Canada’s oldest chocolatier: New Brunswick’s Ganong

I have traveled to Canada many times in my life. My mom is from Detroit and so, we used to cross the border with my grandparents for something fun to do. I’ve sampled candies and chocolates all over the world. And yet — and YET — I had never heard of Ganong, Canada’s oldest chocolatier! It’s like someone saying they’ve never seen some classic cartoon or movie. I was culturally out of the loop!

I just traveled to St. Stephen, in New Brunswick, Canada. This charming border town has been the home to Ganong, a proud family-owned business, since 1873.

The shop is adjacent to their museum, the former factory. The current factory is in a more industrial/commercial part of town. Still, you can watch candies being hand-dipped, which they still do for certain varieties.

They were the first to invent heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day chocolate gifts. I smiled as I remembered — my grandfather got a heart-shaped box of chocolates for my grandmother every year.

Going through the museum, I got to see all the marvelous, artistic boxes and packaging they had throughout the years. I swear, if they made reproductions, I’d get every last one of them! They’d be fantastic for jewelry and little treasures.

They even had a box where they had to change the head at the last minute: swapping Edward VIII’s head for George VI when Edward abdicated the British throne. That was something to see on Jubilee Week!

The exposed brick shop has a good selection of gift boxes, including a truffle box containing New Brunswick flavors, including the unusual Dulce, Molasses, Maple, Blueberry Cheesecake and also, the famous “Chicken Bones”! I’ll get back to that in a minute. They have local food products on sale, as well.

The truffles are rich and creamy, not overly sweet. The unusual flavors give a gourmet lift to a dessert; they should be offered in restaurants.

Pal-O-Mine is a candy bar dating from 1919. The Ganong family is Acadian and you can see the influence in this bar. The chocolate-covered center is a caramel-brown sugar nougat, sort of a rich and soft praline! I could eat these all night.

There’s a product that’s satisfying in another style: Chicken Bones. In 1885, their candy maker Frank Sparhawk, invented a hard cinnamon candy with dark bittersweet chocolate inside. Because they’re so packed with flavor and texture, a little candy or two feels like dessert. Plate these with an after-dinner coffee for a sophisticated, worldly finish to your meal. They also put this flavor combo into a number of products, like tea, bark, truffles.

And now, you and I can order them online.

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