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Spice It Up With Cumin

By Jane Butel  May 10, 2023

Our bearded  iris are just starting to bloom--a great harbinger of Spring.  And  with spring "bustin' out all over", I began thinking about chili cook-offs begining  and  then I thought about how important the ingredients are--beyone the fresh chile powders.  And,  I thought about cumin.

Did you know that cumin has a huge ancient history?    Its popularity began in the Middle East and still only grows well there.  Cumin was a popular table spice, along with salt and before pepper was popular.  The only country in the world that still places cumin on the table is Morrocco.  

Cumin is quite pungent, when freshly ground and keeps well only when stored in glass in a cool place, preferably the refrigerator or the freezer.  Stale cumin is awful.  If your cumin has a musky, stale aroma, toss it.  And, now is a great time to replace it with our fresh, fresh cumin, now on sale at half pricethis week, until May 12.

Cumin seeds are quite hard and are reminiscent of caraway seeds.  ome like to warm them and then grind them, but with their hard texture, usually the best you can do with a home spice grinder is get a very coarse texure.  Our  grouind cumin is finely ground and a smooth powder that incorporates well into any dish.

Because cumin has a strong and fragile essence, I recommend for the greatest flavor to add one-half the amount of cumin called for in a recipe when you cook it and the remaining half when you are ready to serve it.  In short, cumin cooks out and also "freezes out"  when a dish with cumin in it is placed in the freezer.

Cumin is often called the "chili spice", so if you are having fun enterig chili cook-offs, remember the hint about adding half when  you cook it and stirring in the remining  half just before  you serve it.

In addition to using cumin in chli, it is wonderful in a dish I call Cumin Rice.  Also, many popular Middle Eastern dishe use cumin.  Today, I am sharing my ever popular Cumin Rice recipe along with one of my super favorite recipes for Carne Adobado.


This is one of my all-time favorite rice recipes and can easily cut in half or douibled or tripled, etc.   I always make a huge recipe and freeze meal sized portions. 

 Yield: 6 to 8 servings 

2 Tablespoons lard or butter

2 cups diced green or red bell pepper, 1 cup of each

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon cumin (comino), divided

1-1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice

1-1/2 cups chicken stock, hot 

  1. Using medium heat, melt the lard or butter in a 3 quart saucepan with a close-fitting cover. Add the peppers and onion and cook until onion is wilted. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon cumin and rice, and stir until well mixed. 
  1. Add the hot stock and mix to distribute the rice evenly. Using medium high heat, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover and steam for 15 minutes without disturbing. Then add remaining cumin and stir. If not as tender as desired, cook to desired doneness.  If dry, add more stock.  Taste and adjust seasonings—I have always found the seasoning in the stock precludes the need for salt in the recipe.


(Pork with Red Chile Sauce)

This is one of the best, if not the very best-tasting, pork creations from northern New Mexico.  Traceable back to Conquistador days, this dish has somehow never gained favor outside of New Mexico.  I think it is because crushed caribe chiles are hard to find outside the area.  I always make a full five and one half pound recipe because I like to have lots available for burritos, tacos, and enchiladas, or to serve over or under  rice, beans or eggs.

Yield:  10-12 servings 

1/2 cup crushed caribe chile

1/4 cup ground mild chile

1/4 cup ground hot chile

3 garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups water

5-1/2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, cut into ½ inch thick chops (trimmed so as to keep a narrow layer of fat around the edges) 

  1. Process all the ingredients except pork in a blender or food processor. Pour into a flat-bottomed glass baking dish.  Dip each pork chop into the marinade and lay to one side of the baking dish as you coat the rest.  Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, periodically spooning chile mixture over the top and turning chops over.  Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  (The pork can be frozen for up to 3 months at this point.) 
  1. In the morning, stir and coat each pork chop with chile sauce. Stir and coat again.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Cover pan with lid or foil; bake chops, covered for the first 30 minutes.  Remove cover and bake 2 to  2-1/2 hours longer, spooning the sauce over chops every 30 minutes.  Let cool. 
  1. Using a sharp knife, remove bones and pull meat apart with your fingers to shred the pork into about 25 cent size pieces—do not finely shred the pork.  Place shredded meat back in the baking dish and stir to coat the meat pieces.  If the sauce in the bottom of the dish is like thin gravy, no need to cover.  If it is thick, stir in water to make a gravy and coat each piece of meat and cover    Bake at least 30 minutes or longer at 250F  to allow the sauce to cook into the  pork.  When done, the meat should be a bright rosy red color and very tender.







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