After our tour of Juan’s jungle farm, we drove back to the chocolate “factory” to make our own chocolate. Of course, we had to have a few samples first.
Juan cut open a cacao pod and we all tried a cacao bean. These were soft and gooey and the outer “shell” was white. They were semi sweet and had a slight citrus flavour.
Juan explained that these were fermented for about 5 days, then dried in the sun, and finally roasted. In order for us to make our chocolate, we had to crack these hardened beans and remove the thin outer shell to reveal the nibs. This was easier said than done and we ended up with a fair amount of shell fragments mixed in with the nibs. In ancient times, these were all placed in a bowl and were tossed repeatedly in the air which separated the lighter shell fragments from the heavier nibs. Today, fans or hair driers are used to separate the shell fragments.
The cacao nibs are then ground and heated by rubbing a smaller basalt rock against a larger carved flat one. This process softens the nibs by heating the cocoa butter contained in the nibs which produces a paste.
The 100% cacao paste is a little bitter to our tastes, so Juan added about 20% brown sugar to produce an 80% cacao content paste. We then put this paste in molds and refrigerated while we had lunch.
Lunch, featuring chocolate chicken, was delicious! The chicken was cooked in a sauce that had cacao beans; however, there was no real chocolatey taste. Juan said that cooking the chicken in this sauce keeps the chicken juicy – indeed this was the moistest chicken we have had in Belize, and we have had a fair amount of chicken!
We finished our tour by having a look at the “modern” techniques used to make chocolate and also were treated to a little music in the gift shop.
This was a family post as Dad as the main writer.