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Achiote


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#1 Katie Meadow

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:01 PM

A friend loaned me Daisy Martinez Cooks and I'm trying out a few recipes. Daisy uses achiote oil in lots of dishes, which sounds easy to make: soak annatto seeds in oil. My local Latin grocery seems not to have annatto seeds, but does sell achiote paste, so I grabbed some. My understanding is that achiote paste has other spices in it besides the annatto seeds. How do I use the paste instead? And how much paste would be the rough equivalent of oil?

#2 MikeHartnett

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:34 PM

I figure you're probably aware, but I have to ask: did you look for the seeds titled "achiote" as well as annatto? As for your actual question, I've never used it, so I'm of precisely zero help.

#3 EatNopales

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 03:07 PM

Hi Katie... yes Achiote Paste typically has a little vinegar, allspice, garlic & Yucatan oregano*. Typically what you would do with the paste is dissolve it in a strong acid... Seville Oranges, Yucatan Limes, Key Lime etc., and use it to macerate things namely Pig, Chicken, oily fish etc.,... I suppose you could cook it in olive oil low & slow & strain.

My guess is that achiote seed used as an oil is really for color rather than flavor or aroma. Most Achiote seeds I have purchased from Filipino or Caribbean sources are very old & have lost all aroma... my guess is that is mostly considered an inexpensive, abundant substitute for Safron. The pastes from the Yucatan which typically have more of an Achiote flavor to them are still quite subtle in the grand scheme of flavors.... think of it more as using Bay leaves than say a strong herb... its absence is noted as "something is just not quite right" when you are used to using it in a recipe but a hard flavor to discern... more of an earthy, clay like bass note.

I am completely speculating here.. but the pit cooking of the Yucatan differs from that of the Mexican mainland in that in "Mexico" it is usually a deep underground pit dug out of clay soil.. whereas in the Yucatan we are talking shallow / above ground pits (I don't think there is much clay on the largely limestone littered peninsula)... it is possible the Achiote evolved to provide that "missing" clay aroma.


* Oregano is used loosely in Mexico.. none of the various regional Oreganos are related to Old World Oregano... the Spanish were just a bit careless in their taxonomy... the flavors are similar but different plant family altogether.

Edited by EatNopales, 14 September 2011 - 03:08 PM.


#4 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 03:40 PM

Achiote seeds, achiote powder, achiote oil, and achiote paste are chalk and cheese when it comes to using them in recipes!

As EatNopales points out, the paste also includes vinegar, allspice or clove, garlic, and some sort of Oregano; if it's from South America it may also include a little cumin as well. This will behave, naturally, very differently from oil or powder in your recipe. I'd start with a smallish schmeer and work up, tasting frequently.

Achiote oil in SAm is used mainly for colour rather than flavour; the amount of the spice actually present in it is often very very little. As pointed out earlier, the flavour in this case is a deep, earthy base note.

Powdered achiote seeds are used in much the same way as paprika powder; the flavour (at least here) is intense, earthy, and slightly spicy. Then again, I have the advantage of a constant supply of fresh seeds since the trees are native to Ecuador.

Whole seeds are used to prepare the oil - and this is always a heat process. A tablespoon or so of seeds will infuse nicely into 500 mL of oil in a hot saucepan.
Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.
My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

#5 Tropicalfox

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 09:45 PM

Hi Katie,

All of the posters have given you good info on achiote. This is an essential ingredient in Puerto Rican cuisine and prepared right it will last quite some time, infusing color and an earthy flavor to rice, pasteles, etc...

Please keep trying to find it in the ethnic aisle in supermarkets too, even Food Lion & Walmart carry it and usually pretty fresh... One tip to help you choose it is that if it's very dark, it's old... La Flor and Goya sell a variety of sizes but please don't buy the already prepared blend that's called "achiotina"... not good at all... And oil infused with regular achiote seeds has no comparison with powdered or paste... essentially, they are used very differently...

I prepare about a quart at a time using corn or vegetable oil heated on medium high, and I add about a cup of the seeds to it when it's hot... stir it (it will be sizzling a bit) and turn off the burner... don't put a lid on it, just leave it alone and let it cool off... strain it into a glass jar, or plastic container, whichever is your preference... you can keep it under your sink, in the pantry, or in the fridge... you will love the beautiful color it has and how it turns your food into delicious, pleasing to the eyes, concoctions... the darker you make it, the less you need to use so experiment with the proportions... I like it dark because that's how I was raised, and because it imparts its flavor more easily like that...

