What do you do with a cocoa pod?
I was once gifted a cocoa (or cacao?) pod. I was absolutely thrilled till I realized that I hadn't the faintest idea how to get chocolate out of it. Does anybody know how to extract chocolate out of a cocoa pod at home...or know how to make anyother edible dish from it?
The pod from a cacao tree is called a cabosse. If you cut open the cabosse (or break it open if it is really ripe) you will find the whitish/pinkish, slimy flesh (the musilage) and 15-50 seeds .
When cocoa pods are harvested, the first step to processing them into the chocolate one generally thinks of is fermentation. The mucilage and seeds are spread on mats (or sometimes the ground) and allowed to ferment in the sun and open air for several days to a few weeks. The fermenting mass is mixed or raked daily to assist the fermentation, and to help the beans to dry out. This step is important in the development of flavors of the cocoa seeds/ beans.
When the fermentation process is finished, the mucilage will be all dried up or consumed. The seeds/beans will be dried in the sun or with the application of heat and are then ready to be shipped to a processing facility where cocoa beans are then further processed to make couverture.
I do not know how one would replicate the fermentation process at home. In places like Venezuela and the Ivory Coast where they do the mass fermentation, the odor can be overwhelming (and yet strangely sweet) and there are lots of flies.
But the fruit is edible, delicately sweet like a cherimoya. When the fruit is very ripe I think the flesh is surprisingly decadent. The seeds are edible, too, though they won't taste anything like chocolate. The seeds are also about 50% fat. If you roast the seeds right out of the pod you will not get a resulting tastes like a cocoa bean because the fermentation is what makes the flavor.
You will have to extract the nibs, ferment them possibly, roast them, grind them and then gently heat them for a long time (conching). Sounds like the Little Red Hen. Please do the research on fermentation. As for help with the nibs, Alice Medrich, a brilliant chocolate expert, talks a lot about cacao nibs and what to make with them in her chocolate cookbook called Bittersweet. I also found some info by googling her and cacao nibs. Good luck -- I bet it's a flavor treat.
A friend here has cacao trees. He asked a mutual friend who has a specialty coffee business to roast a batch of the dried pods in a professional coffee roaster. He ground the roasted pods to make chocolate paste. He is still experimenting. The last batch of barely sweetened was really good. He said something about milk chocolate. I'll ask when I see him next.