Ecuador: How to make chocolate from seed to bar by hand

How to make chocolate with the bean

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cacao fruit

High in the clouds forest below Quito there is a place where chocolate is still made by hand (almost). Here the chocolate is a pure form that pre-dates Rudlophe Lindt’s addition of cacao butter to Henri Nestlé and Daniel Peter’s milk chocolate drink to make bars.

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In this photo you see an empty pod, bowl of seed, processed seeds, and final product. Now I’ll show you how it’s done.

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This series of compartments are where the cacao juice is drained from the seeds.  Over three days the seeds are moved from top to bottom as less and less juice comes out. The juice was traditionally thrown away but these guys founds a new use for it which I will get to in the “tasting” section.

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These are the drying racks. This rack is full of wet seeds.

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This rack has nearly dried seeds.  Here in the cloud forest seeds take…

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Seared Ahi With Grapefruit And Fennel

Putney Farm

ahiMany of you know how much we like fennel here at the farm. Usually simply caramelized, or in risotto, fennel brings a light anise flavor and subtle, earthy sweetness to many dishes. We love it and think fennel is an underused and under-appreciated ingredient. So when we see a restaurant dish using fennel, we often try it out at home. And in this case, while in Kauai, we tried a dish of seared ahi with a light “slaw” of thinly sliced, barley pickled fennel and supremes of ruby-red grapefruit. It rocked, so we tried to make it at home.

ahi5ahi6ahi7And we are glad we did. Not only because it was a delicious dish, but it served as a reminder to us about what restaurant dishes we should try to cook at home. In general, we often avoid making restaurant dishes, they tend to be complex, use purposefully esoteric ingredients and are often…

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Roasted Halibut With Tarragon and Hazelnut Brown Butter

Wonderful recipe…

Putney Farm

tarra14As we noted a week or so ago, herbs are the first plants in our garden that really “pop” with the coming of spring. And while we get plenty of fresh goodies from the farmers market, there is nothing quite like getting the first taste of produce from our own garden. It sort of “hardens” the idea that spring is really here (for us, at least). Right now we have plenty of mint (cocktails on the way), marjoram and oregano, but this spring our tarragon (finally) took off. We couldn’t wait to use it.

tarratarra1And we knew exactly how we wanted to use the tarragon, as a flavoring for roasted fish. Here in Norcal, that usually means local halibut, rock cod/rockfish or salmon. In this case we use halibut, but any firm white fish will do. As for the cooking method, you can go sous-vide (and it would be great)…

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