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A taste of Sicilian Chocolate

During our latest holiday in Sicily we were delighted to find a new chocolate experience in the baroque town of Modica, the city of chocolate, not far from Ragusa in the South West of the island.

The tradition of chocolate making in Sicily has its roots in Aztec America. In the 16th century the Spanish Conquistadores in the New World came across many new foods, among them a concoction of cacao beans known as xocolate, either as beans or mixed with water to make a the first energy drink! While occupying Sicily the Spanish looked for a suitable place to cultivate this new cacao and produce chocolate closer to home and settled on Modica. Not only was the climate favourable but a plentiful supply of lava stone meant the beans could be ground in an authentic Aztec style. By the 18th century the Spanish had gone but Modica’s love of chocolate remained

Chocolate vendors known as ciucculattori pushed colourful carts through the town carrying a charcoal brazier, a lava stone pestle and mortar and a supply of roasted cocoa beans, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and spices. Chocolate was made to order on the spot. The beans were ground, mixed with sugar and spice then the powder was heated until the cocoa butter melted. The chocolate was then poured into a rectangular tin mould and left to set. The same traditional methods are still used by the Modica chocolate makers today, giving this Sicilian chocolate treat quite a different texture and taste to the more processed Belgian or Swiss varieties we are familiar with here in the UK. Sicilian chocolate is far closer to the chocolate being produced by the smaller craft artisan makers, ‘bean to bar’

The chocolate comes packaged in bars, with beautifully decorative wrappers and all must carry the Chocolato di Modica and indication of protected geographic status marks to be authentic.

Photos from the Modica Chocolate Museum show the Aztec style chocolate sculptures and a fascinating chocolate model showing Italy and Sicily in miniature.

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