I recall our grandma referring to this extract as ooucou and it always found it’s way in her stewed fish and Pelau dishes, to give it at that rich colour and flavor (according to her). Today at home it’s used in just about every Caribbean stew and soup I make and during the warm months (grilling season), it makes an appearance in some of my marinades as well.
2 cups Annatto seeds
4 cups water
4 tablespoon salt
- I’m sure you can use the powdered annatto seeds, but do keep an eye on the label as some may have dye added. I found that the paste does contain added ingredients to help preserve it’s shelf life so I shy away from the paste.
This is a very simple and straightforward recipe. Refer to the video below for further explanation of anything I may miss in this recipe post.
While our dad did teach me his way of making this extract (as explained in the video below), this is my technique and it’s just a few simple steps with basically the same results.
Place the annatto seeds in a large bowl and we’ll follow the following ratio 1:2:1. Basically one part seeds, 2 parts water and one part salt.
In a large blow I placed the 2 cups of annatto seeds, followed by 4 cups warm water and 4 tablespoon salt. Basically for every cup of annatto seeds I added 2 cups of water and for every cup of water I added 1 tablespoon of salt.
Please note that the salt is what will cure the extract, but also be mindful when using this in your stews etc that it will add a salt component to that particular recipe. Also note that you should wear gloves if you’re concerned about having your hands stained with the red extract.
Annatto is an orange-red food coloring or condiment made from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana), which grows in tropical regions in South and Central America ( 1 ). It has several other names, including achiote, achiotillo, bija, urucum, and atsuete.
Allow the seeds to soak in the warm water for about 10 minutes, then using your hands/fingers (rubbing motion), start removing the red off the seeds. The warm water along with the salt will assist in this (the salt will act as an abrasive). It will only take about 3-5 minutes.
All you have to do now is strain, bottle and store in a cool dark place. May I recommend that your strain the extract 2-3 times to remove all seeds and grit.
I keep mine in the fridge and use a tablespoon or so in dishes. You will have to give it a shake before using as it may settle.
Like the Caribbean Green Seasoning I shared many moons ago, this is yet another ingredient which will enhance you Caribbean cooking repertoire.