#11: Nutella, Coven of Delicious

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury – I, Erica Pilgram, the Erica behind the Erica, have sold out.  I was going to give you and insightful post on rosemary filled with science and mythology.  Then I got bored and wanted to talk about Nutella. I have sold my soul to the food trend devil in exchange for views.  #allaboutdemstats.  I’m not proud, but like, I’m trying to become a viral internet sensation.  Food Network should have called me months ago.  Wtf?  Everyone loves Nutella, so everyone will read my blog, and then everyone will love my blog, and I’ll get super famous and rich.  Sounds like a solid plan.  So, without further ado, I give you…

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What. IS. Nutella?

For my readers living under a rock (you would be surprised at my viewers’ demographics), Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread.  Well, that is what Nutella is MARKETED as.  The more accurate description would be a “sugar and palm oil spread flavored with hazelnuts, cocoa, and skim milk.”  More on that latah (read: later).  But first, we learn history!  Because to know where we are, we must know where we came from.  And also because I like telling elaborate background stories.  Off to the foodie facts time machine!

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This is a real thing. There are youtube videos about it. I love the internet.

War. Storyyyyyy. 

During WWII chocolate was rationed in the dear old U.S. of A.  But did you know that OTHER countries were involved in WWII?  #mindblown.  It turns out that Italy, a place in Europe with pizza and gondolas, also had to ration chocolate.  A nice couple named Piera and Pietro Ferrero (I swear to god someone made up those fucking names) were running a pastry shop during the war that made specialty chocolates. Pietro needed to circumvent the chocolate shortage to keep the Ferrero company afloat.  So he and his son Michele (#mybell) began making a chocolate spread with hazelnuts.  By adding hazelnuts, which were abundant in Piedmont, Italy, they were able to stretch the rationed chocolate.  Thus, Nutella was born.  Wasn’t World War II awesome?

Nutella was originally named “Pasta Gianduja,” meaning “Gianduja Paste.”  Gianduja was a freaky masked Italian cartoon.  Naturally he made a good confectionary mascot.  This product launched in 1946 and came in loaves so it could be sliced and put on bread for a healthy sugar and fat sandwich.  They switched from the ingenius loaf plan to a spreadable paste in 1951, this time rebranding the product as “Supercrema Gianduja.”  Finally someone in the Ferrero family realized how fucking stupid this Gianduja shit was and changed the name to “Nutella” in 1964.  The name came from “nut” for hazelnut and “ella” because it sounded pretty and Italian.  We Yanks didn’t get Nutella imported until 1983, which was one year before my older sister was born.  Coincidence?  Absolutely.  The Nutella we eat today in the U.S. is more polite and soft-spoken because its produced in Canada, not Italy.

You may recognize the Ferrero name for another product – you know those weird Ferrero Rocher chocolate things at supermarket checkouts?  They are made by the same company.  They also make tic tacs. Because that makes perfect sense. #smh.

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Peanut. Butter. Blues.

It’s like chocolate flavored peanut butter, right?  NO.  BAD.  BAD READER.  SHUT YOUR FACE.  Regardless of advertisements or European sentiment, Nutella is NOT a substitute for peanut butter.  Check this shit out.  Ingredients on a label must be listed in descending order by mass.  What two badasses head the list on your Nutella jar? Sugar and palm oil.  The website claims that there are “over 50 hazelnuts per 13 oz. jar.” I did a little investigative math (#tryingtomakemathsoundcool #IpromiseIdoclassworksometimes #himom)  which goes like this: 50 whole hazelnuts weigh 67.6g according to Google.  One jar of Nutella weighs 371g.  67.8g/371g = a whopping 18%.  Now, 2 tablespoons of Nutella equals 37g. If 18% of that 37g is hazelnuts, then every serving has 6.6g of hazelnuts. What is in the other 30.4g?  Well, 12g of it is fat according to the nutritional facts.  4g of this fat is from the hazelnuts (0.61g fat per g of hazelnuts), leaving 8g from the palm oil, as no other ingredient contains fat.  8g/37g = 22%.  If we assume that most of the sugar in the Nutella is from added sugar and NOT skim milk, then the 21g of sugar on the nutrient label make 12g/37g = 32%.  For those of you keeping score at home, this means that Nutella is 18% hazelnuts, 22% palm oil, and 32% added sugar.  What was the point of all that?  To illustrate the actual contents of nutella.  Yes, it’s delicious, but it is NOT akin to peanut butter.  Natural peanut butter contains peanuts and salt.  That’s it.  Nutella is over 50% sugar and palm oil.   End ridiculous investigative math section.

ingredients
This is from their website. Official documents right here.

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nutr facts
But hey, let’s not overlook the 0.72mg of iron per serving. What a health food!

