDA does not have a definition for dark chocolate, though they do list regulations for several other chocolate and cocoa variations. Please do check out the regulations to be aware of what you should be looking for if you want to enjoy or use chocolate.

Product labels generally express the amount of an ingredient as a percentage based on weight, so you will see products labeled “45% chocolate liquor” or “70% cacao.” By law the label must list the ingredients in order of greatest to least in the product.  Simply by checking the ingredient list you can get a good idea of whether a product meets FDA standards, but not all companies reveal everything on their labels, even if they are legally required to do so.

Perhaps in later months I’ll talk about the legal definitions of other types of chocolate. But for now, let’s look at one type of chocolate that repeatedly fails to meet FDA standards and that tends to be the most misleading of those we are sent to feature on The Chocolate Cult: white chocolate. By FDA regulations, at least 20% by weight of white chocolate’s fat content must come from cocoa butter.  It may also have “nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners,” a long list of dairy ingredients, “emulsifying agents,” antioxidants, whey or whey products, and several spices and flavorings that do not imitate ”the flavor of chocolate, milk, or butter.”  The legal code gives percentage information for all of these allowed ingredients, but just knowing which ones are allowed at all can help you determine if a product is white chocolate or not.

The most common problem with “white chocolate” that we find is the addition of palm oil.  Aside from ecological questions or health concerns, this is simply not one of the allowed ingredients.  In fact, any fat or oil that is neither cocoa butter nor one of the listed dairy products is illegal if the manufacturer sells the product as “white chocolate.”  Frankly it is also unnecessary, given that there is no upper limit on the amount of cocoa butter the maker could add if it really needed a more buttery flavor in its white chocolate.

Remember, your body and your wallet are directly affected when you buy “chocolate” or “cocoa” products.  In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, and to get the best quality for your money and not just the greatest quantity, you need to know the facts.

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

InspiredTheChocolateCult

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

 

[1] http://thechocolatecult.blogspot.com/

[2] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=163

[3] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.130

[4] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.124

 

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Doing an ice cream bar for your next big summer party?  Here’s a great idea for party favors that keep with the ice cream bar theme, but won’t melt before your guests get home.  Melville Ice Cream Cone Lollipops!

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Melville Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops

 

These chocolate pops are handmade and dipped in hard cardy, creating a beautiful glossy shell in vibrant colors.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious too!  They come in two different sizes, the standard size pop with a red candy cherry,

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Melville Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops with Cherry on Top

 

and the giant size with sprinkles.

melville, candy, company, ice cream, cone, chocolate, lollipop, summer, parlor, parlour, treat, party favor, bar, sprinkles, giant,

Melville Giant Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops with Sprinkles

 

There are so many fun ways that you could present these.  We did the big ones standing up in a big jar,(with some help from some painted wood shavings and a styrofoam block) while the small ones fit perfectly in a sundae glass.  Lastly, we added a little sign to let people know they’re lollipops, and give the whole set up a vintage ice cream parlor feel.

melville, candy, company, ice cream, cone, chocolate, lollipop, summer, parlor, parlour, treat, party favor, bar, sprinkles, cherry, giant, container, sign, inspiration, ideas

Lollipop sign and container ideas

 

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Heres a treat for your backyard barbecue that promises to cool you down, no cooler needed!

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Nobody loves a popsicle or creamsicle in summertime more than we do, but if you’re setting up a candy buffet or snack table for your summertime soiree (or something a little more laid-back!) frozen treats can be a potential headache.  You need the extra cooler, and enough ice to keep it cool for 3 or 4 hours.  Plus, you need to keep an eye on it for when it needs to be emptied and refreshed.  And you can still end up with all the goodies becoming a goopy, soggy mess!

Well, we found the perfect solution.  These real size ice pop and cream pop lollipops from the Melville Candy Company come in all your favorite flavors, and are an easy addition to your snack and candy buffet.  Not a lot of candy can say summertime the ways these do!

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For a neat centerpiece, try this:  Take a standard metal bucket that you can find at a garden center or home design store.  In the bottom put a foam or styrofoamblock, and stick the popsicle sticks up right into the foam.  Next fill the bucket up to the top with clear rock candy.  Now you have faux ice to go along with your lollipop popsicles!IMG_0691

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You probably noticed that we subtitled this blog, “A history of the birth of the lollipop” rather than “The birth of the lollipop.” Well, that’s because there are so many “historical” versions of the origins of the lolli, almost as many as the tongue licks in a lollipop.  Although the saying, “there’s a sucker born every minute” is often attributed to the famous American circus showman P.T. Barnum, no one really knows its origins. You’ll discover here why this saying might just as easily have been said by someone trying to follow the story of the lollipop.

Legend has it that the origins of lollipops (sometimes spelled lollypops) can be found on cave paintings of people licking sticks used to collect honey from beehives. Also, there’s evidence that the ancient Chinese, Arabs, and Egyptians made candied fruit and nuts using honey and inserting sticks into the sweet mixture, thereby making it easier to eat. This sweet mix was originally used for preserving fruits and nuts rather than as a sweet treat (Food Timeline).