One thing about Daisy's cooking is that the first episodes showed recipes that were very Puerto Rican... not so with her latter shows... I think she sold out when she switched kitchens... I saw an episode today that had nothing PR in it, and the Spanish omelet she made was unlike anything we've eaten in my 34 years on the island... plus if you ask any Rican in PR what jicama is they would look at you like you've lost your mind!!! LOL!!!

Sandra

#6 Katie Meadow

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:41 PM

Daisy Cooks is, I believe an early book, tied to her original PBS series. I haven't seen her on TV since that series, which was really fun to watch. I used her recipe for sofrito and then proceded to make her Yellow Rice, subbing a little knob of the achiote paste for oil. Her ratio for making the oil is 1 c olive oil to 2 Tbsp seeds. I definitely will keep looking for annatto seeds, and try making my own oil. Although the paste did the job and imparted great color and earthy flavor to the rice, as far as I could tell it contained more salt than annatto. Luckily I tasted it first, so I didn't add more salt to the rice.

The end result was very good. My sofrito was pretty spicy, due to a couple of jalapenos that were actually quite hot (mostly they are so bland around here!). Once I figured out that the achiote paste needs to be mixed with something acidic in order to dissolve it everything worked fine. At first I tried just melting it into the olive oil in the pan, and that didn't work at all; it turned the paste rather stubborn and rubbery. I then mixed some with a small amount of lime juice and added it to the oil and the sofrito already in the pan--and that was magic. Love the flavor of annatto; it's very different from saffron or paprika. And I'm not sure why this is called Yellow Rice, since the color is more brick.

Thanks to all for the help.

#7 EatNopales

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 03:45 PM

Daisy Cooks is, I believe an early book, tied to her original PBS series. I haven't seen her on TV since that series, which was really fun to watch. I used her recipe for sofrito and then proceded to make her Yellow Rice, subbing a little knob of the achiote paste for oil. Her ratio for making the oil is 1 c olive oil to 2 Tbsp seeds. I definitely will keep looking for annatto seeds, and try making my own oil. Although the paste did the job and imparted great color and earthy flavor to the rice, as far as I could tell it contained more salt than annatto. Luckily I tasted it first, so I didn't add more salt to the rice.

The end result was very good. My sofrito was pretty spicy, due to a couple of jalapenos that were actually quite hot (mostly they are so bland around here!). Once I figured out that the achiote paste needs to be mixed with something acidic in order to dissolve it everything worked fine. At first I tried just melting it into the olive oil in the pan, and that didn't work at all; it turned the paste rather stubborn and rubbery. I then mixed some with a small amount of lime juice and added it to the oil and the sofrito already in the pan--and that was magic. Love the flavor of annatto; it's very different from saffron or paprika. And I'm not sure why this is called Yellow Rice, since the color is more brick.

Thanks to all for the help.



Katie.. you probably already know this but if you are open to buying them online you can get them from Williams-Sonoma

http://www.williams-...&cm_ite=2632644



You might also have some luck in Indian markets as it is grown & used in the regional cuisine of Hyderabad (where many Indian immigrants in the IT industry are from)

#8 Tropicalfox

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 09:15 AM

Katie,

Did you add the jalapenos or is it in her recipe? The chili pepper used in sofrito is called "aji dulce or ajicitos dulces" (capsicum chinense) and it's a sweet chili with a fruitier taste and no heat.
Jalapenos aren't popular in PR cuisine at all. Many people think PR food is just the same as Mexican food but it isn't... far from it! Both are unique, with rare common ground... especially with regard to heat.

Sandra

#9 EatNopales

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 10:19 AM

Katie,

Did you add the jalapenos or is it in her recipe? The chili pepper used in sofrito is called "aji dulce or ajicitos dulces" (capsicum chinense) and it's a sweet chili with a fruitier taste and no heat.
Jalapenos aren't popular in PR cuisine at all. Many people think PR food is just the same as Mexican food but it isn't... far from it! Both are unique, with rare common ground... especially with regard to heat.

Sandra



Yes & No... PR cuisine is very distinct from the cuisine of the Central Mexican highlands but shares LOTS in common with the cuisine of Southeastern Mexico. Just about every PR dish I have encountered has cognates in Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan etc.,

And it makes sense on many levels... the original pre-Awarawak inhabitants of Puerto Rico (and Cuba, Hispaniola etc.,) were Proto-Mayans explores who migrated from The Yucatan to Western Cuba around 2,000 B.C. (that is why Taino culture has many Proto-Mayan influences... the astronomic based religion, ball courts, pit cooking etc.,). Later on the Arawaks moved in from the Orinoco basin & then the Caribs... Taino culture today is more identified with the later migrations but its the Proto-Mayan roots that result in many of the distinctions between Taino & other Arawak cultures of South America.

