Making homemade chocolate.....
Making your own chocolate is even more fun than it sounds! First collect your cocoa pods from your cocoa tree or local market if not lucky enough to have your own trees.... even if you do have your own trees getting them harvested before the monkey's steal them is the first achievement. ( They love these cocoa beans and I can completely understand why! ) Incredibly I have found that they can make fist size holes in the pods while leaving the pod attached to the tree and empty out the contents so keep a close eye on them!
The pods are large, heavy and have a thick outer skin which requires care to open up. Inside you will find these wonderful flesh covered beans - the white flesh is so delicious, so refreshingly zingy! It tastes a little bit like pineapple and has a sort of fizzy zinginess to it. I was astounded at the flavour the first time I tried them. I have experienced all sorts of new flavours in Costa Rica I could never have imagined existed.
So the still white covered beans have to first be fermented for a week by laying them in the sun , in a container covered with banana leaves for protection..shake them around a couple of times each day. A liquid will be released over the week fermentation process that can be made into cocoa wine if you have enough.
It is this fermentation process that gives the chocolate its chocolatey flavour in the end. It would NOT taste like chocolate if this was not done. After the week of fermentation you need to then dry the beans in the sun for a further ten to 14 days. Now they will have reached the brown colour you associate with chocolate.
Now they need roasting. You can do this is a frying pan - shake and turn them regularly while roasting. Some will burst with a small explosion lol - its just part of the fun of chocolate making.
Next the beans must be ground to a powder, using a strong blender works well. Or you could pound them in a mortar with a pestle if you are feeling energetic enough! There will be an oiliness to the ground cocoa at this point. Then add sweetening of your choice, could be wild honey or sugar as you desire. The raw cocoa is bitter naturally. Add milk and bring to the boil. The Costa Ricans sometimes use condensed milk which is super sweet and needs no extra sweetening.
Beyond that you can add diced nuts, dried fruits.... crystallised ginger.. whatever you like and as it cools roll into sausages to be super basic wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge before slicing into bite size pieces or you can put into moulds of your choice.. be as fancy or as simple as you please.
I like my chocolate best slightly on the bitter side with chopped nuts, ginger and dates. You can really feel it doing you good! It feels like complete energy food rather than a guilty treat ( like eating regular store bought chocolate in Europe so often is. )
If you have made your own I would love to hear about your recipe, and if you haven't, then I hope you get to try making it some day.