Like mole, this sauce relies heavily on dried peppers. They can indeed be used in fermentation, but you need sources of fresh produce in there – I advise roughly 50% – in order to provide the healthy bacteria that makes fermentation possible.
Although the sweetness of traditional mole comes in large part from raisins, for this recipe I used honey fermented dates. In the future, I’d like to try honey fermented raisins and other options, but I have to say I love how this sauce came out. (UPDATE: I made this with raisins and some star anise pods fermented in honey and it was equally delicious, no surprises!)
It’s very reminiscent of mole but also unique in its own right. There’s a bit of work here compared to other sauce recipes I’ve posted, but I think you’re going to absolutely love the outcome.
This sauce is super versatile. It has a tangy sweetness that works really well as a barbecue sauce or glaze, but it can be used like a mole for tamales and enchiladas. It’s great on eggs, as a chip dip, and so much more.
So let’s do this!
You will need:
- Quart or pint jar for the honey fermented dates
- Half-gallon jar for the lacto-fermented mole
- Knife & cutting board
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Spice bags (1-2)
- Kitchen gloves (for handling hot peppers)
- Medium saucepan
- Fine mesh strainer
- Mortar & pestle
- Fermenting airlock lid and weight
- 4 cups distilled or filtered water
- 2 TBSP additive-free salt
- ~1/2 lb. (225 – 230g) mixed dried peppers (choose 2 or more of the following: ancho, pasilla, guajillo, chipotle); seeds and stems removed
- 150 – 200g fresh red (or orange) habanero peppers (~15-20 pods); seeds and stems removed
- 1 small (~225g) Vidalia or sweet onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 large tomatillo (~60g), cut in half
- 1 large Roma tomato (~65g), cut in half
- 1 head garlic (~30g)
- 3 TBSP cocoa nibs (~15g)
- 1 TBSP cumin, ground
- 8 allspice berries
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 whole cloves
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks (1 optional for after the ferment)
- 1 – 2 cups retained brine (for after the ferment)
- After the ferment: 3 TBSP pure cocoa powder
- 150g dates, pitted (have also done with raisins, which are more traditional in mole sauce, with great results)
- ~2/3 lb. honey (~10-11 oz.)
- 1 TBSP filtered or distilled water
(Double the quantities to have extra left over honey dates, or for a larger batch of sauce)
1.) For the dates: In the smaller jar, combine the dates, honey, and water. There is no need to cut the dates, but you may. Open and stir daily for one week, then periodically after that, especially if dates do not fully submerge. No special lid is required. Allow to stand at room temperature in this manner for at least one month. (All sauce components in photo were fermented about 3 months.) Optional: add a few star anise pods for deeper flavor.
2.) For the mole: Using the mortar & pestle, coarsely crush the cocoa nibs, allspice, thyme, and cloves. Place all spices, plus the ground cumin and cinnamon stick, in the saucepan with the water and salt, bring to a low boil, stirring until the salt is fully dissolved.
3.) Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, strain out all the spices (including the cinnamon stick) and place them in the spice bag. Retain the brine.
4.) Place the spice bag with the spices still in it in the half-gallon jar, followed by all the prepared peppers (dried & fresh), vidalia onion, tomatillo, tomato, and garlic.
5.) Add the cooled brine to the half gallon jar until within an inch of the jar’s shoulder. There may be excess brine which doesn’t need to be used. Add the fermentation weight. With the addition of the weight, the brine level should be around the shoulder of the jar or only slightly higher. Moisture will continue to be released from the produce and increase the brine level over the next day or so. Add the airlock lid and ferment for a minimum of a month.
6.) After the allotted time, seperate the ferment brine from the fermented produce. Make sure to retain all the brine and the spice bag. Remove all the fermented produce from the jar and place in blender. Add one cup of retained brine to the blender as well, and blend on high for several minutes.
7.) Transfer the blended sauce, along with 3 TBSP pure cocoa powder, the spice bag (with everything still in it), an optional fresh (new) cinnamon stick if you want a more strongly cinnamon flavor (it’s good both ways), and the honey fermented dates (along with a few tablespoons of the honey to desired taste), to the saucepan and heat on high. Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Allow to cool some before lifting lid and stirring.
8.) Before blending, discard the cinnamon stick and spice bag. Return all contents to the blender and blend on high for 5 minutes, pulsing frequently for the last minute. The sauce can be considered complete, but if you prefer a thinner sauce which flows more easily from a thin-neck woozy bottle, bring an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of the reserved brine to a boil, add it to the blender, and blend again for a couple minutes.
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