It Took a Little Boy….

How the Dutch ended up with chocolate sprinkles on their bread

Although the Americans have their chocolate “jimmies”, the French “dragees” and the Italians “confetti”, there is no other nationality besides the Dutch who generously sprinkle their sandwiches with “little mice”.  Before you begin to imagine cute miniature chocolate mice running over sandwiches, you should know that “muisjes” euphemistically means mouse droppings!

IMG_3417According to the blogger Rina Mae Acosta, one of the reasons UNICEF rated Dutch children as among the happiest children in the world is because they have “hagelslag” – chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast. How did one of the most pragmatic groups of people in the world get the idea of sprinkling bread with chocolate?

If you search the city archives of Amsterdam, you will discover that in 1919 a particularly severe hail storm season inspired B.E. Dieperink, the director of the Venco candy company , to make sugar coated anise seeds to sprinkle on bread. Dieperink’s creation was named hagelslag which literally means hailstorm. Grocers and confectioners img_6542around the country were soon weighing out the delicious treat into paper bags for Dutch children to take home and sprinkle on their sandwiches.

Not to be outdone, the DeRuijter confectionary company christened their own version of hagelslag  in 1928.  They offered the public four flavours: lemon, raspberry, orange and anise. Ten years later, Cees and Piet De Ruijter pulled off a marketing coup img_6540when they arrived at the Soestdijk Palace on the occasion  of Princess Beatrix’s birth to present the new Dutch royal parents, Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard with special orange geboorte muisjes.  The tradition of serving “birth sprinkles” on rusk to celebrate the birth of a new child dates from this special event.

But how did all these flavoured candy sprinkles evolve into chocolate sprinkles for our sandwiches? The answer illustrates the power of children as consumers.  A little five year old boy began to write letters to VENZ, a chocolate company  owned by “H. deVries en zonen” (H. deVries and sons)  asking for chocolate sprinkles. It is said he wrote quite a few img_6536letters. Enough letters to make Gerard de Vries, one of those sons, spend many evenings experimenting.  Finally in 1936, he puzzled out the mystery of how to make real chocolate hail with just the right look. Of course, there were no machines to produce such a product so after devising the right recipe “Meneer Ger” then had to find a way to make his product in large scale. By the 1960’s chocolate sprinkles had become  such a large part of the VENZ business that most of their other products were no longer worth bothering with.

While the original creator of hagelslag, Venco, remains known for their licorice products around the world, both DeRuijter and VENZ continue to produce not only chocolate sprinkles but also a growing assortment of similar products that children and many adults still sprinkling on their bread today.

So when you enjoy a slice of white bread generously topped with chocolate “hagelslag” think of a little boy who wouldn’t take no for an answer!

Some more to the story….

Joren sent us a message that has injected a bit of mystery into the story of hagelslag.  According to Joren his ancestor, Gerrit van Voornveld, the original founder of Venco invented hagelslag much earlier than the above account.  Below in Joren’s comment you can find a link to a 1910 advertisement for hagelslag. He also says that the word “hagelslag” appeared in Dikke van Dale, a Dutch dictionary, in 1914.  I am wondering if these are not so much conflicting accounts as two versions of the same origin: the romantic “official” advertising story and the longer complete story of a product that didn’t become popular immediately.

Is there anyone who has a copy of this dictionary to check if the 1914 definition refers to a bread topping or to a hailstorm?  Perhaps it would be possible to confirm the year that Holland was plagued by hail? Can anyone confirm the date for when chocolate hail came on the market?

The story continues……


Did you know?

  • Chocolate sprinkles are enjoyed all around the world nowimg_6538
  • Chocolate sprinkles must contain a minimum of 34% cocoa to be called “hagelslag”.  If they contain less they must be called cacaofantasie meaning pretend chocolate.
  • In Belgium chocolate sprinkles are literally called mouse droppings: muizenstroontjes
  • Most chocolate sprinkles now produced in The Netherlands are UTZ certified meaning they are made from sustainably sourced chocolate

A Great Pair

IMG_6048As I walked through the Welland Farmer’s Market this morning I stopped to chat with Sarah from Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville. She was sampling their 2013 Gamay Noir so I took a bit next door to our store to introduce it to the cheeses we are sampling today.IMG_6047 The Gamay Noir greeted our Chevre Noir like a long lost family member!  So I popped back to the market to introduce them more officially. Sarah described the Gamay Noir as bursting with red plum, raspberry and blackberry up front, IMG_6051complimented by subtle undertones of toast, cedar and cherry.  Although some people grab for a safe Reisling during the summer months the fresh fruit notes of the Gamay makes it an excellent hot weather choice…especially paired with an aged goat cheddar like the Chevre Noir.

