Take the Bitter with the Sweet.

Yes, go for it! Go ahead and be bitter! Today you can be! Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate Day! Start indulging in your favorite chocolate until the bitter end! Am I getting a little carried away here? I’m sorry! I don’t mean to be obnoxious, but there are just to many perfect ways to express today’s bittersweet day! And just because it’s a day for bittersweet chocolate, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about your milk chocolate. Because we’ve got them all covered today to celebrate Hachez all the way from Germany.

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Let’s first explore what makes chocolate bittersweet:

  • Legally, at least 35 percent pure chocolate with some small amount of sugar added.
  • Also known as: dark chocolate, when it is a European brand.
  • Characteristics: Usually darker and less sweet than semisweet.
  • No legal specifications for the term so not always darker and less sweet.
  • Semisweet and bittersweet can be used in baking interchangeably, depending on personal preferences.
  • Specific sweetness and color intensity varies by manufacturer’s recipes and cacao bean sources.
  • Uses: Baking and eating.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens (Chocolate Types, Selection & Storage)

So, let’s get this (tasty) bitterness out of the way, shall we? Let’s start with these two bittersweet chocolates made by Hachez. The Ecuador green package is a 58% cocoa and the São Tomé blue package is 73% cocoa. How bitter do you like to go?! Missing from our group would be the Madagascar in blue-violet package at 75% cocoa.

Hachez can impress even the best dark chocolate connoisseur. I thought I was a dark chocolate expert until I had some of the darkest Hachez chocolate (I believe 88% is my favorite) and I was blown away! It’s not overly bitter, it’s not “dry” or tastes chalky, it’s just a smooth, chocolatey taste that is very enjoyable! I tried both of these below and they are very good!

 

Back in 1890 Joseph E. Hachez refined superior cocoa from South America according to a simple recipe. The secret to perfect chocolate quality involves roasting the cocoa bean batch, meticulous conching and use of natural ingredients. We still adhere to this recipe today. Enjoy our chocolate compositions handcrafted with love and painstaking care.

Source: Hachez (Product Packaging)

Even though it’s “bittersweet” day, below I thought I would share a photo of some of the Hachez superior milk chocolate, influenced by Venezuela at 43% cocoa and in a yellow package. Silky, smooth milk chocolate, very dreamy and delicious!

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We will be exploring Hachez chocolates some more in the future, so expect to see more delicious chocolate from them coming to the blog! We will also be exploring Hachez’s Taste Navigator in a future post, so look out for that, soon!

To end the post for today, I had to share one of my favorite songs from back in the day, “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Enjoy!

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We’ve Got Ourselves In a Pickle!

DSC_0001In case you were not aware, it’s National Pickle Appreciation Day! There are a vast variety of pickle facts we’d love to share with you! While our favorite brand at Gourmet International is Hengstenberg, you can see the many different brands of pickles, their origin and company all at the Pickle Packers International website, cutely named: ilovepickles.org.

We are sharing the following facts from that website and what better why to start by talking about the origin of “in a pickle” as stated in our title post today! Shakespeare first introduced that phrase in The Tempest. In the play the quote is read, “How cam’st thou in this pickle?” and “I have been in such a pickle!”

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Consumption: How many Americans consume pickles within one year? Well, that answer is 2.5 billion pounds which is 20 billion pickles!  Even more random fact from the site: If you want to reach the moon, it would take 4 billion pickles. Do the math and the amount of pickles consumed in one year could get us to the moon and back more than 2 times! How crazy is that?

World War II Ties: During the days of the war, the United States Government tagged 40% of all pickle production for the ration kits of the armed forces.

Is it a fruit or a vegetable? The United States Government technically classifies pickles as a “fruit” of the vine – much like a tomato, but most people categorize pickles as a vegetable.