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A few more points before I move on.  I asked my go to Food Chemistry guru Dr. John Coupland how he would describe Nutella.  He tweeted back that it is “probably a solution of nut solids and sugar in a fat base.”  What a guy.  #swoon.  One perk of Nutella its peanut and gluten free status.  As for storage, I present this disclaimer from the Nutella website:  “Jars of Nutella® hazelnut spread should be stored at room temperature. Keep the jar tightly closed and store in a cool, dry place to maintain maximum flavor. Do not refrigerate Nutella®, otherwise it will harden and become difficult to spread. Excessive heat will accelerate the loss of fresh flavor and may cause the oils found in Nutella® to separate”

And with that, here is a video of people making “chocolate hazelnut spread” AKA Nutella.

I fucking love these videos.  Like, yes, please, show me giant vats of melted chocolate and millions of jars buzzing by rapidly and lots of fancy machines doing shit.  So entertaining.

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Dying. For. A. Cookie?

You may have noticed me writing a lot about palm oil earlier, the main fat component in Nutella.  Palm oil is super cool stuff from the fruit of oil palm trees.  Food producers are fond of palm oil because of its unique tropical fat attributes.  Palm oil is highly saturated, making it behave more like a solid fat than a liquid oil.  This is great for baking, and increases its shelf stability.  “Saturated” and “unsaturated” refer to the number of hydrogen atoms bonded to the fatty acids of a triacylglycerol molecule.  More hydrogens on a fatty acid make the fat more compact and more solid.  For example, the fatty acids of butter are more saturated with hydrogens than the fatty acids of olive oil.  Back in the day food scientists hydrogenated plant oils to make them behave more like solid fats, but this created trans fat and turned out to be a really really awful idea.  Palm oil is naturally saturated yet is not hydrogenated, and is still from plants, increasing its “heart healthy” appeal.  So yay palm oil, right?

WRONG.  It turns out that the granola-munching, hemp-wearing, left-wing tree-huggers have found a way to rain on our palm oil parade.  When companies plant palm oil trees in Indonesia and Malaysia it destroys the natural ecology or some shit. This displaces the “critically endangered” Sumatran orangutan and other orangutans. You gotta love the rating systems for how endangered a species is.  Um, I feel like if you have hit “endangered” status it should be a code red regardless of the adverb.  Anywho, these activists groups are going ape-shit (PUN SO INTENDED) and causing a ruckus.  One group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, bought a full page ad in the New York Times.  Click photo below for full page ad.

dead monkeys
NOT USING SCARE TACTICS WHATSOEVER.  Imma eat a whole box of palm oil filled cookies just to show you who’s boss.

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For those of you who didn’t click the photo and see the full ad, the tagline at the bottom is “We can find other ways of making cookis.  We can’t find other ways of making orangutans.” Have these people never seen Jurassic Park?  It’s called DNA IN MOSQUITOS IN AMBER.  That old guy from Kentucky Fried Chicken found a way to bring back the T-Rex.  We could totes revive your precious orangutans if we really wanted to.  Idiots.  Now, our dear Ferrero company ensures us that they aren’t killing orangutans to make Nutella, but like… you know how that can go.  According to their website they only use palm oil from a controlled plantation in Malaysia.  Yay.  To read more about palm oil deforestation and how you can help just google it.  This isn’t a PSA or after school special. God.

raptor
Me outside of Jurassic Park 3D on 90’s culture night. Please note my vintage jean jacket, 3D glasses, and HORRIFYING velociraptor face. Damn, I’m hot.

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Serious. Field. Research.

Is Nutella really the best “chocolate and hazelnut” spread on the market?  I hit the mean streets of State College (read: shelves of Giant Eagle) for some in-depth detective work.  It seems that the furor of nutella’s following has prompted Hershey’s and JIF to throw their hats into the ring.  I purchased a jar of each competitor brand, plus a shiny new jar of the ole standby.  How did the new kids on the block measure up?

betterspreads.jpg
photo credit to MEEEE and my ipod

Hershey’s vs. Nutella:  The Hershey’s spread is noticeably less shiny, with more of a matte finish.  It was also slightly darker and less “sticky.”  As for the flavor, this is overwhelmingly HERSHEY’S chocolate flavored.  I could barely detect the hazelnut component.  The texture was also sandy/gritty, unlike supa smooth Nutella.  The flavor of Hershey’s spread is worlds away from Nutella, but I appreciated its chocolate intensity.  While it may be good for some applications, it’s just not Nutella.