Then of course you have essentially the same Spanish clans that settled in the Caribbean & Southeastern Mexico, plus the Africans were from the same ships. You also have similar climate & native foods plus extensive trading.. in Prehispanic times the Mayans of the Yucatan controlled well established trade routes through the Caribbean down to the Orinoco basin... and then up until the last 100 years there was a very tightly integrated trading between New Orleans, Tampico, Veracruz, Campeche, Havana, San Juan etc., such that the cuisine in all those places was highly influenced by each other... it wasn't until roads emerged, tying port towns more to their inland national cities that the relationships subsided a bit.

#10 Tropicalfox

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 10:50 AM

I see what you mean, and agree - especially about the "conquistadores" and their common influence, but I'm mostly referring to heat.

Yes, in PR there is some heat used, but mostly added after cooking as an enhancer, such as in "asopao" and the peppers used are what they call "diablo rojo" combined in rum bottles with vinegar, herbs, sometimes pineapple peel, peppercorn, a little olive oil, etc... then set out in the sun with a loose cap for a few days until it "cures"... a few drops go a long way and is deliciously hot...

But that's in PR... I realize that stateside, lots of the typical food (comida tipica) has suffered from the initial culture shock of not having specific ingredients available, and people had to make do. Even now, when I moved from the island to MD & PA in 1998, it was a struggle to get them, but I had a network of friends and family who sent me some Rican CARE packages until I planted my own ajicitos, recao, and oregano brujo... and the internet is a wonderful place to find other sources of those items needed to render a Boricua dish...

Thanks for the history of our commonality... Tainos were spoken of as "those of the friendly face"... so saludos from this Taina...

#11 Katie Meadow

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 12:16 PM

Daisy's sofrito includes a mix of cubanelles, ajices dulces and one red bell. Finding specifically PR peppers and other ingredients is not easy around here; even the giant Mi Pueblo market, which carries many different kinds of fresh and dried peppers, carries mainly Mexican staples. So I used the best available peppers that I could find without going far from my usual haunts.

I'm sure that growing up on the upper west side in NY I could have easily found PR foods, but that was long before I was interested in cooking. My mother pretty much shopped in a triangle that included Barney Greengrass, Lichtman's bakery (gone) and Williams bbq (still there, dunno?) There were loads of little Latin groceries all around us, but you can believe that my mother never bought anything she didn't easily recognize. She has lived most of her 93 years in NY and has still never eaten anything from a truck, didn't know what a tuna melt is until I made one for her last year, and has never eaten a falafel.

This time of year the quality and variety of peppers at the farmers' market is fantastic, but they are often unmarked, beyond "sweet" or "gypsy." There are all colors and shapes, and mostly delicious. Probably they grow different types of seeds near to each other and they cross pollinate, I have no idea really. I simply bought a variety of sweet peppers (not bells) from two different vendors, and since they seemed so mild once I got them home, I added a couple of jalapenos that were already in the fridge. When I say they were hot, that would be only in relation to what a jalapeno is usually around here, which is mild verging on tasteless. Nothing like the heat of a habanero or a Hatch New Mexican or what used to be available in NM and sold as jalapenos, which had some kick.

#12 EatNopales

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 12:46 PM

I see what you mean, and agree - especially about the "conquistadores" and their common influence, but I'm mostly referring to heat.

Yes, in PR there is some heat used, but mostly added after cooking as an enhancer, such as in "asopao" and the peppers used are what they call "diablo rojo" combined in rum bottles with vinegar, herbs, sometimes pineapple peel, peppercorn, a little olive oil, etc... then set out in the sun with a loose cap for a few days until it "cures"... a few drops go a long way and is deliciously hot...

But that's in PR... I realize that stateside, lots of the typical food (comida tipica) has suffered from the initial culture shock of not having specific ingredients available, and people had to make do. Even now, when I moved from the island to MD & PA in 1998, it was a struggle to get them, but I had a network of friends and family who sent me some Rican CARE packages until I planted my own ajicitos, recao, and oregano brujo... and the internet is a wonderful place to find other sources of those items needed to render a Boricua dish...

Thanks for the history of our commonality... Tainos were spoken of as "those of the friendly face"... so saludos from this Taina...



Pue un salsero abrazo con acento mexicano pa' una linda boricua.