Come on out to the Welland Farmer’s Market Saturday mornings.IMG_6050 Enjoy a taste of wine at Angels Gate’s wine table, meander through the displays of fruit and veggie vendors, and listen to a bit of music.

Then walk next door to The European Pantry to sample our cheeses and meats.

A trip to the Welland Farrner’s Market isn’t complete without a visit to The European Pantry!

The Tea Box

When I visit a certain friend, an offer of tea means looking through her tea box. The anticipation of something new makes those cups of tea extra exciting.  Here at The Pantry we are unveiling a new line of hand blended organic teas. We mix of small batches of special blends that you won’t find anywhere else. We will also try to recreate a tea that you once had and can no longer find.

Our tea blends are crafted using more than 10 different tea bases and over 15 spices and fruits.  Last week we created Gingersnap Cookie Honeybush tea for a special tea gift donated to Welland’s Rose Festival Day in the Park. It is now available at The Pantry.

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Go Hungary!!!!

There’s a celebratory mood in  Welland’s Hungarian community after Hungary’s Eurocup victory! We can feel the excitement as people are calling and coming into 59124_1616205210915_7658038_nThe Pantry to get Hungarian flags, pins, keychains, etc. to proudly proclaim their heritage…after all not everyone has a nagymama like this lady who can embroider a Hungarian costume!

Come in and get yours!

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Blues Festival

As in music, the blues in the cheese world are an acquired taste but they also promise complex enjoyment. We have assembled a play list of tastes. Check out our blues line up:

  • Cambozola is the opening act, a gentle intro into blue culture. Technically this is a hybrid cheese, that combines the rich creaminess of a triple cream French IMG_2699Brie and an Italian Gorgonzola…a union that was composed in Germany. Due to its high moisture level the cheese collapses as the Pencillium Roqueforti is injected leaving the mold to develop in isolated pockets instead of veining the entire cheese.
  • St. Agur follows Cambozola in the line-up. It is made from cream enriched milk of cows that graze on the mountainous pastures around the village of Beauzac in the Auvergne region of central France. Developed using Pencillium Roqueforti in 1988 after years of trial and error, St. Agur offers a soft spreadable cheeseIMG_2355 that strikes a harmonious balance between creamy and tangy notes. During the maturing process in a moisture and temperature controlled environment the cheese is “pierced” multiple times to “feed” the mold with oxygen creating a perfect fusion of veined blue and creamy paste.
  • Extra Creamy Danish Blue subtly raises the tempo of our cheese concert. Although intended by Mariun Boel to mimic the more ancient French Roquefort, the synthesis of Pencillium Roqueforti with creamy Danish milk resulted in a milder gentler variation of the classic. There are few modern voices that can match the smokey tones of Satchmo. The same must be said about efforts to match the nuances of a classic like Rocquefort. Terroir cannot be duplicated. That said, new stars are always on the horizon.  Mariun Boel created an equally mesmerizing cheese.
  • Another modern cheese that owes its culture to Pencillium Roqueforti is Roaring Forties Blue but from there on it represents fresh improvisation on the blues theme. Roaring Forties owes it name and terroir to the strong 100 km/hour westerly winds that wrecked many ships off IMG_5638the coast of King Island south of Melbourne, Australia on the 40th latitude. In the 15th and 16th centuries the seeds in straw mattresses from ships that floundered onto the shores of this island  germinated to create lush unique pastures. Today the island’s dairy cows feed in these rich pastures and on sea kelp. Unlike Roquefort which is wrapped in foil to slow the growth of the pencillium after maturity, King Island Dairy diverged further from the classic blue by maturing the cheese in a wax coating. The resultant cheese is full-bodied but milder and sweeter with a nutty flavour.
  • As we build momentum we come to the classic Roquefort PDO; its name is Protected by a Designation of Origin. To be “true blue” Roquefort, a cheese must be made with milk that comes from Lacaune, Manech or Basco Bearnaise sheep. It must also be aged in the Combalou caves in Roquefort-sur Soulzon. Pencillium Roqueforti is native to these caves and although P.R. is  a common saprotrophic fungus found in decaying soil the world over, nothing can match the exact environment and strain found in this locale. Roquefort dates back to 1070 A.D.making it a golden oldie.
  • Shropshire Blue: although a relatively modern cheese originating as recently as the 18th century, Stilton is another time-honoured blue. It is also a cheese of protected origin of designation. Only 7 dairies located in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are licensed to produce it. Stilton is formed in cylinders but not pressed.This leaves air pockets so once the Pencillium Roquefort is injected into the curds, it can grow deep into the core. The cheese is rotated as it matures thus helping the mold grow while maintaining the crumbly texture of the cheese. Because it is a protected cheese, other cheese producers who wish to benefit from its popularity must by necessity invent a variation on the same theme. The invention of the fifth cheese on our play list this Saturday, Shropshire Blue has been credited by the web to both an Andy Williamson and to a Dennis Biggins. The likely winner of that debate is Andy Williamson who worked at Stuart Castle Dairy in the 1970’s where the cheese first made its debut. At that time it was called Inverness-shire Blue or Blue Stuart. When the band of cheese makers at Stuart Castle broke up the cheese wasn’t heard from for a while until its tune was revived back in Stilton’s  East Midlands territory by Long Clawson in Leicestershire and two more dairies in Nottinghamshire. It is coloured a deep orange and described as slightly sour, sharper than Stilton but creamier. Personally I find it milder than Stilton. I would describe it as a blue cheddar.
  • Our crescendo is Valdeon. I have not been able to isolate a date of origin for this intense blue but as I loosened its sycamore leaf wrapping it was clearly intoning an ancient song.  Given that it uses Pencillium Roqueforti, I suspect that it doesn’t predate the classic Roquefort but this is an old IMG_5790 IMG_5791 IMG_5788cheese. Cow and goat’s milk from the municipality of Posada de Valdeon in the Northwestern Spanish province of Leon is blended in secret proportions. The rind is coloured by the leaves it is wrapped in. The paste of the cheese is thoroughly marbled with blue. Although this is probably the cresendo of blues in its intensity, I found the blue didn’t overwhelm the complex flavour of the cheese.

