Chipotles are dried smoked jalapenos bursting of flavors. The word chipotle actually means “smoked chili” in Nahuatl (an ancient Mexican language). To get chipotles you start off with ripe jalapenos, they should have turned red and be so ripe that they almost start to shrink and dry at the plant. When the jalapeno is harvested it’s to create that leathery texture and that characteristic flavor which only chipotles possess. The jalapenos are put in a smoking chamber for several days; when all the moisture have dispersed and they have shrunken and become wrinkled they’re finished. The character may vary depending on when the jalapeno is harvested and for how long it’s been smoked. There are three different types – chile meco, chile ahumado and chile típico.
Chipotle is super common in Mexican cooking and are used in everything from chilies, stews, moles, salsa, mayo and yoghurt sauces. Chipotle is also the star in many bbq-sauses. The characteristic smokiness with vibes of tobacco, chocolate and earth gives your food a deep complex flavor that can’t be found anywhere else.
But don’t be fooled to throw a bunch of “fresh” chipotles into you salsa (when I say fresh I mean how we buy them in the store – the dried smoked ones). They have to be cooked first and this is due to the leathery texture which makes them difficult to cut through. Besides they don’t tasty good in the dried stage. But with some heat, love and care you can transform them into something amazing. Heat is by the way one of the best things when it comes to enhancing flavors in dried herbs and spices. The warmth sort of brings out all the good things of the dried spice and makes it bloom. In the case with chipotles there are several options to bring out the flavors, one is to throw the chipotles into a stew, mole or chili and let everything cook for a few hours. Another is to make your own chipotle paste also known as chipotle in adobo. The paste is jam packed with that typical smoky, spicy, chocolaty, tobaccoy flavor with some extra added acidity and sweetness. You just simply add chipotles, tomato, onion, honey, vinegar and off course a pinch of salt into a small pan. Let everything bubble away and reduce for about an hour before mixing everything into a paste. The paste can then be stored in the fridge for about a week or frozen for later use. Add a spoon or two of that lovely paste to some mayo or yoghurt and you have the perfect dip for veggies, sauce for the taco or just a nice spread for the breakfast sandwich. You can use this paste in so many ways so the jar will come to an end quite quick.
Chipotle Paste – 250-300 g/1 Jar
150 g tomatoes (2 small or 1 regular)
60 g yellow onion, peeled (½ onion)
24 g runny honey (1 ½ tbsp.)
30 g red wine vinegar (2 tbsp.)
½ tsp salt
Bring some water up to a boil. Put the chipotles in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let soak for at least 20 minutes. Roughly chop the onion and garlic, add to a pot with a small glug of oil and fry on medium heat for a few minutes or until the onion has softened. Chop the tomatoes and the soaked chipotles and add that to the pan together with honey, vinegar and about 250 g (1 ½ dl) of the chipotle infused water (the leftover water from the soaking). Make sure all the sand and impurities at the bottom of the bowl don’t end up in the pan with the rest of the ingredients, so leave the lees and only use the fresh water. Add salt (and a pinch of pepper if you prefer). Let everything bubble away for about an hour or until it has reduced and about one third remains. Mix with a stick blender for a few minutes till a past is formed. If you want the paste to be completely smooth you can pass it through a fine mesh sieve; but I like mine with that small bits still in there, it feels more rustic and homemade that way. Store in the fridge.