As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I find myself conflicted when the temperature creeps up and the sun comes out. After months of gray, overcast skies and mists of rain, I’m happy to bask in the warmth of the sun and replenish my vitamin D levels. As the owner of a chocolate shop, however, I cringe at the thought of sun and warm temperatures.
You may not think of chocolate as a perishable item, but it is for about six months out of the year (depending on where you live). In much of the US it is perfectly shelf-stable from about October through March, but once the sun comes out and the mercury rises, you need to take special care of your chocolate to keep it from melting.
Here are my top five tips for ensuring your chocolate stays solid and tasty during the hot months.
- Store your chocolate in a cool, dry place Chocolate likes a low-moisture environment that is between 50°-70°F, but not the refrigerator (see my exception in #5). Most homes and offices fit this criteria, so keeping chocolate in a drawer in a cool part of your house or office is an excellent way to store it. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and don’t have air conditioning (about 65% of us don’t), you may find that you need to move the chocolate downstairs to a basement during the summer. I’ve done this for years and have not had moisture problems. Of course it depends on your basement.
- Do not leave your chocolate in the car You probably know it is not a good idea to leave kids or dogs in cars during the summer, but what about your chocolate? Take it with you! Even if it’s hot outside, you’re better off having the chocolate in your bag than leaving it in a hot car. If your chocolate turns into a puddle in the car you can still make a mean cup of drinking chocolate and it will probably taste great.
- Put it in your carry-on bag when flying While you may be transiting from one cool place to another inside a chilly airplane, your chocolate will only share your comfy environs if you put it in your carry-on bag. Checking your chocolate in your luggage is not a good idea. Who knows how long your bags might sit on a hot tarmac while waiting to board the plane?
- Bring an ice pack when shopping for chocolate If you shop for chocolate in hot weather, bring a frozen ice pack with you to keep your chocolate cool in transit. We offer small ice packs with your chocolate purchase when it is above 70°. Ask us for one next time you make a purchase.
- In a temperature emergency, refrigerate your chocolate I know, I know. I advised you not to put your chocolate in the refrigerator. There is an exception. If you are in a hot climate and there is no cool, dry place to store your chocolate, it is better to put your chocolate in the refrigerator than it is to let it melt in the heat. While traveling in Belize I noticed that the most careful retail stores displayed their craft chocolate bars in the refrigerators or freezers out of necessity. Refrigeration may result in some moisture accumulating when you bring it to room temperature, but you’re probably ready to taste the chocolate at that point, and it will be in better shape than if you left it out to melt in the heat. I recommend storing it in an airtight bag before placing it in the refrigerator.
How do you store your chocolate? Share your tips in the comments.