My family had just about everything growing in the backyard, and ACHIOTE was not an exception. It wouldn't have been since it is an excellent source of color and flavor in Puerto Rican cooking.
The tree blooms pretty pink flowers, and the "fruit" is a fuzzy red pouch where the many tiny seeds cluster inside it. Mere touching these seeds turn your fingers and hands orange.
The annatto seeds are removed from the hairy fruit and set out to dry.
The dried seeds are then ground into powder. This process could turn into more work than expected since the seeds could be quite hard. The most effective way to use these seeds is by creating Aceite de Achiote/Annatto Oil.
Achiote Oil is a great way to add color to cooking. The oil not only adds a marvelous yellow color to your food, especially rice, but it also adds a depth of flavor to your food.
How to make the oil
In a saucepan, heat one cup of oil. Once the oil is hot and showing signs of movement, but not smoking, add the seeds.
Add the seeds to the oil and turn the heat to low. Allow the seeds to sit in the oil for about five to ten minutes.
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- 2 cups of lard vegetable oil, or coconut oil
- 1 cup achiote annatto seeds
- In the fat in a saucepan. Turn the heat to low, add achiote seeds.
- Stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until the fat turns to a rich orange-red color.
- Cool thoroughly.
- Strain through a colander with absorbent paper and pour into a glass container.
- Cover, and store in the refrigerator, to be used by tablespoons, as called for in certain recipes.