the story you don’t know about a chocolate they fought for

Behind Modica chocolate there is a whole world of traditions, passion and perseverance. We tell you the story of an excellent product, the first in Europe to have (also) a “passport”

Behind the Modica chocolate there is a whole world of traditions and passions and perseverance. Yes, because not everyone knows that to give this product the right space it deserved among the products of excellence there are those who had to “fight”.

If Sicilians and Italians in general can boast of this product in the world it is thanks to those who have “protected” it just as they do with the most precious things.

It is no coincidence that the Modica Chocolate Protection Consortium, born with a specific goal as the name already says, which since 2010 has been directed by Dr. Nino Scivoletto who has personally pursued the goal of endowing the product with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

«It was a challenge – he tells Balarm – we had to change a European regulation following the rejection we received at the first request for the PGI. The regulatory premise was undermined, that is, chocolate was not included in the admissible categories and we had to take an important and extraordinary action at the European Institutions for the Plenary in Strasbourg to approve a new regulation on Quality Schemes by inserting the Chocolate in the Regulation. What happened in September 2012 “.

Thus the field was opened to the recognition of Modica chocolate, which one first European IGP chocolate, result achieved with the publication in the OJEU in October 2018. Already, contrary to what one might imagine, this “insertion” is recent. And even more recent is its release on the market.

After the modification of the European legislation, in fact, a particular process began, it was necessary to wait for the transposition of the STSA in Italy in 2014 and then the realization of the dossier for recognition.

“It is – continues Scivoletto – a very complex instrument that is supported by a historical relationship on the deep bond of the product with the territory and with the precious work of scholar and ethno-anthropologist Sleeping Grace we traced back to the ancient bond of Modica chocolate with the family of the Grimaldi princes – cadet branch of the principality of Monaco – in 1746. To this report another one was added, the technical one and in 2018 the recognition arrived ».

The first Modica IGP chocolate went on sale in March 2019.

This excellent product truly combines tradition and innovation; you know that it is the only European product to have the digital passport?

You got it right, we will briefly explain what it is and let’s start by telling you that it is a guarantee of the authenticity of the product, therefore a guarantee also for the consumer.

Each bar is in fact “branded” with a mark produced by the Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato. Each producer communicates how much cocoa they produce, the Csqa (the quality certification body) indicates the numbering and in turn communicates it to the Consortium which will then deliver the label. Through the app Trust your food, you can simply scan the mark to get all the information about the product.

Think that from March 2019 to December 2020 he delivered some 5 million. A huge number that gives the measure of the extent of production and demand.

Only one other product in Europe at the moment knows how to move to have a digital passport and it is the balsamic vinegar of Modena for which trials are underway.

Another aspect of technological innovation is linked to its production: “our chocolate is an example of this – explains Scivoletto -, first it was produced on a lava stone flattener fed over high heat, then with the bain marie processing, and then through the ” use of modern tempering machines (in which bitter cocoa paste is mixed and kneaded, with sugar and flavorings where necessary). I would also like to remind you that it is the only chocolate in the world that is not conceded ».

It could be defined as “rustic”, because it has not undergone two processes: conching and refining. A technique adopted in Madrid, which in the seventeenth century was exported to the Spanish county of Modica, in Sicily, where it has been preserved intact to this day, for family production. The mass with sugar is not refined in cylinder machines and thus tablets are born from the raw dough in which you can feel the sugar crystals.

The strength of this chocolate is that it has remained the same over time, preserving its characteristics even if today it is processed with modern equipment. In fact, many companies, Scivoletto specifies, have had to adapt their means to the production of Modica chocolate and not the other way around. Extraordinary.

But they haven’t finished surprising you yet; Modica chocolate is a “functional” food, which satisfies the taste but also intervenes on the processes of human health. It is proven that the consumption of 10 g of Modica dark chocolate per day produces excellent results on a cognitive level but not only.

It is also highly prized for its properties and nutritional values. To say it are specific studies that we report briefly, taking a cue from the “Summary report on the preliminary analysis of the antioxidants present in a sample chocolate bar from Modica” by doctor Barbara Bernardini.

The analysis starts from the study carried out by the team of Professor Norman Hollenberg of the University of Harvard (USA) and by her colleague the doctor Naomi Fishez in the course of epidemiological research on cardiovascular diseases. They found that a particular population of the St. Blas Islands off Panama, known as the “Kuna”, was not afflicted by hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and dementia, all of which are major killers in the industrialized world.

After many years of field research and testing, theirs was identified natural medicine in daily consumption and in significant quantities of a drink of water mixed with fermented, dried and coarsely grated cocoa beans. On the contrary, they also pointed out that “these health benefits, however, were significantly reduced as soon as the Kunas themselves moved away from their environment and settled in urban areas”.