JIF vs. Nutella: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT.  OH MY GOD.  Ohhhh ew. Wow.  That is fucking awful.  First off, it it reeks of rancid canola oil.  It also tastes like rancid canola oil.  The color is much darker than Nutella, and lacks its characteristic red hue.  Texturally it is even grainier than Hershey’s.  If you look closely at the photo you can see the small balls of god knows what.  Are they ground hazelnuts? Bubbles of rotten gas waiting to burst on your palate? Who’s to say.  I was able to choke down enough of the shit to get past the initial gag inducing flavor, but even after that this spread doesn’t bring much.  There is little hazelnut to detect, and the chocolate is reminiscent of pharmacy bought boxes of V-day confections.  Don’t do it.  For the sake of you and your loved ones, NEVER BUY THIS EVER.

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GET. DAT. SWAG.

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It’s a cultella.  Image by Riza Tanzil. Photo cred to Verve Reps.

Nutella is one of those foodstuffs that, for some reason, has acquired a cult-like following.  I mean it’s delicious and all but, um, is it really a gift from God?  People go BALLISTIC  for the stuff.  The whole reason that I’m writing this blog post is to get followers who read anything Nutella related.  I have collected some of the internet’s best and brightest Nutella related merchandise for your scrollable, visual pleasure. Click photos to be sent to their magical etsy homes.

crewneck
Hot hipster biddies in oversized food related crewnecks? I can get down with that.

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cases
Plaster your Nutella love on your iPhone! Available for the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, and 5s. I have no idea what the difference is between them but I hear it’s important.

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case kitten
When a simple Nutella iphone case wont’ due, here is one with a kitten.

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flying
Why does the jar have wings? What are they trying to tell us?

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pandas
Nutella. plus. PANDAS.

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tshirt
“Love? No, I prefer Nutella.” This oversized shirt is dedicated to my TGIF high school biddies. You guys know who you are. Should we all get matching ones for our next hot girls outing?

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spoon
THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING. Its a fucking personalized Nutella spoon. I have seen the promised land, and everyone has one of these there.

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Sprechen. Sie. Hazelnut?

You may remember a little game I created for post #3: Black Pepper, The King of Spice.  Are you ready for round two of my riveting European languages match challenge?  This time test your hazelnut knowledge.  Click the photo for game link.

game link
Click the poorly made screenshot for international language fun!

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Life. Changing. Recipes.

When it came time to create recipes for my Nutella post I froze.  What could I do that hasn’t been done a million times before?  I wanted to challenge myself for this post, so I went savory with a traditionally sweet ingredient.  No strawberry nutella crepes, no banana nutella shakes, no nutella flavored donuts.  Instead I wanted to put Nutella in a main course.  I wanted Nutella on MEAT.  I have seen chocolate mole sauces for grilled meat and have had chocolate chilis so I knew it was possible.

Southern cuisine mixes “sweet n’ meat” with BBQ sauce, so I started there.  BBQ sauce is usually tomato based with lots of vinegar, brown sugar/molasses, oil, and spices.  Nutella acts as an oil and a sugar in recipes, so adding the remaining components seemed pretty simple.  I chose bison as the meat because I thought the chocolate and hazelnut would do well against a strong, slightly gamey meat.  And I made them sliders for my parent’s super bowl party (they were rooting for the Broncos, hence the blue and orange scheme), and added crispy fried onions for the hell of it.  Enjoy!

burgers
Bison Sliders with Nutella BBQ Sauce and Crispy Fried Onions. Click photo for recipe link.

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What other cuisines use sweet with savory?  What other ingredients go well with chocolate?  Well, who doesn’t love chocolate and coconut?  And what better way to get away with savory coconut than to go Thai?  Starting with a Nutella base I layered on a few Thai elements that I felt wouldn’t offend the chocolate or hazelnut notes.  After coconut, limes, garlic, ginger, and Sriracha, I had created a chicken wing sauce sure to wow guests.  Why chicken and chocolate you ask!?! Why NOT?!

wings
Grilled Chicken Wings in Nu-Thai-tella Wing Sauce. Click photo for link.

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Thanks. To. Ma. Bitches.

A big shout out to Chez Copelin for letting me wreak havoc on their kitchen (#himom #hidad #theycallourhouseChezCopelin).  Thanks to my badass sister S for her photo expertise (#sherocks).  Much love to my number one taste tester C and to the guests of the Pilgram Super Bowl Bash for eating my food.  And thank you to my loyal United Tasters for your patience with this post.  I know the foodkus are new and shiny and keep you busy, but they can’t take the place of a good old fashioned 2,000 word rant.

Join me next time when I pick apart another favorite food. Until then, bon app y’all.

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nutella-25
Creepy and disturbing photo courtesy of the Chocolate and Chakras blog

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Sources de la info

The All-mighty Wiki

FAQs on Nutella’s website

Italian family history

More history woooo

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