Sunday, June 22, 2014

Enchilada Sauce: Historic Food Fortnightly Challenge 2

Historic Food Fortnightly 

Challenge 2:  Soups, Sauces, and Stews

Enchilada Sauce

The Recipe: From, Mexican Cookery by Erna Fergusson, University of New Mexico Press, edition originally published in 1945, reprinted in 1973.  Available as download on Google Books.

To Make Chile Pulp

“To prepare either fresh or dried red chile, wash, break off the stems, and remove as many seeds as possible. Put to boil in cold water, and allow to boil slowly, moving the pods about in the water, but taking care not to break or mash them.  Forty-five minutes to an hour’s boiling is usually enough to let the skin slip easily.  If the small end of the pod is pressed the pulp and seeds come out of the stem end easily.  Rub through a colander to remove the remaining skin and seeds.
            Boil for about 15 minutes in water in which the pods are boiled, and salt to taste.  The final consistency should be that of thick gravy.  Twelve pulps* make about a cup. This pulp should be made fresh every time, as it molds readily.”
*I used about 4 dozen dried chiles

Enchiladas [Sauce]
 2 tbsp lard
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp oregano
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tbsp salt
4 cups chile pulp
2 Tbsp vinegar

Brown onion and garlic in hot lard.  Add chile pulp, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and salt.  Cook for at least 30 minutes; longer is better.

The Date/Year and Region:  c. 1945; The recipes in this book were in common usage in the area of Mexico that became New Mexico, USA.

How Did You Make It:
  • Chiles Used:  Dried New Mexico, Guajillo, Ancho, and Pasilla
  • All chiles were toasted in a hot cast-iron pan.
  • Each chile was cut open and all stems, seeds, and ribs were removed
  • All the chiles were put in a stock pot with cold water, brought to a boil, and simmered over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Chile Toasting in Pan

Removing Stems, Seeds, and Ribs
Chiles Cooking 
Enchilada Sauce:  Final Product

Time to Complete: About 3 hours

Total Cost: $10 for the chiles and the Mexican oregano; I had everything else.

How Successful Was It?It's thicker than I thought.  It's also much more bitter than I thought it would be.  I'm wondering if the peppers I chose are what's making it bitter.  Any ideas?  It was an educational experience but too bitter to eat!  I will definitely do some more research on this and try again.

How Accurate Is It?: I followed the recipe completely but I toasted the chiles based on other research that I did.  AS for grinding everything up, I went with a modern food processor as I don't have a mortar & pestle that would be large enough (and I was afraid I might stain the white marble one that I have). 


  1. Interesting. I know that different chiles definitely have different flavors, so that is probably what made it so bitter. I'm not familiar with all the chiles you used, so I can't help you determine which particular pepper was the issue! I have a California recipe book from the 1920s that contains several "Spanish" and "Mexican" recipes. Maybe I'll choose a chile sauce from there and see if mine comes out any differently.

    1. I would be very happy to hear about your results. This is a new food territory for me and I am eager to learn. I think next time I might try with just the New Mexico peppers as they are supposed to be the sweetest. Good luck in your attempt!

  2. Great care must be taken when toasting the chile peppers, otherwise they become bitter. Toast them in a lightly oiled hot pan for only a few seconds on each side. If a chile is over toasted, leave it out of the recipe!


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