Well, the cocoa bean contains a particular class of powerful antioxidants called Bioflavonoids, with a positive action on the cardiovascular system. In particular, i flavonoids contain some subclasses of substances, including Flavanols and, among these, Catechins and Epicatechins, whose vasodilating action mediated by the enzyme Nirtico-Nirtico Synthase (NOS) is well documented in scientific literature and is responsible for the vasodilating effects on the system cardiovascular already ascribed to green tea.

The quantity of catechins and epicatechins present in Modica chocolate were significantly higher than the average present in industrial bars (epicatechin 203.4 mg / kg versus 101.46 and catechin 85.4 mg / kg versus 36.16 of the industrial bars used as a comparison ).

Now, we know that the artisan tradition of Modica chocolate consists in a particularly delicate processing of cocoa paste. Craftsmen can use only bitter paste 100% cocoa that has not undergone any industrial treatment. “The raw pasta – reads the report – is added with sugar with a” cold “process which consists in heating the dough at a low temperature. The sugar mixed with the dough does not melt completely and remains in grains of different sizes in the chocolate the final.

Since flavonoids are extremely fragile molecules and sensitive to fermentation, heating and photo-oxidation processes, this controlled process is particularly interesting because of all the varieties of chocolate on the market that of Modica is what ensures the shortest and most delicate “journey” between the cocoa fruit and the final confectionery product, presumably ensuring greater retention of the nutritional properties of cocoa.

Inexhaustible source of historical newsand in the territory of Modica and its chocolate she is – we said at the beginning – the teacher Sleeping Grace, of which President Scivoletto says “If I hadn’t looked for Grazia, if I hadn’t found and met her, Modica’s chocolate would have remained without history”.

History is rediscovered only with the right amount of perseverance and patience. And definitely love for what you do. A good research work was necessary and thanks to that carried out by the professor and her working group among the folders of the Ragusa State archive, Modica section, many news have found space and light, allowing us to get lost in history, imagine and why not, dream.

There is a “personal certainty“of Modica chocolate, as Professor Dormiente defines it, an annotation found in the papers of the Grimaldi Archive (1521 -1882) and which document that in the capital of the ancient County, as early as 1746,” cicolateri “manipulated aromatic cooked cocoa.

«This is an expense report from Casa Grimaldi on the preparation of chocolate. With this research we had the pleasure of bringing to the public with relative registers what is a private asset, intended for scholars, with an exhibition that collects a time span that goes from 1746 to 1915 ». There are 27 panels, containing photographic reproductions of original archival documents, representing the central fulcrum of the Chocolate Museum of Modica housed today in the very central Palazzo della Cultura of the city.

In short, without getting lost in long genealogical meanders, the Grimaldis of Modica are linked to the Princes of Monaco through the Genoese branch of the Grimaldi family who settled in Modica in the sixteenth century, and it is precisely for this reason that the Prince Albert in 2017 he came to the Ragusa town (even if no one believed it).

In the book written by Grazia Dormiente with Giuseppe Leone “Modica. The history of his chocolate“, all this and much more is told.

As we read in one of its chapters “The expense note made by the Ill.ma Mrs. Anna Grimaldi on 19 January 1752”, almost attested to a preference for cinnamon chocolate, opened the way for us to deduce how much it was the custom of chocolate is rooted as a drink, food and ritual and above all how influential was the taste for the bitter chocolate preferred by the noblewoman.

It also emerges that “Antonino Lo Castro and his son Angelo continued their work at the service of the Grimaldis, trusted chocolatiers, paid with 20 ounces for the preparation of” chocolate with Avaniglia “in December 1753. The date echoes the sweet ritual of Christmas , which was also the feast of feasts in the Modica convents, whose accounting books recorded the appropriate supplies of chocolate among the expenses “.

Equally interesting are the notes on the service of trustworthy bordonaries not only for the modes of transport of packaged chocolate a Palermo or good quality cocoa purchased on order, but also to trace the road network of the routes taken, define the transport times and re-weave the relations between the County of Modica and the city ​​of Palermo.

“From Palermo it took more than four days – we read – the courier left on Tuesday night and passed through Misilmeri (Wednesday morning), Ogliastro and Villafrati (before lunch) Rocca-Palumba (at noon), Vallelunga (in the evening), Caltanissetta (Thursday at noon), Pietraperzia (in the evening), Piazza (Friday at noon), Caltagirone (in the evening), Gran Michele (Saturday morning) finally reached the Hyblean territory. Here the route continued touching the cities of Licodia, Monterosso, Giarratana , Ragusa, Modica and Scicli “

What a story. How much history, to be read perhaps while enjoying the excellent Modica IGP Chocolate.

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