What are the more popular varieties of pickles? Dill is considered the most favored variety of cucumber pickle. Other variations and varieties include Sour/Half Sour and Sweet. Let’s explore these varieties a moment…

  • Dill. Herb dill or dill oil is added to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. The different types of dill pickles include:
    • Genuine Dill. These pickles are made by the slow “processed” method. Dill weed is added into the tanks during the last stage of fermentation or to the jar after fermentation. These pickles usually have a higher lactic acid flavor than other varieties.
    • Kosher Dill. True “Kosher” pickles are those that have been manufactured and certified in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, and made with dill and garlic added to the brine. The flavor is very popular, more robust than regular dill pickles, so much so, that the name has stuck and kosher dills are the ultimate accompaniment to an overstuffed deli sandwich.
    • Overnight Dill. Cukes are places fresh into brine (which may include a slight amount of vinegar) for a very short time — one to two days. The entire process takes place under refrigeration, and they stay refrigerated when stored and shipped. They bright green pickles taste like fresh cucumbers accented with dill flavor. They are the kind of pickle you usually find at a deli.
    • Other Dills: Include Polish and German Style.
  • Sour/Half Sour. Fresh cucumbers are first placed into a seasoned brine which doesn’t include vinegar. The containers are then refrigerated, and remain refrigerated when stored and shipped. The longer the cucumbers remain in the brine, the more sour they become. Half-sour pickles are extra crispy and keep their fresh cucumber color.
  • Sweet. Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices. The variations include:
    • Bread & Butter. Sweet, thinly sliced pickles made from cucumbers, onions and chopped green or red peppers. They have a distinct, slightly tangy taste. Available in smooth or waffle cut chips or chunks.
    • Candied. These pickles are packed in an extra-heavily sweetened liquid.
    • No-Salt Sweet. These are a relatively new variety of sweet pickle to which no salt has been added. Usually available as chips.
    • Sweet/Hot. The are a “hot” new kind of pickle. They’re made by adding hot spices and seasonings to pickles for a delightful spark of piquant flavor.

Source: ilovepickles.org

You’re probably learning more about the pickle today than you thought you would! And did you know that pickles are identified as on the favorite vegetables of teens per a consumer study that was conducted for the pickle industry.

 

Now how about you? What’s your favorite type of pickle now that you’ve read through all the varieties? I have to say mine would have to be bread & butter. Nothing like the crunch of a nice crisp, bread & butter pickle! Nibble, nibble!

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Cultivated From Fields of Gold.

What is that growing in that field? What is that golden glow in the distance? Why, that’s mustard growing out yonder! I did bring mustard to this WordPress party in early October and we’re bringing it back around. Why? Because mustard is delicious and pairs well with many things! And if you want to, you can keep your own Oktoberfest going with these Hengstenberg gourmet mustard mugs! The fun continues when you are done with the mustard because then you can use the mug for other things!

It was a really blah and somewhat rainy evening in Michigan last night. We decided that it would be a good idea to close down my parents pool, even though the weather was super yuck, it had to be done. I had the bright idea of picking up some bratwurst from a local shop down the road to toss on the grill for dinner. Between adults watching children inside the house and adults out and about milling around a draining pool, bratwurst was grilling and some twice baked potatoes were warming up in the oven. Not much time was given to any other condiments for the bratwurst, but that was okay. Hengstenberg mustard was in the house!

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My mom is one who does not like hot spicy things, but she loves the Hengstenberg Medium Mild Mustard. I am one that likes sweet and tangy, so I’m a big fan of the Hengstenberg Sweet Mustard Bavarian Style. Lucky for us, we had both in the mugs! Since we were busy doing many things and taking care of business in the backyard with the pool, the only thing we really put on our bratwurst was the mustard. Not always do I load up my grilled food with condiments, I can be a plain Jane, and when you just use a really good mustard, sometimes that is just the only thing you need!

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Mustard goes well by itself with other food as well! Pretzels, pigs in a blanket, sauces, incorporated with salad dressings, meats, cheeses and more! Do you like mustard? What foods would you use mustard for? Are you spicy or sweet or maybe somewhere in between?

 

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Before I wrap up this post, I thought I would share a few mustard facts from MentalFloss.com:

Broccoli is a not-so-distant cousin.

As members of the Brassica or Sinapis genera, mustard plants are close relatives to a surprising variety of common vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, and cabbage.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans used it as more than just a condiment.

Pythagoras endorsed a poultice of mustard seeds as a cure for scorpion stings. Hippocrates praised mustard paste as a miracle remedy capable of soothing pains and aches; and ancient Roman physicians used it to ease toothaches. They weren’t alone. Over the years, mustard has been used for appetite stimulation, sinus clearing, and frostbite prevention. It’s now touted as a weight loss supplement, asthma suppressant, hair growth stimulant, immunity booster, cholesterol regulator, dermatitis treatment, and even as an effective method of warding off gastrointestinal cancer, so ask your doctor if mustard is right for you.

Source: MentalFloss.com