Taste, enjoy and review these blues with us. Our line up of French, English, Danish, German, Spanish and Australian blues should appeal to a varied audience. We are developing pairing recommendations for these amazing blues.  Do you have a wine to recommend?

Wines that Play the Blues right here in Niagara!

Foreign Affairs Winery in Vineland recommends their:

  • Cabernet Franc ’07
  • Vinceró Recioto-style ’08
  • Gran Q ’10
  • Temptress ’12

Riverview Cellars Estates Winery along the scenic Niagara River suggests their:

  • Riesling Icewine
  • Vidal Late Harvest

 Malivoire Wine suggests we try their Guilty Man Red with Shropshire Blue & for Roquefort and St. Agur:

  • Musqué Spritz
  • Riesling icewine

We are going to have to check that out!

Welland: A Special Place to Call Home


If you ask Naomie Cesar how she ended up in Welland, she will tell you it was because she ran out of money. If you ask her why she stayed in Welland, she will tell you it was because of the people. After leaving Haiti Naomie lived in Miami for 7 years.  In 2008, she left a warm Miami and was welcomed by frigid January temperatures when she arrived in Fort Erie. She had finally made it to Canada but she had only $50 dollars in her pocket.  No where near enough money to get to her intended destination, Montreal.  Just enough to get a ride to Welland.  Naomie will also tell you about all the people in Welland who helped her finish her education to finalize her residency requirements. She will tell you about Mary, her Welsh adoptive Mom, who continues to help Naomie strive for new dreams. Naomie can’t stop talking about what a special place Welland is.

Eventually Naomie was able to afford a trip to Montreal but it didn’t take her long to realize that it wasn’t the place she wanted to raise her children. A friend suggested she check out Toronto but by then there was no place like Welland in Naomie’s heart. It was home. The people of Welland had helped her when she needed help desperately and now it was her dream to give back to the community that had given so much to her.

DSCF9422In the past few years, Naomie has helped others who are new to Canada.  Besides being a RPN at the Niagara Falls hospital she volunteers with Niagara Victim Support Services. She also travels to people’s homes to give foot care.  That’s how she started providing  difficult to find hair products her clients are always looking for.  A dream to open a shop offering imported hair & beauty supplies as well as Caribbean foods started to form in her mind.  Welland’s Heritage Council provided training through their Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme that helps immigrant women reach their dreams.  That is how I met Naomie when the programme asked me to provide mentorship to her.  Although we serve different ethnic communities, our product lines present  the same challenge of finding and providing hard to source items people are seeking.  Like Naomie, we also started our business from the ground up.  It was a good fit immediately.

