7 December 2013

Chocolate Fondue with Ice Wine for the Canadian Food Experience Project

Chocolate Fondue with Ice Wine
"A Canadian Christmas" was this months challenge in The Canadian Food Experience Project which began in June, 2013. As participants in this project we have been sharing our collective stories from coast to coast through our regional food experiences on the 7th of each month. This story and the recipe below continues my year long challenge from Valerie of A Canadian Foodie called The Canadian Food Experience Project. Valerie was one of the lucky few who attended the very first Canadian Food Bloggers Conference north of Toronto in April. Her experience inspired her to dig deep within herself, to discover what it meant to be a Canadian in our melting pot of food culture. She has challenged us to find our truly Canadian voice and connect with each other coast to coast through food, stories and experiences. The hope is that we will discover our truly Canadian voice and identity in this diverse country as we share our discoveries. By recounting local experiences such as this we are able to be inspired by the amazingness of other people, the world around us, and a sense of place. You can’t help but come out the other end loving what is unique about yourself. Through this exercise we will find our own individual – not to mention collective – voice.  After a year of discovery we will hear ourselves a little more clearly. 

Christmas Eve has always been family time for us, as I know it is for you around the world. I thought I did not have any food memories associated to my childhood Christmases but dad did make brandy snaps filled with whipped cream as a special treat, and mom always served a traditional steamed English pudding with custard; but neither of these are carried on today in my own home. What I remember more was that on Christmas Eve we would sit down and watch the old 1951 black and white version of  "A Christmas Carol" with Allistair Sims  as a family. This is a tradition that still carries on to this day. We start with a lovely cheese fondue which has evolved over the years using Canadian Oka cheese served with a good quality artisan bread and steamed vegetables and potatoes and move on to chocolate fondue with fresh fruit and banana bread. You haven't lived until you have had luscious strawberries dipped into a mouthwatering chocolate fondue!!! One year I decided to try what I thought was more traditional Canadian faire and served tourtiere and a French Canadian Pea Soup for our Christmas Eve feast. I found out the next day that I had blown "tradition," so, from that day forward we have always had cheese fondue and chocolate fondue. Our feast is on the coffee table and we eat leisurely in front of the television watching "A Christmas Carol". Sometimes we have other guests but the food is always the same and they have to sit down and watch Allistair Sims and the cast of this traditional black and white movie....the colourized version would be blasphemy!!!

So how to add an Okanagan twist to our traditional chocolate fondue? The answer... ice wine. The first Canadian commercial icewine was made in 1978 by Hainle Vineyards just south of us here in Peachland. The province of Ontario followed in 1984 when Inniskillin produced its first batch. The 180km-long Okanagan Valley is home to hundreds of excellent wineries, whose vines spread across the terraced hills, soaking up some of Canada's sunniest climate. Living in "The Great White North" it is inevitable that our dreamy summer breezes turn to frigid winter temperatures so it seems  like a natural fit. The method is definitely not an easy one.

Canadian icewine commands premium prices because they are expensive and risky to make. The process begins when the grower leaves a select part of the vineyard unharvested, and waits for Canada's bone-chilling winter cold to descend. The vines are netted as temperatures fall throughout the autumn and into the winter, while the vintner watches anxiously as the grapes endure the natural hazards of wind, rot, hail, sleet, and ravenous birds. During the time between the end of the growing season and harvest, the grapes dehydrate, concentrating the juices and creating the characteristic complexities of ice wine.

Today making ice wine is a  Canadian game. We may not have invented it but we have perfected it. The ice wine harvest done entirely by hand, commences once the temperatures drop below -8 to -13 degrees Celcius and the grapes have naturally frozen on the vine. As the frozen pea-like grapes are pressed a tiny but precious ration of highly concentrated juice is expressed. Here in the Okanagan Valley as well as the Niagara region in Ontario and Nova Scotia and Quebec vintners make some outstanding icewines. I put it out this year that I would like to participate in the harvest, but in reality I think I just wanted to be there to take photos of the process. Icewine harvests often begin at night so that grapes may be picked and crushed before daytime temperatures warm each precious grape. Grapes must be processed while still frozen. The icewine grape crop is picked by hand—a challenging endeavour in the cold conditions with fingerless mittens and gloves. Even so it is an experience I would like to have some day.

