Mexican Guajillo Adobo Sauce (Adobo de Guajillo)

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

Ingredients and tools for Adobo de Guajillo

I love mexican cuisine, and one of my favorite recipes is adobo de guajillo: pureed hot pepper sauce. It’s easy to make, it tastes absolutely delicious, and it goes well with almost any savory dish. In this simple version, it’s really just toasted chiles, softened, and then blended with a few simple side ingredients. Although this probably sounds suspiciously bland, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Adobo” (spanish, meaning “marinade”, “sauce”, or “seasoning”, I’m told) originated in Spain as a way to preserve meat in the hot months, before refrigeration was available. A mixture of the spicy sauce, salt, and vinegar could keep meats well. Over time, and as better methods of preservation developed, it started being used primarily as a marinade and sauce.  As a marinade, the capsaicin in the chiles helps by dissolving fats, allowing the marinade to penetrate more deeply. As with other things Spanish, it was carried to the New World and even into the islands in the Pacific, and has branched into many different versions.  This recipe is specifically Mexican, and uses ingredients common in Mexico (and most of the USA).

  • 3 ounces guajillo chiles (about 12)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pineapple vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon cumin
  1. Clean, stem, slit open, seed, and devein the chiles
  2. Heat a comal over medium-low heat (without any oil)
  3. Toast the chiles two or three at a time, turning them over with tongs and pressing them down until they are fragrant and have changed color a bit–approximately one minute per batch.
  4. Soak the chiles in cold water for thirty minutes, until they become soft. Discard the soaking water.
  5. Put chiles and remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Use more water if necessary.

The resulting sauce can be used to marinate meats, and as a sauce for beans, rice, tamales, and meats. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen for longer periods of time (although I always make it fresh, when I want some).

Notes:

  • A comal is just a low-rimmed cast iron or stoneware griddle
  • Pineapple vinegar is traditional in many recipes, but apple cider vinegar is a fine substitute
  • Guajillo chiles can be found in many supermarkets; if not, mexican specialty stores will carry them. Other types of chiles will also work, but will vary in size and heat.
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Black Currant Jam

Black Currants Cooking

Black currants cooking. This is about step #2 in the following recipe.

My mother is Estonian, and as a very young girl she was forced to flee her home and life on Muhu Island (part of Estonia) when the Soviets were re-invading the country, out of fear of the purges that the Soviets were so well known for at that time. Her story is compelling and complex, and I won’t attempt to describe it here; I mentioned this fact only as a way to mention that she ended up as an immigrant in Sweden, and that she grew up there, learning Swedish customs and cuisine.

One thing that is a part of Swedish cuisine that seems to be almost completely unknown in the USA is currants. These are berries of a particular kind of compact bush that is largely unknown in the USA, which is a shame because they are AMAZING. They are a mid-summer crop that is harvested quickly and processed immediately, because they go bad fast. Black currants are sweet and delicious; red currants are tart and will make your right eye squeeze shut if you try to eat too many at once. Both of them are loaded with nutrients! My european friends here in the USA all pine for the flavor of black currants.

One of the first things that I did when I moved to my current home was to plant 13 black currant plants, and they’ve been producing faithfully ever since. A flat (about one quart) of black currants in the grocery store costs $17 here, when you can find them. If you DO find them, I recommend that you buy them right away! Why? Because of the following recipe. This recipe can be easily doubled, and it always jells because currants are loaded with natural pectin. The resulting jam lasts for a long time and is wonderful on oatmeal in the morning, or toast, or whatever.

  • 5 cups black currants
  • 4 cups sugar (yes, you read that right)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but that’s not crucial)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Place the fruit in a sauce pan with the water. There should be several inches of headspace above the currants, as the combination will need to boil high.
  2. Bring to a low boil, stirring often to help break the fruit down. Once at a low boil, cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn down the heat and add the sugar (slowly) and the lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Raise the heat up and bring to a full, rolling boil. Keep stirring.
  5. Boil hard for 10 minutes.
  6. Once the 10 minutes are done, turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then pour into jars.
  7. If you want to can the jars, process them in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Depending upon your technique, you’ll get about 4 to 10 eight-ounce jars of jam. And it will DEFINITELY set: currants are loaded with pectin, so you never have to test the batch for its jell-point. Your result might look like mine, as I finished cooling my black currant jam jars this afternoon:

Canned Black Currant Jam

I’ve already traded one of those jars for some ripe tomatoes, which go for $$/lb at the market, and each of those jars cost me next to nothing (less than a dime and a few hours of my time).