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I have been impressed with Naomie’s strong work ethic, her caring heart and her amazing courage.  We are fortunate to have her call Welland home.  Even more we are fortunate that she is helping to revitalize Downtown Welland and contributing to the wonderful diversity that makes Welland the special city it is.

Join her May 13 to celebrate the opening of her dream store:  CaribAfrican Specialty Shop.  You will find it near the Tribune offices at 234 East Main St.

Soup, Soup, Soup!!!!

One word…soup but what a world of variety and comfort! Here at The Pantry “soup” has the status of an art form. I love creating special pots of soup and sharing the enjoyment with others.

On Saturdays customers can often sample some of our delicious soup recipes. Although I do make soups totally from scratch, base soup mixes can be so handy when we are busy. One of the soups we have sampled is Biaty Barszcz, a Polish white borscht. IMG_5635 IMG_5636 It is a traditional Easter soup made with a sour cream base and flavoured with a little bit of horseradish. We have been carrying Winiary brand white borscht soup mix.  I don’t think traditionally the soup contains cabbage but I wanted to give the soup a bit more body.  I chopped up about a third of a large cabbage and sauteed that in a bit of olive oil.  After mixing two packages of the Winiary soup case with the required amount of water, I added the sauteed cabbage and 2 Hungarian Debreszeni sausages chopped up.  That filled my slow cooker which I let simmer overnight so the soup would be ready to share with our customers this morning. A few weeks ago I made Dutch Zuurkool Stamppot.  The Dutch love mashed potato dishes and this is one of their many variations of Stamppot. Very simply, chopped sourcrout is mixed through mash potatoes although I added Silvo Zuurkool kruiden: an herb mix that elevates the flavour of the resulting dish. Usually I will serve a dish like this with Dutch Gelderse Rookworst…smoked sausage prepared with a recipe that hails from the Dutch province of Gelderland. But this time I served it with the same Hungarian Debreszeni sausage I used in the soup today. The slightly sour taste of the soup and the Stamppot pairs wonderfully with the Hungarian Debreszeni sausage.

When I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law in February we cooked up a family favourite: Potato Leek soup. IMG_5375The secret to this soup is simmering smoked pork hocks all day until the meat falls off the bones and you have a thick gelatinous broth. At home I have the wonderful Wagener Meats smoked pork hocks here at The Pantry.  Those aren’t available in Washington State. In fact, I couldn’t find any pork hocks in the store. What I did find were smoked pork shoulders.  They were called picnic hams…nothing like the sweet brine picnic pork shoulders I get here in Ontario…but prepared much the same as our pork hocks. Some recipes for Potato Leek call for rich cream.  Cream, however, limits the keeping life of the soup so if I am making a very large batch I prefer using a combination of Knorr Cream of Leek souIMG_5376p and Knorr Cream of Potato.  I couldn’t find those products in my daughter-in-law’s grocery store either so I was back to improvising. In the end, I used a couple of packages of alfredo sauce mix to create the creamy taste we are used to. What couldn’t be substituted though was several teaspoons of Verstegen Gehakt Kruiden. Fortunately, this “secret ingredient” which is actually intended for making Dutch meatballs was not forgotten in Ontario although we actually found it in a Dutch bakery the next day. To me Verstegen’s special combination of coriander, pepper, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cardemon, chillies and marjoram give the soup a little something special. It took a while to peel and cube all the potatoes but what a nice way to spend an hour chatting while you work. We enjoyed the resulting soup for supper that night with light biscuits. We also were able to freeze meal size containers to be enjoyed by our western family long after I went home.IMG_5391 It will also bring back the memory of a special day of cooking together. I know I won’t be able to make another pot of Potato Leek Soup without it bringing back that memory!  IMG_5390

In The Quest For Tea…

sheona     Guest blog by Sheona Della-Fort

If you are from England you will understand our love affair with tea. Though I have adapted somewhat to coffee drinking and Tim Hortons in Canada, I will always love a hot steaming cup of tea.

When I opened the kitchen cupboards the other day and found out that I had run out of my favourite drink, I was really glad that the European Pantry in Welland was open. Jacqui, the owner sells a bewildering array of teas.

