Have you ever noticed the difference between really fresh, freshly ground cumin and stale cumin. Stale cumin has almost a bitter, very lack luster aroma, whereas fresh cumin has an inviting and unctuous smell and taste. As strong as fresh cumin can smell, the freshness will soon dissipate if not stored in glass and kept in the refrigerator. Since cumin is a prominent herb in chili, I am discounting autographed copies of my best-selling 3rd edition of "Chili Madness" by 20% or only $12.75.
Cumin is a Middle Eastern herb and does not seem to grow well anywhere else. It is a very ancient herb, and was found in an archeological dig dating back about 6000 BC. It was popular for many uses beyond seasoning food. The ancient Egyptians even used it as an embalming ingredient.
Cumin is both strong and fragile. Strong and intense in flavor and the prominent aroma in curry powder and Southwestern chili. The fragility comes from the fact that the intense and wonderful aroma ages out if not stored properly as noted above. When stale, cumin becomes bitter and looses its characteristic flavor. If you have any cumin that is not robust and aromatic, discard it. Using more to make it more intense just makes the food very bitter and unappealing.
When cooking with cumin, always add half the cumin a recipe calls for when cooking it and the balance just before serving. Even if you are doing batch cooking such as for chili, cook with one half and note that on the packaging so that the remaining proportionate amount is used when heated for serving.
Quick facts about cumin are--
Assists with weight loss
Assists with lowering cholesterol
Assists with diabetes blood management
Assists with bowel syndrome balancing out both constipation and diarrhea
Assists with stress management, better than Vitamin C
Assists with memory
The ancients are said to have a container of cumin on the table along with salt and pepper. The only country where that is still a custom is Morocco.
Cumin is a member of the parsley family and the seeds look a great deal like caraway seeds, but have a very different flavor.
Cumin seeds are the seed of the herb cuminum and are hand harvested.
I am offering our 2 and 4 ounce bags of cumin at 25% off through Sunday, July 17, 2022.
We still have very few spaces left in our Take a Tortilla and..class next Thursday, July 21 at 5 PM. At right is our June 30 Grilling class photo.
Then, unfortunately, I am forced to take a brief break--I am having a knee replacement on Tuesday, July 26 and hope to be able to teach again in late September. So enjoy August--I will resume writing as soon as I can.
Cumin is prominent in all chilies and also posole. Here are two chili recipes.
FIRST LOVE CHILI
This recipe is highly recommended for chili newcomers. It has been known to warm the cockles of the heart and secure long-lasting devotion. The cinnamon and cloves add a particularly nice flavor, but remember to remove them before serving. Although the proportions listed produce a chili-for-two (enough for one chili devotee plus one novice) they can be doubled to serve four.
Yield: 2 servings
1 Tablespoon lard
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium sized cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean beef, coarsely chopped or hand cut in ½ inch dice
2 Tablespoons pure ground red chile (hot or mild or a combination)
1 teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne chile
1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
½ teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt or to suit taste
1, 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small bay leaf
1 small stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 16 ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- Melt the lard in a heavy pot over medium-high heat . Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is clear, about 5 minutes. Add meat to the pot—and if ground break apart and brown. If hand cut, do not brown.
- Remove from heat and stir in the chile, and remaining ingredients including half of the cumin. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil and simmer for 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and cloves . Add the remaining cumin, stirring well—taste and adjust seasonings and serve.
CLAM AND GREEN CHILE CHILI
Clams are definitely innovative in chili! However, I have always loved New England style clam chowder and thought, why not marry the flavors—using the milder green chile flavor with the spiciness of chorizo to pep it up. It works, and I hope you enjoy it too.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
8 ounces Mexican chorizo
1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
2 large unpeeled russet potatoes, diced
3 large green chiles, parched, peeled and chopped—can be 1, 4 ounce can or ½ cup frozen green chile
2 fresh jalapenos, minced
3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin, divided
1, 15 ounce can whole kernel corn
2 cups chicken stock
2, 6 ounce cans chopped clams
6 corn tortillas, cut into very thin strips
Pequin chile, to taste, optional
1. Remove casing from chorizo and coarsely chop. Place in unheated large 5 quart pot and sauté over medium heat until the chorizo melts and cooks—about five minutes. With a spoon, remove most of fat.
2. In remaining fat, sauté the onion until clear. Add the potato, chiles, garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, corn and chicken stock. Simmer until the potato is done, about 20 minutes. Add clams and remaining cumin. Taste and adjust flavors, adding salt if desired.
3. In the meantime while the chili is simmering, preheat an oven to 425 F. Place finely cut tortilla strips on baking sheet and place in oven until crisp—about 8 to 10 minutes. When tortilla strips are first baking, squiggle with a large fork to make them curl.
4. To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls, then sprinkle with pequin if desired. Or pass the pequin for those who like it spicier.