Note: This sauce should be prepared in a well-ventilated area.
3 ounces dried New Mexico chiles
1 1/2 ounces dried ancho chiles
1 ounce dried arbol chiles
1/2 ounce dried pequin chiles
8 to 12 cloves garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons toasted whole cumin seeds, ground
2 teaspoons salt, more as desired
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large comal or skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place a few chiles on the comal at a time, gently pressing to flatten. Leave the chiles just until aromatic, a few seconds, then turn them over and heat again until aromatic, careful not to burn (burning the chiles will make them bitter). Repeat until all of the chiles are heated; for the smaller chiles, shake them briefly in the comal to warm.
3. Stem the chiles and place them in a large bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover. Weight the chiles with a plate to keep them submerged, and set aside for 15 minutes until they are softened.
4. Remove the chiles from the soaking water (reserve the water) and place them in a blender. Add the garlic, cloves, oregano, cumin seeds and salt, along with the cider vinegar, 2 cups soaking water (taste the soaking water before using, and if it tastes bitter, use plain water) and the oil.
5. Purée the sauce until it is completely smooth, adding water as needed to thin. Taste the sauce — the flavors will vary with each batch of chiles — and adjust the flavorings and seasonings to taste (sweeten if desired with a little sugar).
6. Using a very fine mesh strainer or chinois, strain the sauce into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in additional water to thin as desired. Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir frequently for 3 to 5 minutes to marry the flavors, then remove from heat. Pour the sauce into a glass jar or bottle, cover and refrigerate.