Photo by Lara Ferroni
The sixteenth-century arrival of the chile pepper in the North African area known as Maghreb was a game changer in the local cuisine. While harissa is generally thought to have originated in Tunisia, it is part of the broader Maghreb cuisine and varies slightly from region to region.
This fermented paste is deep crimson, so rich it feels almost opulent. It has a bold chile flavor to match, yet it does not scorch the palate. A milder condiment, it should still please fiery folk because of its robust flavor. Traditionally, harissa is not fermented but preserved with an olive oil seal that is replaced each time the paste is used.
- 8 dried ancho chiles, seeded
- 2 dried Anaheim (New Mexico) chiles, seeded
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted
- 2 teaspoons caraway seed, freshly ground
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed, freshly ground
Yield: About 3/4 pint
- Combine the ancho chiles, Anaheim chiles, garlic, fresh red pepper, roasted red pepper, caraway seed, coriander seed, and cumin in a food processor and process to a paste consistency. The mixture will become moist right away but will not look juicy.
- Pack the paste into a jar that is just the right size for your ferment, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Leave about 1 inch of headspace. The thick brine will be hard to distinguish from the rest of the paste.
- Press a piece of plastic (or other cartouche) against the surface of the ferment, being careful not to trap any air beneath it. Screw the lid down tightly.
- Set the jar in a corner of the kitchen to ferment, and watch for air pockets forming in the paste. If you see any, open the lid and press the paste back down. If the lid starts to bulge, simply open it for a moment to burp the ferment.
- Allow to ferment for 14 to 21 days. When it’s ready, the harissa will have a pleasing, subtle acidic smell. It will taste more developed and acidic than it did when fresh.
- When it is ready, remove the cartouche and place a clean small round of plastic or parchment paper directly on top of the paste. Tighten the lid, then store in the fridge, where this ferment will keep for 10 to 12 months.
Excerpted from Fiery Ferments © by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey with photos © by Lara Ferroni. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.