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Natural Caribbean Abundance

Natural Abundance in the Caribbean

As part of my job with the Peace Through Yoga Foundation, I’ve had thee privilege of translating for more than a few raw chocolate making sessions. After about 4 sessions, I got inspired. Here is a little tail from my experience with making chocolate from scratch.

Making chocolate takes five or six different steps depending on how far down the rabbit hole you are planning on going. The first step is, fermentation and drying. The beans are harvested from the pods, and allowed to naturally ferment over a period of two days to two weeks. I am not able to do this in my yard as the jungle canopy largely covers it, and honestly I am not sure how this could be done without the beans rotting or bugs eating them. So, I buy the fermented beans from our weekly farmers market.

Next, the beans are roasted. Cocoa beans are roasted for the same reason that coffee beans are to both develop the flavor and drive off unpleasant acidic compounds. This can be done on the stove but I tend to do it on about medium heat in my oven (a serious luxury here in the jungle).

The next step, called Cracking and winnowing is when you separate the valuable nibs from the worthless shells. This is part of the process can be kind of a pain and its best to elicit help from a friend who might also want to enjoy the finished product. This usually consists of pounding on the seed and once it cracks pulling either the whole, or the pieces of the cacao nibs out and setting them aside. Cracking the shells with a stone can also do this part of the process, as it was done in ancient times. With more finite equipment the seeds can be roasted to perfection making the cracking process more exact and refined but this is difficult with an oven that has no definite temperature marks.

After this, the nibs must be refined. The tongue can perceive particles larger than 30 micrometers in size; so extensive grinding is needed for a good mouth feel. Refined simply means ground up or pulverized. While I may not have an American oven, I do have the might Vitamix!!! This takes about 5-7 minutes to occur in my amazing blender that I may or may not be in love with ; ) As the nibs are pulverized they start to take on a “wet” look at the bottom of the blender. This is the coco butter starting to form. The net phase I’ve yet to complete and is not necessary for delicious chocolate. The raw cocoa liquid is then “conched” a process you can do with a mortar and pestle. The liquid wet chocolate mixture is pulverized to further drive off the acidic flavoring compounds.

Then, the chocolate is heated and the flavors are set in. This is where you can add sugar, or spices. This chocolate is DARK and you NEED a bit of sugar. Yes, even you, who like me like it dark and raw, you will want at least a bit. I typically add coconut milk, raw sugar about a half a cup for a bag of cocoa beans, 2 tsp. chili powder, 2 tsp. Himalayan Sea salt or what ever else my heart desires. I have also added cardamom, fennel, dried coconut, and paprika! Beware, this chocolate is super caffeinated! It has kept me up many a night. This treat is best enjoyed before 5 PM!

Finally, the finished product is tempered to give the chocolate good gloss and snap. Again, I’ve never done this portion of the process. This entails using to scrappers and pushing the chocolate back and forth on a flat surface so the molecules solidify and the texture is smooth and pleasing to the palate. I’ve kept my chocolate quite raw and then poured the crude goodness into molds (ice containers). I top my creations with coconut, sunflower seeds, and crumbled peanuts. I have yet to have a single complaint! My next goal is to try tempering and refining my ability to create a repeatable batch. I am so incredibly grateful to live in a space where the natural abundance allows me the ability to experiment and enjoy such a beautiful and natural treat!! Come join us and learn how to make you own!! Caribbean food and culture is all a part of joining and enjoying the team at the Peace Through Yoga Foundation!

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