Candy Apples                                                                                                                                           Chinese Candied Fruit – Tanghulu

By the 17th century, as sugar from the Caribbean became more plentiful for the English, sugar moved from simply being a medicinal base to something sweet to eat. Richardson, in his 2002 book, Sweets: A History of Candy, writes that the distinction between the medicinal and confectionary uses of sweets was blurred from candy’s very beginnings, creating a sort of crisis for apothecaries. Richardson writes that at the time, pharmacists were quite scornful of the confectioners probably because the candyman could sell sweets to those looking for something tasty rather than something to simply cure an ill.

The 16th Century physician, Tabernaemontaus, claimed this of sugar candy: “As a powder it is good for the eyes, as a smoke it is good for common colds, as flour sprinkled on wounds it heals them.” Pierre Pomet continues these claims in his book A Compleat History of Drugs (1712) where he says “Put into the eyes in fine powder, they take way their dimness, and heal them being bloodshot, as they cleane old sores, being strew’d gently upon them.” (Richardson, 2002)

As described by Henry Weatherley in his 1864 book, A Treatise on the Art of Boiling Sugar, the English boiled sugar and inserted sticks into the sweet treat to make eating the sugary substance less messy. This boiled sugary treat on a stick marks the beginning of the first modern sugar lollipop.


Rock Candy

 

Sugar Pop (Rock Candy)

By the mid 1800s, confectioners were selling their sweets on the streets including rock, stick, lozenges, and candies all made by boiling sugar (Richardson, 2002). Many of the sweet sellers were also making these sweets in their cellars.

Lollipop Fact:Linguists say that the term ‘lolly pop’ literally means ‘tongue slap’ (which we find hilarious) since the word for ‘tongue’ is ‘lolly’ in Northern England and ‘pop’ means ‘slap.’ The London street vendor may have coined this term when vending the sweet delight. Although this was likely a soft rather than hard treat it is still considered a possible forerunner to the modern lollipop.

By the time of the Civil War, hard candy was put on the tips of pencils for children. They  loved the candy on a stick so much that in the early 20th century automation technology created a lollipop manufacturing industry. Who is considered the original creator of manufactured lollipops? Well, again as it seems with all of candy history, sucker origin stories abound.

In the first sweet origin version, dating back to the 1880s, Arthur Spangler, from Bryan, Ohio, was one of the first makers of chocolate to put a stick into the caramel candy he was making, probably for the same reason everyone before him did—to avoid packaging and causing a sticky situation in customers’ hands.

Around the same time as Spangler, George P. Smith of Bradley-Smith Candy Company in New Haven, CT decided  to put a stick into the balls of caramel candy he was making. Keep your eyes out for George Smith as we will hear more about him later in this candy story.

Salted Caramel Lollipop                                                                                                                                            Modern Salted Caramel Lollipop

Another candy birth legend involves the owner of the McAviney Candy Company who in 1905 is said to have stumbled upon the lollipop by accident. The company made boiled hard candies that were stirred with a stick, and at day’s end, the owner brought the sticks covered with the candy home for his kids to enjoy.  By 1908, McAviney Candy began to market these “used candy sticks.”

Apple Lollipop                                                                                                                                Candy-Coated Stick (Apple Cinnamon Spoon)

Sucker Machine                                                                                                                                                  Modern Lollipop Machine

In 1908, the owner of the Racine Confectioners Machine Company from Racine Wisconsin, introduced a machine that placed a stick into hard candy at the rate of 2,400 sticks per hour. Owners believed they could produce enough lollipops (although they weren’t called that yet) in a single week to supply the nation’s demand for an entire year. They were called the “all-day sucker.”

Bradely Smith Company                                                                                                                                                     Bradley Smith Company

And, remember George Smith from earlier in this blog, of the Bradley Smith Company. Well he said: “Hey, we started the lollipop!”  Smith took credit for inventing the modern version of the lollipop which he began making in 1908.  Hey, anyone else noticing how 1908 shows up again and again in these candy origin stories?  Well anyways, back to Smith. In 1931, Smith trademarked the term “lollipop,” where legend has it that he used the name of a famous racehorse named Lolly Pop. For many candy historians, the naming and trademarking of “candy on sticks” as lollipops marks the origins of the lollipop.  Hey, notice the word lollipop connecting back to the 17th Century phrase ‘tongue slap,’ remember?

All Day Sucker                                                                                                                                                         Born Sucker Machine

By 1916, a Russian immigrant, Samuel Born, invented an automated process for inserting the sticks into the candy batch. And, this machine was called the Born Sucker Machine. Sweet name for a machine, ey. Anyway, the City of San Francisco considered this machine so creative that, in 1916, they granted him the “keys to the city.”

So there you have it. Lots of tongue lick slapper stories for the birth of the lollipop. But, don’t try to say that last line five times fast–or your tongue will be slapping faster than you can lick to the center of a lollipop.

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