Cioccolato di Modica and the new IGP
It was announced earlier this week in Italy that Cioccolato di Modica obtained the IGP certification (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). IGP is a certification of origin that the European Union gives to food and agricultural products of high quality, reputation or characteristics, depending on its geographic origin and the transformation or production that occurs in that specific area. Italy is the European country with more IGP products, more tan 120, between fruits, vegetables, vinegars, cold meats, breads, wines, among other category of products.
Those who produce a product under this certification must follow established strict rules, which will be guaranteed by a specific controlling organism, in order to look after the quality of the product and to protect the consumer.
Cioccolato di Modica
Modica is a small region in the southeast part of Sicily, and has become a point of interest amongst many gastronomic aficionados, because of its particular mode of making chocolate. The Cioccolato di Modica, now recognized with the IGP, is the result of an artisan production of the raw bitter cacao mass with sugar, without applying any heat and without undergoing the conching an tempering phases, also without any addition of extra fat, besides those natural to cacao. This assures that the sugar crystals don’t dissolve, giving the chocolate a grainy consistency that feels rough and savory on the palate.
This way of processing the cacao seeds has its origins in the ancestral Aztec population, and according to the historical data, the Spanish, who dominated the territory for many years during XVI century, brought it to the Italian island. The Spanish not only brought the cacao seeds from America, but also the tools that the Aztecs used for its production, and thanks to that in Modica this important tradition of producing the Cioccolato Modicano persists. Later, during the industrial revolution, the conching and tempering techniques appeared, but because of the strong influence of the Spanish Crown in the Modica area, the traditional technique survived and today it represents a gastronomic highlight of this small town.
According to connoisseurs, the real Cioccolato Tradizionale Modicano must contain only three ingredients: high quality cacao mass, obtained under the traditional artisan method, sugar and spices (cinnamon or vanilla). Nonetheless, in the IGP certification now given, there are a few loose ends that has caused a bit of animosity amongst more traditional producers, since it doesn’t specify that the spices added should ONLY be cinnamon or vanilla, nor it establishes that the cacao mass must be produced under the rigorous modican traditional methods. Overlooking this specific details, according to some, could put at risk the protection of real artisans, affecting also the quality of the product, since without these specific rules now the certification could be awarded to unworthy producers, taking advantage of the IGP as a marketing tool and not as a way of honoring the real tradition behind this kind of preparation.
If you want to be sure that you’re trying the real Cioccolato Tradizionale Modicano, the best way is to do a small research and be well informed before buying it. We would suggest getting it from one of the most traditional chocolate makers, such as Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, producers of this kind of chocolate since 1880. This family run company is a point of reference within region, not only because it’s one of the most respectful and rigorous of the tradition, when it comes to the cioccolato production, but also because the quality of the cacao seeds that they use to produce their products, for example the Criollo Chuao seeds from the coast of Venezuela, that are one of the most prestigious in the World.