Saturday, March 7, 2015

Chocolha La Parra

Today eleven of us took a tour to learn the history of chocolate and see how it is made. We drove to the town of Tuxtla Chico about 25 miles from the marina where a third generation chocolate maker lives.
First we sat down to a breakfast of tamales, tortillas, beans, cheese, pan dulces, and chocolate. It was all delicious and we learned that true Mayan chocolate (for drinking) is not made with milk, just water. However, cinnamon and sugar are added to the chocolate paste, and sometimes peanuts, almonds, and chilis.

Below you see the fruit of the cacao tree. When opened you find the seeds from which the chocolate is made. They are covered with a sweet gelatinous substance that we all tasted. After sucking off the tasty part, you spit out the seed.

 
 
Josephina, whose grandmother and mother passed the secret of making chocolate on to her, showed us some seeds that had been dried for two weeks. When dried, the slimy substance ferments and becomes a papery brown husk.
 
 
Next the seeds are roasted on a very hot griddle. They are constantly turned to keep them from burning, but eventually they turn almost black.
 
 
After rubbing the husks off, the seeds are then ground on this ancient stone called a metate. It takes quite a bit of strength and skill. Several of us tried it with varying results, but Josephina's assistant took just a few minutes to achieve a fragrant smooth paste.
 
The last step was to mix in the cinnamon and sugar. At this point Josephina shaped it into the cakes which she sells in her shop. Then we all went back to the shop area where the different flavors were available for sale. I chose the plain chocolate with no sugar added. See that label? It says "100% Cacao". You can't find that at Trader Joes! I can hardly wait to nibble on it with a little glass of scotch.
 

 
 
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