A few weeks ago in November the temperature dropped and a myriad of wineries pumped into high gear. The harvest would be early this year since the freeze usually happens well into December or even January. It is essential to harvest on the first freezing night of the year, because grapes left on the vine to go through a freeze-thaw-refreeze cycle can pick up unwanted flavours. Winemakers are often nervous wrecks by harvest time, as they will have spent night after night waking up repeatedly to check the temperature.The resulting freezing and thawing of the grapes dehydrates the fruit and concentrates the sugars, acids and extracts in the fruit, thereby intensifying the flavours and creating complexity to the wine. This juice is then fermented very slowly. Genuine ice wine must be naturally produced ; no artificial freezing is allowed.

Among the dozens of types of dessert wines produced in the world, one of my favourites is 'eiswein', or ice wine. Icewine is a luscious, intensely flavoured wine, boasting rich aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruits (such as lychee, papaya and pineapple). All varietals are sweet, but with a firm backbone of acidity, making them perfectly balanced.


The difference between ice wine and other dessert wines is that ice wines show a much clearer fruit and varietal character. This is because other sweet wines are made from botrytis (noble rot) affected grapes, or with grapes that have been laid out and dried (essentially raisins). Because ice wine grapes are healthy at harvest, a good amount of acidity remains, which gives the wine a raciness that other dessert wines generally have to a far lesser degree.


The most common grapes utilized in the making of ice wine are Riesling, Vidal, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc - grapes with higher levels of acidity to render the final wine refreshing and not heavy or overly "sticky." However, as is common in the wine industry there are plenty of winemakers experimenting with a variety of grapes in a variety of regions to stretch the limits and discover new twists on this famous form of wine. I noticed many more wineries here in the valley participating in the harvest this year. In Canada, VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) regulations must be followed in order to create a true icewine. To do this, grapes must be naturally frozen in temperatures of at least -8 degrees Celsius. While the water within the grapes freezes, the sugars do not. The result is a sweet juice that intensifies the natural flavours of the grapes. 

A vine will normally produce enough wine to create one bottle of wine, but frozen grapes will produce only one glass. The finished ice wine is intensely sweet and flavourful. After settling for several days, this golden nectar is aged for several months, allowing the juice to be transformed into an intensely sweet and flavourful, perfectly balanced Canadian ice wine. Young icewines have vibrant fruit and acidity. But they also age well, evolving into wines with more complex, subtler flavours.

Because of the concentrated taste, ice wine is one of the most elegant and refined dessert wines. Its opulent flavours are balanced by crisp acidity. Most ice wines are made in a medium to full-bodied style. On the palate, sweet, honey-like nuances shine bright along with the replay of stone fruit and rich, exotic flavours of tropical mango or honey. Red wines tend towards strawberry and candied red fruit profiles with sweet spicy aromas woven in the mix. This wine is an excellent complement to desserts such as cobblers and cheesecake, or to starters such as foie gras and pâté. And, of course, it is superb when appreciated all on its own.

Ice wine has taken a traditional role in our Christmas celebrations whether we have it chilled and served in a Bernard Callebaut dark chocolate cup or whether we add it to a luscious chocolate fondue as I have here. Anna Olson makes a sensational Ice Wine Creme Brûlée, or how about some Ice Wine Truffles,  or Chocolate Salami my friend Dina even makes a Whipped Chocolate Mousse with Ice Wine over at Olive Oil and Lemons

Chocolate fondue is so simple to make and yet seems like such a decadent ending to a special celebration. A Chocolate Fondue is a leisurely way to end a meal as everyone gathers around a pot of warm chocolate sauce and dips skewered pieces of fruit, cake, and/or cookies into the sauce. Stemmed cherries are particularly well suited for dipping as are strawberries, grapes, figs, apple, kiwi, bananas, pears, and oranges. Chunks of pound cake are lovely when smothered in a warm chocolate sauce, as are banana bread, angel food, or even sponge cake. It is also nice to have some cookies available - like amaretti, ladyfingers, rolled wafer cookies, and even chunks of biscotti. Or how about pretzels.

