Spoon Salsa Macha over rice, meat or mix with mayonnaise for a zippy alternative

Dried Mirasol peppers further preserved as a condiment sauce with salt and olive oil

 

Not Peruvian at all, but Mexican, I think Peruvians would approve and enjoy what this wonderful Mexican recipe does with their glorious Mirasol pepper. Hope you agree!

Salsa Macha with Aji Mirasol from Peru

Aji Mirasol in a Mexican style Salsa

Salsa Macha is an oily concoction of chopped dried peppers and salt. Sometimes the peppers are smoked, roasted or fried, sometimes not. Often, you will find recipes calling for additional ingredients like: ground, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, garlic, green garlic, oregano, and other herbs. I’m in love with Salsa Macha and have been making it for over 30 years so I have tried many different recipes using dozens of varieties of peppers. Nearly any pepper, hot or not, can be used and what is important is to try to match up the technique and ingredients to compliment the flavors and characteristics of the pepper. I usually can mine, so I can give it as gifts, but since I’m still discovering the nuances of the many varieties of Peruvian peppers I’m just making fresh single jar batches. Stored in the fridge (or on the countertop if you live in the frigid Andes) a jar will last a few weeks to a month depending.

preserved, dried Peruvian yellow chilies

One half pound of Aji Mirasol costs $2 in my local Huancayo market

 

coarsely chopped Aji Mirasol peppers

Chopped Aji Mirasol peppers ready to mix with the olive oil and salt

While canning 50 jars can take a few days, making a couple of jars of fresh stuff couldn’t be easier. What is essential is to select a variety of pepper and find a dried supply that is of high quality. The peppers should be relatively clean and the pepper should have been dried within the previous six months for optimal flavor. Select dried peppers that have a leathery quality, is pliable, not brittle, similar to that of a dried tobacco leaf (if you know what that is like). Overly dried peppers are often a sign of age and improper storage as well as overly moist peppers with signs of mold. Before processing I take a good stiff kitchen brush (I use a quality, natural bristle, virgin paintbrush) and carefully clean each pepper. As peppers can be dirty from the fields, the drying process, and any subsequent storage I make sure I start with peppers that appear to have been washed prior to drying, and appear to have been handled well (take a close look, especially in the folded areas to see if the peppers are clean there).

example of a cleaned Mirasol chili

Here a cleaned Aji Mirasol Pepper with its hot parts removed

 

There are a few pepper varieties and recipes which work well with the seeds left in (or at least some of the seeds), taste the pepper’s flesh and then a seed (careful it could be hot!) and evaluate if you think the two go well together. Here, I’m making Salsa Macha from Aji Mirasol, the dried version of Aji Amarillo, and because I like a kick I left a few seeds per pod in. If I wanted to make a hot batch I would have left all the seeds in the final product. Regardless, you first have to de-stem and slice open every pepper to remove the seeds and pith (capsaicin glands, septa and placenta). If you are keeping some of the seeds separate them from the pith and set them aside.

dried chiles, salt, olive oil are the basic ingredients for Salsa Macha

Simple ingredients, simple preparation.

 

Peruvian Salsa Macha (made with Aji Mirasol) Recipe

 

  • 1/4 lb., 14 dried Mirasol Peppers from the market made a 6 oz. jar
  • 1/4 lb., about 14 dried Mirasol Peppers cleaned, seeded, depithed and deveined
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • approximately 1/4 cup quality, extra virgin olive oil
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (the white part of green garlic if you can find it)
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon ground roasted peanuts or sesame seeds
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon herb: oregano, thyme, huacatay or tarragon
Using a Mexican method on a distinctly Peruvian pepper

A jar of homemade Salsa Macha

Cut the cleaned peppers into one inch strips and chop in a blender or food processor. Don’t over chop it or turn it into a powder. Saute any of the optional ingredients if desired. Mix in half of the oil and salt to taste. Spoon into a jar and slowly drizzle the remaining oil into the jar until the oil begins to collect on top. You want enough oil to saturate the peppers, but not to pool on top. That is it! Refrigerate and enjoy for about two weeks. Pour off any oil that pools on top and add a little more if the salsa seems dry.

Note: We don’t use the term chili in Peru, Chile is a neighboring country. 😉