Sunday, April 21, 2019

Historical Chocolate Once Again.

With all the hoopla going on about a possible re-expansion of Bears Ears National Monument, I noticed a mentioned addition was Alkali Ridge.  On one hand, there are those who state, “The monument will bring thousands of tourists who will bring money to the economy, but also destruction.”  Then there are those who state, “No expansion, no monument, build a wall ala Trump around San Juan County.   Working in the tourism industry for five years, the influx of visitors to San Juan County has been steadily increasing, even before the mention of the possibility of a monument.  With the Alkali Ridge, visitors have been asking about it, since I began promoting the Four Corners regions, as they already knew of its existence.  Knowledge has become so accessible, the entire idea of “hiding” anything historical is preposterous.  Change comes whether we want it to or not.  The huge decision that needs to be addressed, how to react to the change; will it be with positivity or negativity?  *climbs off soap box*

I have written about the cacao that had been found in Alkali Ridge pottery and its display in a museum in Salt Lake City.  It was exciting to see shards of “Deadman Black on Red” pottery lying here and there around the Landmark area when I visited it.  With that lead in, let me introduce you to Alkali Ridge Historical Landmark, or what you could have seen when it was excavated in the 1930s.

Alkali Ridge National Historical Landmark
Outlined with stones; possible buried Kiva?
In the summer of 1908, Byron L. Cummings (University of Utah) continued his archaeological work in the Southeastern Utah region by focusing on upper Montezuma Canyon, including a small excavation at Alkali Ridge.  Along on this expedition was Alfred V. Kidder who became a leader in the field of archeology.  However, it wasn't until John Otis Brew of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; a museum affiliated with Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that Alkali Ridge was fully explored.  Three separate expeditions (1931, 32, 33) exposed the massive settlements that existed in this area covering Basketmaker III (c. 500CE - c. 750CE) to Pueblo II period (c. 900 CE – c. 1100 CE).  The site revealed hundreds of pit dwellings, multi-storied structures, a central courtyard, kivas, irrigation for agriculture and high quality ceramics.  After documenting and photographing the site, the ruins were covered over; all that can be seen now are piles of rubble, stones sticking out of the ground which denote the outline of structures, pottery shards and simple tools made from agate for cutting and scraping.

In 1964, Alkali Ridge (covering an area of 70 square miles) was designated a National Landmark; on August 12, 1965, at 3:00 PM, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), other Federal agencies, local and state officials held a dedication ceremony at the Alkali Ridge National Historical Landmark.  Archaeologists from a number of western universities attended this ceremony; Dr. John 0tis Brew of the Pea-body Museum, Harvard University, who did the original archaeological scientific investigations on Alkali Ridge, was the keynote speaker.  In 2013, an unusual pottery, "Deadman Black on Red", was examined by University of Pennsylvania and Bristol-Meyers Squibb researchers and the cacao was discovered.

A prized possession, if you can find a copy, and I do own a first edition, is Archaeology of Alkali Ridge, Southeastern Utah by John Otis Brew (published 1946) which is basically the only proof of existence of the ruins from the many photographs and drawings.  I find it fascinating to compare the photographs of the excavations to what is actually seen at the site now.  Strolling area, one “site” are stones that outline a circle, could this be where one of the covered over kivas lie buried?  From a stewardship perspective, I can appreciate the need to protect historical sites.  However, from an educational perspective, knowledge empowers the masses more than any fence or wall can.


…and for those who appreciate the chocolate aspect, a recipe for Triple Chocolate Cupcakes and Frosting.  Oh yes, you can make one large cake instead of cupcakes; just depends on how you wish to share it.  

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes and Frosting


4 ounces each of dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
5 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
½ tsp. baking soda


Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners (24)

Heat one inch of water in bottom half of a double boiler. Place in all chocolates and cream; stir occasionally as chocolate melts until smooth (about 8-10 minutes); cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat (medium speed) together eggs, sugar and vanilla until creamy; add chocolate mixture and beat for another 30 seconds. Add the flour and baking soda; beat for 30 seconds or until all the flour is incorporated into the creamy mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the 24 paper liners. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out cleanly from center of cupcakes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.



5 ounces each dark and milk chocolate, chopped
6 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
6 Bliss white chocolate squares (place in refrigerator to firm up for grating)


Place chocolate in microwave safe bowl; at 15 second intervals, melt chocolate, stir; repeat until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted chocolate with butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla; beat on low for 5 minutes. Gently fold in white chips; frost cupcakes and grate the Bliss squares over all.

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes.

Mary Cokenour