Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning to make chocolate

A while back I went down to El Salvador in Central America to visit some friends and family.  At the house that I was staying at, I noticed that they had a cacao tree growing.  This piqued my curiosity because I had never seen one before, and was interested in knowing how chocolate was made.  I went on the internet to explore and research this information and soon came to the conclusion that I could make it myself.  The basic gist to making it is to remove the cacao beans from the pod, then store them in a bin to ferment the pulp, place them under the sun to dry for several days, roast them in an oven, and then finally decide on which method to process the beans.
This is the most difficult step in making chocolate because chocolate companies use highly sophisticated machines to make chocolate, chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter.  Though I didn’t have access to those sorts of machines, I did not fret because there are alternatives to making a decent quality chocolate.  Besides, the Mayans were making and drinking chocolate hundreds of years ago using hand-made methods that are still used today in many Latin American countries.
The easiest part of making this chocolate was to remove the cocoa beans from the pods and drying them in the sun.  I had started drying them in the middle of the summer when the days were hottest.  What became difficult was all the hand mashing I had to do to crush and mix the beans together.  Luckily I decided to speed that process up by using a small blender.  As it was mixing, I added sugar and milk to make it more of the familiar chocolate taste that I’m used to.  Once it was done, I placed the mixture on a plate and put it in the refrigerator.  When I took it out I was amazed at how it felt, almost like clay.
I then wrapped it up in aluminum paper and stored it in the freezer for several weeks.   Finally this week I decided to unwrap it and eat it.  As I was opening it up, the smell of chocolate filled the air with its aroma.  The texture was similar to the chocolate part of an M&M, or a Hershey’s Kiss but it also felt a little grainy because of the sugar I added.  Despite how it felt, the taste was amazing.  I had never tried anything like this before.  It was natural and pure, and nothing like those artificial chocolate bars you can buy in a store.  The taste resonated in my mouth, as I let the chocolate melt and I acknowledged that this was the best chocolate I had ever tasted.

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