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I know this has been discussed before but this one keeps me awake at night.  I'm a month or 2 from opening my shop and I'm looking for advice on how to tell if the pieces I made a week ago, a month ago, or 3 months ago are still good.  The absolute last thing I want to do is make any one sick.  It makes me very nervous just cutting samples open and looking at the center of the piece - for the most part, I'm not even sure what I'm looking for, other than mold which is obvious.  I follow GMP's as best I can, I've read Greweling and Wybauw and anything else I can find for advice and I've looked for testing materials, but outside of some inexpensive water/moisture readers, I'm not finding anything.  Is there any kind of realistic testing that I can do myself short of sending stuff out for analysis?  How do Health Inspectors test your inventory when they inspect your site?  Sorry for the basic nature of this question but I've been in the IT field for 35 years and only have only been able to pursue this endeavor for the past 2 years.  Thanks in advance for the help.  John

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The good news is you probably won't kill anyone with "old" chocolates:) I have a water activity meter from Decagon that gives me all kinds of confidence. If you are using GMP, and good formulas you should be ok. Mold is the obvious thing to look for. If you are careful, you should be able to get 6-8 weeks shelf-life. It isn't a matter of spoiling, but of the flavor fading or getting fat migration. Seriously, put some samples on a shelf and test/taste them every week to see what is happening to them. Our Land Grant College will test your ganache for you for a minimal fee. Make a bunch and take it to them for testing. Each test takes about 10 minutes. I did that until I got my own meter. You can also freeze your chocolates-Greweling explains the procedure. Good luck.

Thanks Ruth.  I was looking at the Pawkit analyzer - is that the model that you use?  If so, do you remember what it cost?  I do keep samples out and look at them weekly; I just wasn't sure if there was anything else other than mold that I should be looking for.  I'll have to improve my technique: on average, I get 4 - 6 weeks shelf life on ganache-type pieces.  Once again, thanks for the help.  John

Yes, it is the Pawkit. I bought it on Ebay for $500. It is accurate +/- .02. I would also taste the sample. Taste can tell you a lot. Just curious, what happens after 4-6 weeks? Do they mold?

Thanks Ruth.  A few of the more delicate centers like Pumpkin and Raspberry ganaches will get moldy.  Some of them will dry out - Dulce de Leche and Peanut butter.  And some of my caramel pieces will just lose their flavor.  It happens pretty consistently and predictably.  I know that I'm not keeping the proper, constant temperature where I store the pieces (covered, on a bakers rack), but I hope to fix that over the next few weeks as my store is completed and I can control the air conditioning better.

A lot depends on the humidity and temperature of your shelf space and or storage space.  Also some chocolates with inclusions may be more likely to cause potential health dangers.  We store our chocolate in a "choclador" which is a walk in room like you find in a fine cigar shop.  Creates an interesting shopping experience and keep the chocolate at the best temp and humidity for longer storage...our chocolate is still good after 6 months to a year.  I think if properly stored you may be able to keep it good longer.  Ours is usually sold much before that time.   

Hope this helps. 

Thanks Paul.  Temperature and humidity have been a problem at my location.  It's a fairly small site -  I wish I could build a cool-room but the size is too prohibitive.  I'll start paying more attention to temperature as I move forward.  

One other question that just occurred to me: how do you advise your customers to deal with temp and humidity after the purchase (home-based shelf life issues)?  Is that an issue you address?

John

Here's the blurb on the back of my box cards:

Our chocolates are freshly made—and best eaten within two weeks. They are crafted with fresh cream, natural ingredients, and real fruit, rather than the hydrogenated fats, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings used in chocolates made for a long shelf life. All of the chocolate we use is Organic and Fair Trade certified, and we utilize other organic, local, fresh and natural ingredients wherever possible. Our truffles are best stored in a cool dry place (60-65° F). If you need to store them longer than two weeks, they may be refrigerated or frozen. If you choose cold storage, put them in an airtight container (zip-lock bags work well) before chilling. When removing from refrigeration, let them slowly come to room temperature before opening the container, to avoid condensation and for best flavor.

All the best,

Dale

Excellent Dale.  Would it be too close to plagerizing if I paraphrase this for my store?  John

John,

You're welcome to use/revise as you like.

Best wishes,

Dale

Hi John,

Don't underestimate the usefulness of freezing your confections too. If you've got Greweling's book he goes into detail in the procedure you need to follow to do it correctly. Particularly useful in the busy seasons and none of my customers have ever noticed the difference.

Nick.

Thanks Nick.  That's my next procedure to accomplish.  John

Possibly you could look into taking the online course from www.ecolechocolat.com called: Quality Assurance and Keeping Limits of Chocolate.

Best wishes on your new venture.

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