Of course, the main focus of a chocolate fondue is the chocolate. This rich and creamy sauce is made with the highest quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate you can find, cream, and/or your favourite liqueur. Try to use a good quality semi sweet or even bittersweet chocolate that you enjoy eating out of hand. Some of my favourites are Bernard Callebaut, Scharffen Berger, Lindt, Guittard, and Valrhona.  The only thing more nourishing to the body and soul than a pot of chocolate fondue is sharing it with your family and friends. I can't wait to read about the other participants Christmas traditions.


**Ice Wine Chocolate Fondue**

6 oz (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz (113 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) ice wine
Your choice of fresh fruit, cake, cookies for dipping

Place the cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the ice wine until incorporated and smooth.

Transfer to a fondue pot and serve with desired dippers.


You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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21 comments:

  1. Holiday food traditions are sacred in our house and always include cheese fondue. My grandsons absolutely love it. I would like to add chocolate fondue to the menu and think they would be thrilled, especially with all the dipping devices you suggest. Great post, Val.

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    1. Cheese fondue is sacred in our home as well Cathy.These days I add a little sun dried tomato.

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  2. That looks wonderful Val! I tried ice cider back in July at Food Blogger Connect. It was amazing, such a pure and intense flavour. I imagine the wine is the same. Wouldn't mind trying some.

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  3. beautiful,beautiful Val and I adore chocolate fondue, many times I dont made, look beautiful and delicious!!

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  4. Not my favorite kind of dessert, but surely delicious when you like to pair fruits with chocolates... ;-)

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. I love ice wine.... I suppose I could spare 2 tbs for the chocolate.... but it would be difficult. Wonderful article.

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  6. Fascinating, Val. I didn't know anything about ice wine! I loved this post.
    When I was a child, we had all sorts of traditions and most of them involved food. I carried some through to my own family, but we added our own, as each generation does. Even though my family is scattered and we aren't always together during the holidays, we are still as close as ever. There is something to be said for Skype, Facetime and texting. :)
    Your fondue looks delicious, love the photo!

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    1. Texting does allow us to keep in touch and let our loved ones know we are thinking about them. Even though I resisted my cell phone I have now embraced it.

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  7. Chocolate fondue sounds decadent and delicious. Canadian friends brought us a bottle of ice wine once. Fabulous. I've never tasted anything like it. What a special gift to receive.
    Sam

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    1. I'm glad you had the opportunity to try ice wine Sam. For my personal taste I love it served in a dark chocolate cup. The simplest dessert ever:D

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  8. Fondue makes me overly giddy. Love that this has wine in it!!

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  9. This looks delicious. I've never tried fondue with ice wine before but I will now.

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  10. I definitely associate ice wine with Canada. And it's brilliant to use it with fondue.

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  11. First: "A Christmas Carol" is a regular part of my Christmas as well. Ice wine however is something I am just getting to know. GREG

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  12. As I sit here eating herring and crackers with my husband watching A Christmas Carol, as we carry on traditions from both families, I can relate. This sounds like a delicious tradition, Val, and even more unique with the ice wine.

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  13. Oh my dear, I'm so happy I managed to find a bottle of Ice Wine in London! I found myself in the best winery and ET VOILA' a tiny bottle of ice wine was there for me. I read this post, after I could not miss this precious drink for anything in the world :) I did not open it yet, need to buy chocolate first!

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    1. So glad you found some Daniela. I love ice wine with dark chocolate Bernard Callebaut chocolate cups. A perfect marriage.

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  14. fondue is so dangerous for me. this is outstanding, val!

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  15. What a wonderful and informative post Val. I need to try ice wine in the near future. The chocolate fondue is elegant. Keep up those beautiful traditions. It is what makes each family unique.

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  16. I like reading about Holiday Traditions from across the country. We usually do fondue when it is very cold outside. I received some Ice Wine from Québec and should try it in my chocolate fondue. Great idea!

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  17. Thank you for such a great post, Val. It has everything from tradition to info to food. You're a tough act to follow. :) And, like you, I'm a huge fan of Alastair Sim in his role as Scrooge. He defined that character, ruining it for everyone else who follows -- much like Canadian icewines have done for the world. Well-done and I love the idea of incorporating it into the fondue -- a great and very "local" notion, so bravo! Happy New Year to you ....

    ~ Dale

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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