Makes about 1 quart hot sauce.
Note: Capsaicin is found in the inner ribs, or veins, of chilies, not just the seeds. To minimize the heat, remove the ribs with the seeds. And when working with chilies, be careful. The capsaicin in the oils can burn your hands and eyes. Wear gloves when handling the hottest chilies, and work in a well-ventilated area.
3 ounces dried New Mexico chilies
1½ ounces dried ancho chilies
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1 ounce dried arbol chilies
½ ounce dried pequin chilies
8 to 12 cloves garlic
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons toasted whole cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons salt, more as desired
1 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1. Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large comal or skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place a few chilies on the comal at a time, gently pressing to flatten. Leave the chilies just until aromatic, a few seconds, then turn them over and heat again until aromatic, careful not to burn (burning the chilies will make them bitter). Repeat until all of the chilies are heated; for the smaller chilies, shake them briefly in the comal to warm.
3. Stem the chilies and place them in a large bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover. Weight the chilies with a plate to keep them submerged, and set aside for 15 minutes until they are softened.
4. Remove the chilies from the soaking water (reserve the water) and place them in a blender. Add the garlic, cloves, oregano, cumin seeds and salt, along with the cider vinegar, 2 cups soaking water (taste the soaking water before using, and if it tastes bitter, use plain water) and the oil.
5. Purée the sauce until it is completely smooth, adding water as needed to thin. Taste the sauce — the flavors will vary with each batch of chilies — and adjust the flavorings and seasonings to taste (sweeten if desired with a little sugar).
6. Using a very fine mesh strainer or chinois, strain the sauce into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in additional water to thin as desired. Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir frequently for three to five minutes to marry the flavors, then remove from heat. Pour the sauce into a glass jar or bottle, cover and refrigerate.
Nutritional information for each tablespoon: 18 calories; 1 gram protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 1 gram fat; 0 fat; 0 cholesterol; 0 sugar; 74 mg sodium.
From Noelle Carter, Los Angeles Times