Friday, December 9, 2011

Ingredient of the Day: Chipotle Pepper, and how to preserve in Adobo

I'm trying to lead a good Christian life, so there ain't too much spicy to tell about me. – Loretta Lynn 

Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. Photo: Lori_NY, Flickr ccl
Chipotle is really common nowadays. It has found its way into many different foods besides the expected Mexican or Tex-Mex. I’ve even used it in a boring old corn chowder. It gives a really wonderful smokey kick. Boring no more!

Photo: GaryRHess, Flickr ccl
Here’s some info about them, and a recipe on how to make your own in adobo sauce. I find when I purchase a can of chipotles I always have WAY more than I need What you do with it after that is entirely up to you… but I do have a storage idea… Keep reading.

The word chipotle comes from the central Mexican word chilpoktli which means "smoked chili pepper." The word is perfectly descriptive because they are nothing more than a smoked and dried jalapeno. Chipotles are used primarily in Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisines, such as Mexican-American and Tex-Mex but recently have been included in many "fusion" recipes where their distinctive flavour would be appreciated.

Jalapeno varieties vary in size and heat. You can even have hotter and milder jalapenos within one variety as well. I have been told that the pointier the bottom the hotter the chili. I’m not sure if that’s an old wive’s tale or not. I have’t experimented to see if it holds up under examination.

As the interest in Mexican and “Tex-Mex” food expanded in the latter part of the last century so did the production of chipotle peppers. Besides being grown in Mexico, they currently are also grown in large areas of the United States and even in China.

Photo: mikeczyzewski, Flickr ccl
Chipotle peppers have heat. Lots of it. Make no mistake in that. Because of the drying method they also have a great deal of smokey flavour. You can purchase chipotles dried, ground (as in chipotle pepper powder) and canned in Adobo Sauce. 

Adobo sauce is a sort of a stock that partially reconstitutes the peppers and preserves them. Various spices are used in the sauce that complement the fiery taste of the chipotle. Most people’s experience with chipotles is purchasing them in Adobo in a 7 oz.can from the Herdez company (Grupo Herdez) from Mexico. Once opened you have to deal with them all.

So how do you do that? There’s a LOT of chilies in a 7 oz. can… Recipes usually use only one or two at the most. I have to admit purchasing a can is by far the cheapest route, but where’s the fun in that? On another note, many of the pre-made chipotles in adobo contain gluten. There is no gluten in homemade chipotles in adobo sauce.

Ground chipotle pepper is more readily available locally
now as well (Bulk Food Store believe it or not...)
Photo: onenjen, Flickr ccl
One thing about chipotle peppers is that you almost NEVER use them whole. At least I’ve only seen a recipe or two where they’re used that way. They’re just too hot to use whole.

The other thing about chipotle peppers is that they only last about 1 month (safely) once the can is opened and stored in the refrigerator. I do have a solution. Since recipes call for it to be diced (or finer) why not let your chipotles start off life that way?

Once puréed you can sacrifice an ice cube tray (it will never be good for anything else after doing this) and freeze tablespoonfuls. You can get trays at the Dollar Store for about $1. Go figure.

If you would like to make your own chipotles in adobo, here’s a recipe to try. Dried chipotles can be found in Halifax at Pete’s Frootique and probably at a couple of the “ethnic” groceries in the area. You can also purchase online fairly easily.

Another spot you may want to look is down at the "old" Brewery Market in Halifax. Costas Halavrezos (retired from CBC Information Morning) runs a spice business in a booth down there. Even if you're not looking for chipotles it would be pretty cool. It sounds like he's got some amazing stuff. It's called the "Spice Merchant."

Chipotles in Adobo
Makes in excess of 1 cup
Combine and set to sommer for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Photo: Food Stories, Flickr ccl
1 oz dried chipotles (somewhere between 8-12)*
3 cups boiling water
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar

Soak the chipotles in enough boiling water to cover for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will reconstitute them somewhat. Reserve the soaking liquid. Then combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to cook until the adobo sauce becomes very thick. This can take between 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

The end result will be in excess of 1 cup of chipotles in adobo sauce. Place in small canning jars (250 ml or smaller) and process for 10 minutes under boiling water, or divide and freeze into manageable quantities.

If you’re gifting, keep the peppers whole, if you’re freezing, dice the whole affair up and divide into 1-2 tbsp portions in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove and place in a freezer bag.

* If you’re a bit of a chicken cut the chipotles in two and remove the seeds. The seeds and white internal membrane contain a lot of the heat in hot peppers, smoked or fresh. Removing reduces the overall fire considerably. I would suggest you don’t. Chipotle is supposed to be fiery.


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  1. i have used this recipe for a second time with habanero peppers which i smoke because i don't have access to chipotles. i used 5 oz of peppers, and the sauce has come out excellent both times

    1. How do you smoke your peppers? I'd be very interested.