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I have enjoyed a number of the teas she carefully selects from a variety of tea blenders from as nearby, as Wainfleet, Ontario and all over the world…definitely the best place to go in Niagara for the best teas. Click here for more information about their tea selection.

As I walked down to The European Pantry, my mind slipped into a reverie and memories of a country I had traveled to which is a major exporter of tea. tea 1Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was called by the British is an island off the coast of India, and its teas are world renowned. Interestingly, it was also a Dutch colony during the 17th century.

During my last visit to Sri Lanka in 2012 I was able to visit a tea plantation. The scenic drive to the tea estate based in Nuwara Eliya was breathtaking with numerous waterfalls, bakers falls near tea estatelush green hills and fields thickly covered with tea plants. The cooler climes of this region make it the ideal place to grow teas such as Orange Pekoe. Tea pluckers in colourful garb were busy picking tender tea leaves and placing them into baskets tied to their backs.

tea factory

After arriving at the centre, we were allocated a lady guide who showed us pictures of the history of the factory before we went into the main tea processing plant. Our guide continued her commentary by stating that Orange Pekoe undergoes extensive processing before it gets to the market. Tea leaves must first wither, after which processors roll, heat and ferment them. It is this fermentation process, which is also known as oxidation that distinguishes black teas from white and green teas.


tea2Later that day, my interest was piqued as I found out about the conditions for tea workers on the island. I had read about human rights violations in the past and hoped to discover what improvements were being implemented. I met with my friend Charlotte who was originally from the UK and now resided in Sri Lanka helping street kids in various parts of tea workersTea image - some of the kids being helped by CHILd Action Lankathe country. She was part of a charity called Child Action Lanka or CAL for short. Because of my concern for women and children who live in poverty, I had volunteered with this charity in the past. Charlotte was able to tell me about the work that they were now doing reaching out to children who live in grinding living conditions. You can read about the charity’s work here.


Volunteering abroad has made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a western country where access to basic necessities and education is available to all. It stops me taking things for granted and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Helping in a small way through personal volunteering or making a financial contribution seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the need, but it is necessary to keep me grounded.

My walk was over so time for my reverie to end and decide which of the teas here at The European Pantry I will enjoy this time. I reached for a packet of herbal tea…


Memories of Hungary

European Pantry in Welland brings back memories of historic Hungary

 Guest Blog by Sheona Della-Fort

The lure of breathtaking scenery, a chance to experience another culture and the warmth of the friendly Canucks were the reasons that drew me to leave England to study in Canada. Settling into Welland, located in the Niagara Peninsula was not particularly difficult and I adjusted well to the wintry conditions.

It was on one of those frosty mornings that I discovered by chance the European Pantry. I first thought it was a quaint house,DSCF9274 but on entering the store discovered it to hold a bewildering array of cheeses, smoked meats, chocolates and spices.  Remember the time you walked into Grandma’s house and she had spent the day baking and preparing treats for you? The warmth of the store enveloped me and the colourful array of goods begged me to touch, taste and smell.

I spied some Hungarian paprika on a shelf and immediately a flood of memories came back to me of when I last visited Budapest.  I remember visiting Szentendre, a DSCF9304charming town near to Budapest and seeing shops selling paprika in its various forms. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing like authentic Hungarian paprika in your Goulash with lashings of soured cream.

Another memory of handcrafted table linen slipped into my mind.  Handcrafted linen is a dying art these days in our technology focused world. I remember one Hungarian lady displaying her wares. There was something so sweet in her stature. Though she had hands gnarled with years of59124_1616205210915_7658038_n hard work, she proudly displayed a tablecloth with an intricate pattern of flowers.  A truly beautiful lady.

Anna and Richard, my Hungarian friends also introduced me to Langos – a dreamy dish of fried dough topped with cheese.  Highly calorific but well worth it. They handed me a shot of Palinka or firewater to wash it down; a fruit based brandy to add to my Hungarian experience.

Walking along the Danube River at night is an experience not to be missed; the skyline is dotted with landmarks of historic buildings and is an impressive sight to behold.  The sounds of busking musicians and the bustle of restaurants getting ready for the nightly trade filled my senses.  A moment in my life when time stood still.

Back to the real world. Jacqui the owner of The European Pantry breaks into my DSCF9279reverie and offers me a sampling of cheese and introduces me to the delights of marzipan chocolate.  Will I be coming back? Yes, of course when I need my European fix!