Saturday, January 12, 2019

Expanded Food Storage: Chocolate

Chocolate.  You know it's truly going to be TEOTWAWKI if you don't have it.

You already know why you want it in your preps.  You probably don't need a whole lot of help with recipes, either, though I'll provide a few later in this post.  What you are looking for, most likely, is how to store it best.

Chocolate chips (semi-sweet).  For maximum long term storage, up to five years, they should be put into canning jars and vacuum sealed.  Unfortunately, I have no personal experience with this, that is, with the part about five years.  The max I've been able to store chocolate chips here is three years.  We are so good at rotating our chocolate chips.  And while I firmly believe that storing chocolate chips in canning jars is truly the best way to go, I have to admit, it is not what I practice here.  It's partly because I'm a little lazy, but also partly because I know we will be rotating through these chocolate chips.  There is no doubt.  So I'm not concerned about longer term storage.  And because I'm not concerned about storing for the long haul, I have taken to putting the bags of chocolate chips into four-gallon buckets.  The buckets go into the crawl space with much of our other long-term food storage, where the temperature is cooler and more consistent.  If I were storing for longer term, I'd definitely do it as I did in the beginning--vacuum-sealed in canning jars.

Milk chocolate.  The higher milk content contributes to a shorter shelf life than for semi-sweet, definitely in the range of months and not years.  Were I to store it, it would be vacuum-sealed in canning jars.

White chocolate.  I rarely use it; certainly not enough to store it.  But my husband brought some Baker's semi-sweet and white chocolate baking bars home a couple of years ago because they were on clearance.  Those half-dozen or so bars went up on a high shelf in the laundry room/pantry and were kind of forgotten.  (OK, so they were totally forgotten.)  I came across them as I was tidying.  I couldn't find a date on them anywhere, but I know they came home post-Christmas one year, so they're somewhere between two and four years old.  First, I carefully opened the white chocolate.  It was no longer white, but rather caramel-colored.  I think I probably sniffed it first, but I'm not sure.  And besides, the true test would be to taste it.  Nasty!  It probably erased whatever memory of the smell I may have had.  So, so nasty.  Into the trash.  The semi-sweet  bars were just fine.

Cocoa powder.  Stored in a cool, dry place, it keeps pretty much indefinitely.

Hot cocoa mix.   The Home Storage Center states that their hot cocoa mix has a shelf life of two years.  In my supply here it looks like the last time I bought hot cocoa mix there was five years ago, because the best-by date on the pouch says February 2016.  So I'm testing cocoa that's almost three years past it's best-by date.  Three children with discriminating palates and I all say it tastes just fine.  What I would not trust, however, is the "cut here" dotted line, so that the bag can be resealed.  That was a total fail this time. 

DIY hot cocoa mix.  Cocoa powder stores almost indefinitely.  Sugar stores indefinitely.  Powdered milk has a 20-year shelf life.  So all three of these, the main ingredients in cocoa mix, ought to be able to be combined to make your own mix, right?  I searched the 'net for quite some time last night and came up with the recipe to try.

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups dry milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne

Now the recipes were all pretty much the same.  Some called for sifting the powdered sugar and cocoa to make sure there weren't any lumps.  One used brown sugar instead of powdered.  Most omitted the cayenne; in 5 1/2 cups of mix, it's only going to make a difference to the most sensitive of taste buds.  I didn't notice it.  What I did notice was that it was truly, truly awful.  I followed the recipe exactly and then mixed it up to make some hot cocoa without paying attention to the mixing directions.  Yes, it was so, so bad.  So I very irritatedly (yes, I know that's not a word, but it's how I felt) threw it all out.   Then I glanced at the mixing directions.  OK, so I was only supposed to use two tablespoons.  So I got back into the trash and carefully removed two tablespoons of mix that were not contaminated in any way.  I added two ounces of water and stirred well.  I then added milk and heated it in the microwave.

Nope, it was no better.  Still very, very awful.

(Note:  In the above recipe I used non-instant nonfat dry milk from the Home Storage Center.  Results may be better using a higher-end instant dry milk.)

So why exactly did I include that recipe if it doesn't work?  Because you need to know that just because someone somewhere on the 'net says something works, doesn't make it true!!  And then there can also be honest differences in taste buds.  I like fresh mushrooms; most of my children don't.  Trader Joe's peanut butter cups are the only way to go for me, but it seems most people are happy to eat Reese's.  Store brands are just fine for most things, but my crackers better be Honey Maid and Krispy or Premium.  You have to try recipes out yourself now so you don't waste precious food later.

Nesquik.  Nesquik (remember when it used to be just "Quik"?) can make a bad day a whole lot better.  It can also make powdered milk taste a whole lot better, especially if you didn't have time to get it thoroughly chilled.  Per the customer service representative at Nestle, "after it is produced our regular Nesquik Powder has a recommended shelf life of 24 months while the No Sugar Added has a recommended shelf life of 18 months. After opening either of those, the recommended shelf life is 3 to 6 months."

DIY Nesquik.  There were no where near as many options as there were for hot cocoa.  It's basically a 1:2 ratio of cocoa powder to sugar, with a pinch or two of salt.  

And it also tastes like barf.  Well, maybe just really bad.  But notice there is only one really.   Not two very's or two truly's, like the hot cocoa mix above.  If your kids have anywhere near the average number of brain cells or taste buds, they will not be fooled by this poor attempt at a copycat recipe.

A final note.  Chocolate can be stored in the freezer.  I supposed if I had unlimited space I would do this as well, but I really need the room for meat and some veggies.  Chocolate that is stored in the freezer will develop "bloom," a whitish, tannish, grayish cast to it.  It is the cocoa butter separating from the cocoa and does not affect the taste in the least, only the appearance. 

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