My earliest memories of having hot cocoa are from the days when we walked to and from school...I was in kindergarten. It took about forty five minutes to walk home on our little legs. My companion most days was Kevin who lived a block further on past my house. Kevin later became a priest. I guess I was a good influence, or at least not a distraction from his vocation. I think sometimes he stopped by our house and had some cocoa, too. After first grade my Mom started driving us to school, so I didn't see him much. Looking back it seems kind of amazing that little kids just walked by themselves all those miles, but times were different.
In late fall and for much of the winter, my Mom would make hot cocoa for the school kids and for the little ones who were old enough to drink hot drinks. She usually used canned milk because regular milk was expensive and there were a lot of kids. She would often join us at the dining room table, sipping on her cup of tea, perhaps with a piece of toast or a cookie if we were having cookies. It was a time when we could tell her how things were at school. In later years I would have tea, too, and we would talk politics. We still talk politics and I can not tell you how excited my Mom is that we will be having such a grand new president in a few weeks! As a life-long Democrat, she is thrilled.
Getting back to my childhood, I remember that I loved to have hot cocoa when we came home in the winter after sledding. I would stay out in the snow until I was totally chilled, so warm, dry clothes and hot cocoa were just the best thing going.
Later, when I was in high school but my sister had graduated and gone to nursing school a few hours away, I made the cocoa to welcome my parents home after their long drive to take her back to school when she had visited home. It was always a relief to see their car's headlights turning into the driveway.
Home made cocoa is so simple to make. I usually still make it with Hersheys cocoa powder, but now I often use low fat sweet milk. A special trick is to add the vanilla just before you serve it...you can really smell it during your first sip! If you like marshmallows, by all means add some to your cup.
Hot Cocoa from My Childhood
For each serving:
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
¼ cup hot water
1 cup milk (I used a combination of evaporated and fresh)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, mix together the cocoa, sugar and salt. Make a paste with some of the hot water, then add the rest, stirring constantly, to make a smooth liquid.
Heat over high heat just until it begins to simmer, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add the milk and stir to incorporate, then turn heat to high again and heat to the desired temperature to drink (some people like their hotter than others), stirring occasionally. When at the desired temperature, turn off the heat and add the vanilla. Stir.
Serve right away in a large coffee cup or mug.