Preparation / Directions:
Annatto seeds are the hard red seeds of the annatto tree, native to the tropics. They are softened by soaking in hot water for 2 hours before grinding for use. Annatto seeds tint foods a bright yellow and are familiar to you as the dye used to color Cheddar cheese orange and butter yellow.
Achiote paste is a moist, brick-colored seasoning paste available in most Mexican and Latin American food markets. It is a blend of the iodiney seeds of the annatto tree, citrus juices, vinegar plus other spices. The flavor will vary with brand and freshness, so be sure to taste it before using. It keeps indefinitely, tightly covered, at room temperature.
This mild, citrusy red spice paste can transform the blandest of foods. It comes from the Yucatan, where it typically flavors Pibil-style suckling pig. The pig is rubbed with the recado, wrapped in banana leaves, and then cooked in a stone-lined pit until the meat is so tender it falls off the bones. Grilling is a less traditional, but no less delicious, method. Use for meat, fish, and poultry. Purchased achiote paste saves a good deal of time and makes a less complex but acceptable recado.
Pan roast garlic and onion until brown and soft, then peel the garlic.
Put the annatto seeds and water in a small saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep 2 hours, or until softened. Drain and put in a blender or food processor along with all the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Keeps, tightly covered, up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups