Sunday, March 24, 2013

Achiote Paste - Make Your Own

I've mentioned achiote paste in a few recipes and there is no doubt about my fondness for this seasoning. Aside from the beautiful red color it imparts on foods, it adds deep rich flavors to meats.  I find this is especially true with grilled meats. I've never made it myself, I usually by it at a local "mercadito Nica" (Nicaraguan market). But then I set out to figure out what's in it. After all, here I am writing out recipes that use this seasoning and I know that not everyone has a "mercadito" around the corner. Recent recipes where I've used achiote paste are Beef & Pork Marinade Version 1 & 1.1 and Carne Enchorizada Nicaraguense ("Sausage" Beef Nicaraguan Style)I purchased a bottle of achiote seeds at a local asian market, and I also found a packet of seeds under the "Badia" label of hispanic foods. Of course if all else fails ... you can find it on eBay. Take note that achiote seeds also go by the name of annato seeds. Several bottles and packets of achiote seeds later, I got it right! While my version is not as "pasty" as the one from the market, I am very happy with my results. This recipe makes about 1 cup. You can keep it in the fridge for about 10 days or you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then store in a freezer safe container or zip bag.

Achiote Paste
Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup achiote* seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground

2 tablespoons ground all spice
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
2 dried mild red chilies, chopped (like ancho or california red chili)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grated zest of 1 orange 
4 tablespoons orange juice 
3 tablespoons sour orange juice* 
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Top is the achiote bought at the market
Bottom is my home-made version
In a lidded glass container add achiote seed and cover with boiling water. Cover and let steep 12 hours or until softened. Wear gloves and rub the achiote seeds between your fingers to break it down. Drain liquid and place in a blender or food processor and add remaining ingredients. Blend or process 2-5 minutes or until a paste like consistency is achieved. Use on meats, such as beef, chicken, pork, even seafood or in recipes as called for.

*Recipe Notes: Achiote stains, take care with clothing, skin and plastic containers. Sour oranges are everywhere in South Florida, but if you can't find the fruit, you can buy the bottled version sold by Goya or Badia. It's become pretty popular and a lot easier to find nowadays. OR you can make your own! Click here for the recipe.

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