Friday, June 21, 2013

And The Second Best First Aid Food Is Chocolate!

If congee was what my body needed to ease back into functioning among the living, then chocolate is what I needed today for my soul.  I have spent most of the week eating tiny amounts of very bland food. Today I was ready to jump feet first in the flavor pool, and thought nothing would be more comforting than a big glass of chocolate milk. I was ready to squirt some of the syrup into my milk when I spied the list of ingredients. ( Insert some kind of car screeching to a stop sound here!)  Oh my goodness!  I just wanted some chocolate milk not a chemical soup.  I still wanted the chocolate milk but I did not want to drink the preservatives and additives.  I  wonder if the stuff that was around in my childhood was as chemically enhanced as the product today or if this is a new and improved version.

When I was a kid it came in a can with a brown wrapper with no pop top or pull tab. To open the can you had to use an old church key opener to punch little triangles on the lid. As a result, you could pour a stream  of that chocolaty deliciousness into a tall glass of whole milk.  You would stir it with a long iced tea spoon, put a straw in the middle and either drink it all or save a tad to make wonderful chocolate bubbles. Except that was not the childhood memory from my home.

 To say my mother was food frugal would be like calling Genghis Khan  somewhat antisocial.  Mother was the ultimate budgeteer with her larder.  She knew down to the bread slice, cereal serving, or teaspoon of sugar what would be allotted per person each month.  She attacked the grocery store armed with a precise list and one of those red plastic clickers that kept count of how much she was spending.  She bought exactly what she planned on buying and would only add an occasional surprise "good buy".  ( usually pork and beans or something like that)   It was a battle she waged every month and I guess she won, because she managed to keep us alive and she sure kept to her budget.  But it allowed for no deviation and NO FRILLS like CHOCOLATE SYRUP.  Sure we had a carton of that chocolate milk powder, but we didn't even get the kind with the rabbit on the box.  We got some off brand that was cheaper.  Plus whole milk?  Forget that!  We drank a delicious combo beverage made of  1/2 skimmed milk mixed with 1/2 reconstituted instant milk ( also a store brand).  It gave a new meaning to the term whitewater.

Instead of memories of my home journey with me to Grandmother's kitchen. ( And yes, that is what we called her.)   It was a virtual den of edible iniquities to me.  Not only did she have real butter and salt rising bread from the bakery, exotic fruits like cantaloupe and figs, she also had ice cream and chocolate syrup.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  At Grandmother's house I could drink real chocolate milk instead of the watery gritty stuff I had at home. . Sometimes you could even double dip from the chocolate. In addition to chocolate milk you could also  pour a little over your ice cream.   Kid Nirvana!!!!!

I immediately began researching and testing some recipes for a cheap and simple alternative to basic chocolate syrup.  I was surprised by how many different variations I found that claimed to taste "exactly like the stuff in the brown bottle".  Fortunately I had a boatload of sugar and some time, so I got busy  whisking and stirring and blending and cooking and, oh yeah, tasting!  The end result and the one I thought came nearest but possibly better is a combination of several recipes.  If you would prefer just google search homemade chocolate syrup and you will find tons of options,  similar options, but options no less.

Chocolate Syrup That Is Close To The Brown Bottle Stuff

2 cups of white sugar ( I only use cane sugar because sugar cane is not genetically modified)
1 cup cocoa powder (brown box unsweetened stuff)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup corn syrup  ( personal opinions about corn syrup below)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract ( I use pure vanilla because imitation vanilla is made from vanillin
                                                      which is a synthetic flavoring made from leftover pulp wood )

Whisk the dry ingredients in a medium size pot.  Add the warm water and whisk till it is smooth and lump free.  Stir in the corn syrup and heat to a boil, stirring continually.  When the syrup reaches a rolling boil turn the heat down to maintain a low boil and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Turn on a simmer heat and cook for 6 more minutes. Continue stirring the whole time.  Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla  and let it cool to lukewarm.  When it has cooled down pour it into whatever you plan on using to hold it.  I use a wide mouth glass with a lid because it was an easy pour and is easy to store .  Makes about 18 ounces. Store in the refrigerator.

To me this did not taste exactly like the Hershey's syrup and I did do a side by side taste test.  I thought this was better.  In fact I thought all the recipes I tried were better.  Even the one's that I personally found too chocolaty, or too sweet, or had too much vanilla were better.  But I guess it could have been my imagination telling me it was better, so I did a double blind taste test with 2 kids who were here swimming today.  Both picked the homemade syrup as tasting better and they had no idea which was which.

I can't wait till Son3 gets home from his mini vacation.  He is the resident "chocolate syrup on vanilla ice cream expert".  I am anxious to hear his opinions.

*  I try very hard to limit our intake of corn syrup both in foods I make and in anything we buy prepared.  You will be astounded at the number of products containing corn syrup.  When I do use it, I use the lightened variety which has no high fructose corn syrup.  It is necessary to introduce a different sugar to the mixture it prevents the sugar from re-crystaling.   That I know of, in the USA there is only one brand of corn syrup that is non GMO and has no high fructose corn syrup.  I have never seen it locally but have seen it here.  I am ordering 2 bottles just to have for times like this.  I am assuming even the light Karo is GMO but I know ALL high fructose corn syrup is.  I hate that our current corporate farming system requires me to even have to think about whether a food has been genetically modified or not.

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