American Heritage Chocolate offers authentic Colonial tastes

December 10, 2021

Last weekend was full of holiday happenings in Lewes, from parades to bake sales to the old-fashioned Christmas market on the Lewes Historical Society campus at the end of Second Street. The various buildings were open for tours, and there was an abundant supply of seasonal food and drink. One of the most interesting treats for me was the hot chocolate samples made from American Heritage Chocolate.

Fifty years before the American Revolution, there was already a thriving chocolate production industry centered in Philadelphia, with a significant amount finding its way to “Lewis.” According to records from the time period of 1768 to 1773, 1,300 pounds of chocolate was exported “coastwise” to Lewes.

During this time, chocolate was available at a lower cost than coffee or tea, making it a popular alternative. Martha Washington extolled the benefits of chocolate broth to calm a stomach ache (a remedy borne out by modern research). And, Thomas Jefferson famously pronounced his opinion on chocolate: “The superiority of the article for both health and nourishment will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America.”

Originally, “chocolate” referred to the end product of several processing steps. First, the cocoa beans are roasted. Next the nibs are winnowed from the shells, which are typically discarded (unless Martha keeps them to make her broth). The nibs are then ground into a paste. In modern chocolate manufacturing, this is where other ingredients are added: sugar, milk solids, nuts and preservatives.

In Colonial times, the recipe for what would be used to make a chocolate drink included some surprising ingredients, among them red pepper, cloves, orange, nutmeg and cinnamon. To give consumers the opportunity to experience the complex flavors enjoyed by our ancestors, the Mars candy company developed a set of products called American Heritage Chocolate.

The company’s original business model only permitted these products to be sold at historic sites around the country, where interpreters and educators would provide samples of the chocolate following a presentation on the history of chocolate. At Saturday’s demonstration, the top-hatted Marcos Salaverria, dressed in period attire, prepared tastes for visitors as he demonstrated how the delicious hot drink was prepared.

As we were handed tiny cups of frothy chocolate, we were advised to sip very slowly, and notice the subtle flavors and spices in the samples. Instructions for making the drink at home were to use the drink mix (which had already sold out) or to shave a small chunk of chocolate into simmering water or milk, then whisk to blend the drink. For the version in the photo, we topped the mug with a dollop of whipped cream.

To learn more about the history of chocolate, you can ask Marcos to conduct a demonstration for your group or visit the American Heritage Chocolate website ( where they flag which of their recipes are “historic” and note the site or chef from which it came. I’ve included three recipes for you to try: hot chocolate, gingerbread chocolate cookies, and an unexpectedly delicious salad dressing.

And, the fundamental change to their business model: The products are now available online at the behemoth e-tailer that sells everything.

Hot Chocolate*

3 T AH finely grated baking chocolate

3 C milk

whipped cream

Pour milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium low. Stir in grated chocolate and whisk to combine. Serve in mugs, topped with whipped cream. *Note: recipe adapted from American Heritage Chocolate.

Balsamic & Chocolate Vinaigrette*

1/4 C olive oil

1/4 C Balsamic vinegar

1 T AH finely grated baking chocolate

1/2 t Dijon mustard

mixed greens

1/4 C slivered almonds

1/4 C crumbled goat cheese

Combine oil, vinegar, chocolate and mustard in a measuring cup; whisk to combine. Microwave for 30 seconds; whisk briskly until thoroughly blended. Cool and drizzle over salad greens. Garnish with almonds and goat cheese. *Note: recipe adapted from American Heritage Chocolate.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies*

1 C brown sugar

1 C butter

1/2 C cream

1 T allspice

1 T ginger

1 T ground caraway seed

3 C flour

1 t baking powder

1 C AH finely grated baking chocolate

Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl; beat with a mixer until fluffy. Add the cream and spices; beat to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Add flour to the creamed ingredients 1 C at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the chocolate, beating to incorporate. Set out a piece of parchment paper and roll the dough into a log 2-inches in diameter. Wrap the log in the parchment paper and refrigerate for about 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Coat cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cut dough into 1-inch slices and arrange on cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Yield: 2 dozen cookies. *Note: recipe adapted from American Heritage Chocolate.


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